pokemon go trainers
Editorial

What Enterprise Social Networking Can Learn from Pokémon Go

6 minute read
Laurence Lock Lee avatar

Pokémon Go is a global, viral success — and it's hard not to be envious.  

Of course, Pokémon itself was not an overnight success. It has been around since Nintendo released it on its Gameboy device in the 1990s. It was Niantic's release of a location-enabled version for smartphones that triggered its viral growth.

Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) has been around for quite a while too, first in the guise of 'Knowledge Management' and now in its more recent incarnation as 'Facebook inside.' Viral growth, however, is still an unfulfilled aspiration for most.

The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell introduced many of us to the fundamental triggers for viral growth in his book on the Tipping Point.

Gladwell spoke about the Law of the Few, where he claims that the social epidemics associated with viral adoption are facilitated by those he calls the mavens, connectors and charismatic sales people.

In our work with ESNs, our analyses regularly surface Long Tail engagement distributions, signifying the “Law of the Few” in action. For Pokémon Go, no doubt, it’s the mavens and connectors that have engaged the Long Tail (of which I am a part).

However, it is the technical disruption of location services on the now ubiquitous smartphones that has provided the real tipping point.

Serendipitous Encounters

Gamification applications have helped us become more comfortable with talking about ‘games at work.’

But what elements of Pokémon Go are relevant — or not — to the enterprise? While still a Pokémon Go newbie, I learned about ‘Refueling Stops,’ where I could acquire resources that I could use to capture the Pokémons that I came across by simply walking around or even sitting on a train.

Chance meetings with other Pokémon players are now becoming more common, in fact, even facilitated by resources like ‘lures,’ which can attract both Pokémons and other Pokémon hunters into live social contacts.

This is the first similarity with ESN, where we value those serendipitous connections that ESN systems can facilitate.

Cooperation Over Competition

The second similarity that impressed me greatly was that when you capture a Pokémon, it doesn’t disappear. It is still available for others to capture.

The designers need to be congratulated for this. It would have been easy to turn Pokémon Go into a competitive blood sport, if this feature were not there.

Instead it leads to an enhanced collaboration experience, as Amy Dolzine discovered in her local art gallery. I recall a Knowledge Management mentor of mine, Karl-Erik Sveiby, taking a dollar from his pocket and giving it to the person next to him and saying “By giving this dollar away I have now lost it and this person has gained it. But when I share my knowledge with someone, I don’t lose it, so I have actually doubled the value” — an important lesson for all of us to learn.

Learning Opportunities

Team Building and Development

A third similarity is recruitment and team building. The Pokémons you capture have different capabilities.

They can also be ‘trained’ to improve those capabilities in the different gyms that are located at strategic locations. As you move through the levels you can build stronger teams with greater capabilities, not dissimilar to what we are trying to achieve in the corporate world.

As much as we might cherish these positive analogies, we can’t escape the fundamental goal of Pokémon Go being personal success, not collaborative success.

While players can and do collaborate to gather more resources, personal success is the goal and we compete to achieve this. This is not the behavior that we would want to encourage inside the Enterprise.

What Might 'Enterprise Pokémon Go' Look Like?

The trick for gamification applications is to align behaviors rewarded in the game to those we want to see across the Enterprise.

While Pokémon attributes are aligned with the need to win battles, an ‘Enterprise Pokémon Go’, where the Pokémons could represent the personas of individual staff, would value collaborative behavior.

In the table below I have tried to develop an attribute table for an ‘Enterprise Pokémon Go’ version. The behavior is defined along with a representative action on the ESN system, with points allocated for identified actions.

BehaviorESN ActionsValue PointsRationale
Level 1Making an original contributionA 'post' to the ESN5It's a big step to put yourself out there for public review
 Being responsive by building on the work of others.A 'reply' to a post5While perhaps not as difficult to initiate, it is the first step in building a 'connection'
 Explicit acknowledgement of othersA 'mention' of someone in a posting4Another important 'connection' activity
 Acknowledgement or recognition of othersA 'Like'2Valued by the receiver but the simplest form of acknowledgement
 Targeted sharingA 'Notification'3Similar to a 'mention', but perhaps without the recognition element.
 Targeted consumptionA 'Follow'1Signals an interest profile, but not really a connection
Level 2Purposeful ReciprocationReciprocated interaction with a colleague10Reciprocated interactions are the start of building trusted relationships
 Building out your networkA new interaction with someone you have not previously interacted with7Building diversity into your network can be as important as building strong ties.
 Purposeful ResponsivenessMindful use of 'Reply', 'Like' and 'Mentions'7Using your responses to encourage inclusiveness in your networks is an important 'sustaining' action. (See SWOOP Responder Persona)
 Attraction of followersFollows received4A bit of a vanity measure but does indicate the potential to influence others
 Asking or looking for helpPosting constructive questions for the network7A good question that can add real value is key to extracting value from the network
 Responding to a questionTargeted response to a question8Demonstration of value adding. Extra points if the questioner responds positively.
Level 3Purposeful management of Give-Receive Balance to connect and broker relationships
Balanced use of 'Posts', 'Replies', 'Mention', 'Notification' to enhance conversations and broker connections20Mature 'Networkers' balance what they contribute with the reactions they receive. This behavior helps create growing and sustainable networks (See SWOOP Engager Persona)
 Energizing a network by provoking constructive dialogueCreating strong levels of reactions (replies, likes, mentions) through carefully crafted postings15Often cast as 'influencers' in a network. They play the important role of energizing the network (See SWOOP Catalyst Persona)

One of the most powerful outcomes from a gamification initiative is the ability to impact behaviors.

If done well the changed behavior patterns facilitated by the game can have a tangible impact on organizational performance. There is still a lot to learn, so I welcome your suggestions or thoughts on what should be in an ‘Enterprise Pokémon’ version. Perhaps this could be the trigger that ESN facilitators are looking for?

About the author

Laurence Lock Lee

Laurence Lock Lee is the co-founder and chief scientist at Swoop Analytics, a firm specializing in online social networking analytics. He previously held senior positions in research, management and technology consulting at BHP Billiton, Computer Sciences Corporation and Optimice.