shutterstock_44892922.jpg The cynical technology journalist in me comes out when the topic of gamification is raised. First of all, “gamification” is a silly, made-up word. When I see it, I want to reach for my red editor’s pencil.

The other aspect of it that makes me look on the concept with a jaundiced eye is the way it’s being applied seemingly willy-nilly, often in exactly the wrong way.

For instance, when Klout added the ability to give people K+ and earn status from others, it started to endanger the effectiveness of its scoring system. An objective attempt to measure something is hopelessly contaminated when you motivate people to behave differently in ways that impact that measurement.

Plus, for most of us, there are far more important motivations for our work than earning a virtual badge… like getting a paycheck.

I am not alone in my skepticism. At a recent conference I was seated next to a CMO for a major CRM vendor. When the conversation turned to gamification, he turned to me and all but spat in disgust, “I think this is so stupid!”

Gamification as a Training Trick

But I’m coming around. There are two reasons for that. First up was a briefing that I took with extreme skepticism with Bunchball’s Rajat Paharia in January that pointed me at how the concept can help with CRM adoption.

That issue is a long-standing bugaboo for CRM; sales people are often loathe to learn the technology, and even less excited about using it. It takes away selling time and swaps it for data entry time, and the most obvious benefactor is their boss, the sales manager. Who wants to spend significant time helping the boss manage you?

Paharia, Bunchball’s founder, showed me a demonstration of an integration of their gamification tools with that led new users through a period of “learning by doing” by prompting them to do different things that helped them complete different “missions.”

The system was designed well and I could see how it might draw someone in -- the idea of missions was certainly more compelling than the thought of clicking step-by-step through a CRM application.

When a mission was complete, that user’s photo and name went into a grouping of the last six people to complete the mission, allowing newcomers to draw on them for help, making the system somewhat self-supporting.

Paharia’s demonstration (and patient refutation of my most pointed comments) got the thought through my head: gamification is a useful tool in tricking people into doing the right thing. That sounds kind of bad -- but it isn’t.