Fedex is using the novel approach called gamification to "unlock enterprise knowledge" and promote information sharing. Bryan Barringer, who heads up the project, spoke about it at a conference here in Boston last week.
Haven't heard of the gamification craze? No, it does not mean employees bringing their Xboxes, but close.
Here's Wikipedia's definition:
“Gamification is the use of game design techniques, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes, in order to encourage people to adopt them, or to influence how they are used.Gamification works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviors, by showing a path to mastery and autonomy, by helping to solve problems and not being a distraction, and by taking advantage of humans' psychological predisposition to engage…”
If you've read this far, you've probably figured out the approach uses gaming technology, symbols, icons and badges to acknowledge, reward and reinforce desired behaviors. Fedex is trying to reverse the mentaility that power equates to squirreling away knowledge versus sharing it.
The gamification program rewards and reinforces sharing through The Fedex Badge program. Ideally, it starts with engagement, moves to adoption and then goes viral. The benefits are:
-- Identifies key knowledge holders and encourages sharing.
-- Applies and grows relevance to subject matters.
-- Facilitates adoption of new features and user experience
-- Motivates individuals to complete training and enhanced skill building programs.
-- Promotes appreciation and pride in one’s accomplishments.
-- Allows for tracking and analytics of compliance and usage.
Barringer acknowledges that selling the notion in the enterprise based on the term "gamification" can be a challenge. "Introducing terms like “Social” and “Collaboration” is hard enough!" is one of his bullet points. Barringer says he sometimes gets the `Are you crazy? This is business, not recess' response to the program.
Indeed, you have to pay attention to things like company culture and average age. He never makes assumptions about employees and is always ready for surprises. Fedex strikes me as male-dominated, football-loving culture, BUT it's always been an innovator and early adopter of technology so I find it no surprise that the company is embracing a touchy-feely intiative such as gamification.
Information is unlocked through, for instance, blogging, tagging, ratings/feedback mechanisms and document sharing. Fedex works with Bunchball, which has a live ticker of its customers if you want to see who else is gamifying, and Badgeville.
Update 8/15: while Barringer mentioned both these Bunchball and Badgeville in his PDF and his talk, he later contacted me to say he was suggesting anyone interested in researeching gamification might look at them. "FedEx is not using any vendors for the badge program. We have built our gamification program in house," he said via an e-mail.
For all it's potential, there's a more cynical view of gamification. Says an executive at a firm offering gamification services: "It's all in lieu of less compensation and fewer benefits."
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