Many of you probably love to play games for recreation and entertainment. But as I have mentioned in my other posts, they can also be used to enhance and enrich educational experiences. These are called serious games.
The combination of learning and fun is a potent force in today’s corporate world. To generate innovation and maintain competitive edge, organizations need to align themselves with market changes, both domestically and globally. As far as processes are concerned, this means that employees must adapt by continuously learning new skills and sharpening their abilities to solve problems- just doing the job in the same routine fashion doesn’t lead to the same growth.
Traditional ways of teaching often mirror conventional classrooms. These include lectures with whiteboards, hand outs in the form of quizzes and surveys and instructional videos. Most people passively react to such formats. Participants may remember terms and information and they may be able to pass certain tests but this can offer a false sense of comfort as their ability to apply their new knowledge to actual, real-life problems remains untested.
Besides training team members, there is also the challenge of educating and training clients. Clients often need to have a deep level understanding of how a particular product works. If there are enormous technical complexities, the information can be particularly daunting and frustrating- not very good for maintaining a happy customer base.
And in addition to employees and clients, corporate decision-makers also need to maintain regular learning initiatives to understand the perspectives and preferences of their clients. And with these insights, they must continuously make decisions to develop their products so that they are relevant to the needs of their customers.
All these objectives require effective learning where information is quickly assimilated in order to be applied for the best possible results. Very little time can be afforded to make transitions from conceptual knowledge to astute action. This is where the power of games can make a huge difference.
Here are five companies (in no ranking order) who are dedicated to developing software and platforms that optimize learning experiences through game mechanics.
Competitive gamification is certainly becoming a hot, new business theme in modern corporate development these days. It has been demonstrated to be effective in sales, where game mechanics based on competitive models are used to promote a “competitive interest” in engaging customers and closing deals. Now management is exploring other business functions which might benefit from competitive gamification mechanics and techniques.
But competition may not be effective, or even desirable in the enterprise setting. Why? Because it tends to create an unhealthy environment where employees put self interests above corporate and even customer interests. Instead of working towards a win for the company, a win for the customer, the individual just focuses on beating the internal competition – his colleagues and fellow employees. (To win the brass ring; that cash award or trip to Cancun.)
“a contest between individuals and entities for territory, a niche, or a location of resources, for resources and goods, for prestige, recognition, awards, mates, or group or social status, for leadership.”
Notice the emphasis on the individual (or entity), and the need to “contend” or “contest” for something; implying that there will be a winner, as well as a loser. Maybe many losers.
In the enterprise this implies that we will have people competing with other people within the company. OK, that seems reasonable. But Mario Herger points out that this is contrary to the essential meaning of the corporation; yes, the very nature of an enterprise. For corporations are formed to bring people together and pool their different strengths in a collaborative setting. The fundamental design of an effective corporation taps the talents of its constituents to build something greater than the component parts. And yes, even more competitive in the external environment – the marketplace, where it faces the challenges brought forth by the other companies.
So now, do we want to introduce an anti-collaborative element – competition among the internal players, and potentially reduce their effectiveness as corporate team members? Possibly for customer engagement, but only after thoughtful analysis indicates that the benefits outweigh the risks, and possible long term detriment to the employees and ultimately the enterprise.
In general, adding the additional stress of competition to the challenges that employees face on a daily basis, will only result in a deteriorating situation with increased probability of burnout and uneven performance. Employees will become more motivated – to look for new opportunities elsewhere.
The Different Types of Competition
One perspective that we can view competition from is that of whether it can be deemed as healthy versus unhealthy. Mario Herger distinguishes between a “good” adaptive competitiveness and a “bad” maladaptive competitiveness by a set of specific characteristics.
Adaptive competitiveness has the following characteristics:
Perseverance and determination to rise to the challenge, but bound by an abiding respect for the rules.
The ability to feel genuine satisfaction at having put in a worthy effort, even if you lose.
The fact that you don’t have to be best at everything, just in the domain you train for.
Being able to deter or discourage gratification.
Being marked by constant desire to strive for excellence, but not for the desperate concerns of rank.
Maladaptive competitiveness in contrast, is characterized by:
Psychological insecurity and displaced urges.
A person who cannot accept the losing part of competition.
One who competes when others around are not competing.
A person who has to be best at everything.
One who doesn’t stop when the whistle blows.
An individual who drags others into competition.
One who will resort to cheating when he/she can’t win.
How Winners and Losers React
Now that we see that competition can be thought of in terms of adaptive and maladaptive forms, how do we view the players in these competitions? What are the common reactions that “players” have? Herger cites two Hungarian researchers – Martá Fülöp and Mihaly Berkics. They found that there are four common reactions for winners and losers.
