Person fishing

We've discussed gamification a lot lately. Why it works for many organizations. Why it may not work. Where a major research firm thinks it's going.

So we cast our gamification fishing lines to find companies who swear by the concept of motivating customers and employees. And we got a couple bites.

Yay or Nay?

First, let's recap the argument for and against gamification, which uses real data and gaming concepts to motivate and encourage behavior through rewards. Rajat Paharia, founder of Bunchball, a provider of online gamification solutions, is naturally all for it. But why?

Gamification or this idea of motivating people through data, is inevitable. Once you've optimized your systems and eked out every last bit of operational efficiency, what do you have left? You have your people, and your ability to motivate them to perform better. And the data that they're generating and throwing off as they interact with your systems is the biggest tool you have at your disposal to do that. The companies that do this are going to be the ones that win in their markets, and the ones that don’t are going to get left behind."

And then there's the "against." Jed Cawthorne said earlier this year he just doesn't get the gamification concept. Catching up with us again last month, he said an organization's culture might very well make gamification a bad fit and stressed that organizations must know the change management cost required in order to gain the benefits.

Inside with Microsoft Dynamics

Eric Parsons, Microsoft Dynamics community manager, said his organization's gamification capabilities (which revolves around Zimbra's online community platform) led to reduced support costs and a greater sense of community among its members.

"It has also provided a mechanism for members who are product experts to compete against each other and for us to recognize members who have gone above and beyond," Parsons told CMSWire.

Microsoft Dynamics, which provides collaborative business solutions, implemented gamification in its online community in March. It offers 50 different badges and, to date, has awarded more than 140,000 to its members. 

"Many of our badges reflect our goal to decrease support costs, such as our 'Troubleshooter' and 'Problem Solver' badges which can be earned by answering forum questions," Parsons said. "But it’s not all business in the Microsoft Dynamics Community, which is why we also have fun badges such as the 'I’ve been a member for two years, and all I got was this lousy badge' badge."

Microsoft's gamification strategy is composed of new tactics such as badges and leaderboards combined with established recognition programs. All new members earn a welcome badge when they first join the community.

"It gets them excited about participating in the community from the get-go and makes it easy for them to get started earning additional badges," Parsons said.

Microsoft uses leaderboards and badge dashboards that show members how close they are to achieving specific badges and reaching the next level.

"When members earn specific higher-value badges, they are highlighted as they contribute in the forums and on their blog articles, allowing them to show off their 'street cred' and boast their expertise," Parsons said. "Additionally, we recognize our top members in special recognition programs, such as 'Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals' and 'Microsoft Community Contributors.'”

Outside with Calamity Gym 

Monica Coney, chief ringleader for Calamity Gym, a mobile fitness network that donates a quarter of its proceeds to selected charities, said her team looked to implement several different paths in order to motivate and interact with members.

Enter gamification -- and a rewards and point accumulation system the gym structured for users who can accumulate points.

To drive accountability and personalization, members can create their own custom workouts and challenge their family, friends and coworkers to join them online. The platform allows members to workout live and encourage and motivate others on the same screen.

A tracking and point system provides data for companies to validate ROI. Points are accumulated based on the complexity of workouts, challenges created and contests results. Prizes vary, and the company sends surprise gifts periodically.

On a corporate customer level, it highlights best performers and challenges entire companies against each other or a department versus department, Coney said. 

"It is not just about who works out the most," Coney told CMSWire. "Rewards vary as well from gifts to naming custom workouts. Communication on multiple levels also helps ensure we reach and motivate participation. We also believe in motivating not just the employee/member but those in their inner circle as well. This helps drive long term behavioral change."

Title image by Ben Carlson (Shutterstock).