A pervasive lack of focus is epidemic in today’s workplace, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise. According to the New York Times, the average American worker consumes 34 gigabytes of information and reads 100,000 words in a single day. At the same time, employees are constantly shifting their attention; computer users change windows or check email and other programs an average of 37 times an hour. Multitasking is no longer an art but a norm.
Distraction is one of the most destructive forces facing businesses today. This lack of engaged focus rapidly erodes a company’s productivity, but it doesn’t limit itself to employees alone. Disengagement has an equally negative impact on key audiences like customers and partners as well.
The Risks of Distraction
Customers: Your customers are confronted with more competing messages, more options and more distractions than ever before. More than 30 billion apps have been installed on mobile devices, where people are spending 94 minutes a day — even more than the 75 minutes they’re spending on the web.
Employees: With additional email overload, internal instant messaging platforms, social media platforms and open work environments, employees are bombarded by distractions throughout the day. When an employee doesn’t remain focused on the job at hand, they find themselves forced to work longer hours, later into the night and on weekends to compensate. This can quickly lead to burn-out and disengagement. Accord to Gallup, 50 percent of employees today are disengaged at work, costing U.S. business US$ 300 billion per year in lost productivity.
Partners: The same distractions tugging at our customers and employees are also impacting our partners. Beyond the obstacles mentioned above, partners are struggling to keep up with the training and products of every OEM they represent. Partners are asked to take training courses, register deals and connect with customers, all while trying to keep their heads afloat. Our partners are suffering from an understandable lack of focus, and companies that become complacent about their partner networks are inviting significant risk.
The Elements of Focus
Having realized the importance of keeping audiences as focused as possible, businesses are making every attempt to achieve focus. When looking at examples where focus is regularly achieved, we find a common set of elements that include:
- A clearly defined goal
- A system of measurable progress leading to that goal
- A notion of status against achieving that goal
- A reward for reaching the goal
The focus concepts of goals, progress, status and reward aren’t novel; they’re often used concepts that appeal to the human psyche (e.g. Frequent Flyer Programs). But today’s games target more digitally sophisticated players and therefore require a more intricate and involved playing field.
Putting Games to Work
Just putting basic elements in front of individuals isn’t enough. Over the past several years, a growing number of businesses have started investing in gamification technologies to bring focus mechanics — goals, progress, status and rewards — into their digital experiences.
Gamification helps businesses engage with customers and motivate employees. By applying the same principles that inspire people to play games to websites and other online experiences, businesses can dramatically increase the size of their audiences, boost customer engagement, drive deeper employee motivation and increase revenues.
In effect, businesses are transforming themselves into “Engaged Enterprises,” a term that refers to leading-edge companies that are successfully engaging every aspect of their organizations into cohesive, collaborative, loyal and focused communities. These companies, such as IBM, Cisco, Jive and Bluewolf, are characterized by highly active, loyal and focused customers, employees and partners and they realize that through the adoption of gamification technology, they can gain a competitive advantage across every spectrum of their businesses.
To give an example, at Bluewolf consulting, gamification has been woven into the very fabric of the corporate culture to encourage communication and collaboration among employees. Incentivized to share information via social networks, employees earn points by posting new topics for discussion or responding to the posts of others, and generating thoughtful dialogues that keep the company’s programs and perspectives fresh and innovative.