Winners typically can either show:
Joy, expressed through gleeful enthusiasm.
Satisfaction with ones own competence.
Denial of the win as way of social cautiousness. Those players would feel guilty and fearful of the losers’ reactions, like retaliation, so winners would mask their inner joy and not express it openly.
Narcissistic self-enhancement, where the winners would feel a malicious superiority over the losers.
Culture Management is essential for growth stage companies
Our company has been through many cycles and products throughout the years, but it’s the passion and bond between teammates that have always carried on with us. That will continue to carry on no matter what size we grow to. We are a team, and we are a family.
This places an enormous emphasis on having the right Culture. Culture is something intangible but very impactful. It affects team morale, productivity, conflict resolution, decision-making, and hiring — basically everything that moves the company forward in the right direction. It is something that needs to be nurtured and maintained, as it could easily be diluted as the company grows.
Therefore, I spent a lot of time researching about companies that boast their cultures as a competitive edge, including Apple, Zappos, Netflix, Yammer and more (yes, I’m not pretending I came up with all this stuff. The giants get the credit and I get the shoulders). I also made a list on what most of my friends love about their jobs, and what they hate about their jobs to figure out how can we create a system that automatically generates the former and eliminates the latter.
It seemed striking to me that, everyone complains about their managers, but when these complainers become managers themselves, nothing has changed, as people below them still complain about their managers. Clearly the “bad manager” syndrome is not based on an individual’s capability, but an overall system flaw.
Culture is the system that either creates the right environment where everyone can easily be good managers, or where bad managers are kicked out, so good people do not lose motivation.
A culture based on Gamification
There’s a certain DNA within the RewardMe Team Members that keeps us all bonded together. We call it a DNA because it isn’t just rules that look nice, but it should be something that is ingrained deep inside every member, which is reflected upon daily conduct.
These are not just fancy statements we put on walls and badges, but all team member are evaluated (and rewarded) based on how well they have this ingrained into them. Hiring and firing should not only be based on performance output, but also environment output.
1) Put positive energy into the company
Bad attitude in the company is UNACCEPTABLE. Your responsibility in the company is not only to perform, but to make everyone around you better in every way you can. Don’t be the “Game over man!” guy you see in movies. Be that person who is always thinking positively and encouraging others. Always inspire hope and ideas to new solutions.
2) In whatever you do, be exceptional and over-impressive
Our competitors are filled with good people. That’s why we all need to be excellent. We believe the best people are 10x compared to the average, and we should always strive to be that 10x. You need to care intensively about outperforming expectations and getting more wins together as a team.
You need to maintain calm poise in stressful situations and be a strong pillar, especially when it takes many pillars to hold up a roof. We don’t care about being over-impressed with your hours. We want you to create WOW moments for the rest of the team. Do whatever it takes to achieve that.
Having started many clubs, organizations, and companies, I have my fair share of being a leader and getting leadership scars. I’ve also often been the leader while being the youngest person in the group. It wasn’t always like that. When I was a younger, I was the kid who everyone makes fun of while I worked my butt off trying to fit in my environment.
The process had to start all over again whenever I moved, as South Africa, Taiwan, Kansas, and California all had very different cultures. The turning point was when I started a chess club in high school, and during my sophomore year, I was elected President. With a new sense of responsibility, I realized that the whole organizations success rested on my shoulders.
A lot of organizations and companies I have seen hire people to fulfill a certain role (sometimes grunt work), and when the company grows, these people get promoted, and they become managers. However, they might be bad managers and it completely ruins the culture of the company. Therefore, Future Delivery is applying an interesting hiring philosophy:
Only hire those who you feel comfortable working under.
This way we will make sure that, as the company grows, we will still be able to attract and hire people like ourselves, thus preserving the culture. Afterall, a huge amount of whether one likes her job or not, is the people she works with.
The other philosophy regarding firing is a lot more common in theory but a lot harder to execute:
If the company becomes very successful, and this person leaves the company and wants to come back, would you rehire him? If not, fire him now.
This philosophy is good in the sense that, the only mistake bigger than hiring the wrong person is keeping the wrong person on board for too long. However, team morale is an incredibly important issue, and if you suddenly get rid of people with less-than-justified reasons, morale will be low and productivity will decrease. The only time this works out is if the person was dragging down the team, and everyone would cheer if he is gone. After all, having a person not pull his weight without consequences would only discourage those who do pull their weights. So our concluding philosophy on this issue is:
Fire those who wouldn’t be rehired by anyone else in the company when the company becomes successful.