Is the need for gamification an admission of failure?

By Chris Bucholtz

I was a gamification skeptic – but, as I wrote on CMS Wire earlier this year, I became a convert, at least for some things. Gamification can certainly help smooth transitions, establish good habits and provide training to people on the fly, even when those people may not wish to be trained.

But isn’t the need to have a gamification component something of an admission of failure? Doesn’t it mean that the application hasn’t been designed to be sufficiently friendly to the end users for them to use it on their own? Or that the application does not effectively provide enough “what’s in it for me?” to motivate the end user? And isn’t it evidence that software vendors are massively underselling the idea of training?

I think the answer’s yes to all of the above, to some degree. I’m not down on gamification for everything – it’s awesome for getting users to become more deeply engaged with software. But vendors can’t make the mistake of thinking gamification is a replacement for training, nor should they use it as a workaround for applications that are difficult to use because of poor interface design.

And even if the interface is really well done, you still need to communicate the application’s value to front-line users if you want to gain widespread adoption. Playing a game with no practical objective is okay for parties; it makes no sense in a business environment.

And, after all, people in sales are already in something of a gamified role: they pursue a set of tasks that leads to a reward if they do them right. That reward is a closed sale. The more closed sales you get, the bigger your compensation. Gamified!

Unless your gamification strategy for CRM helps sales people do better at the game they’re already playing, it’s not going to be enough. I know no sales people who would prefer a new badge on their scoreboard to a bigger check in their pockets.

But that is not to say gamification is without merit. Using it as to identify people who can mentor you in your job, or to expand your use of the CRM application, or accomplish other learning tasks is a worthy concept. The peril is that we look at gamification as the next hot concept, and one that replaces past successful strategies. It would be easy to rely on it too heavily, and to do so in cases where other human factors – like the design of the interface and the workflow built into the application – are deficient.

Gamification provides an extra layer of potential understanding for users – not a replacement for traditional training, not a band-aid for a bad interface, and not a remedy for an application that can’t demonstrate its value to end users. If those things are the reasons you’re looking to introduce gamification, it’s an admission that your application is deficient (if you’re a vendor) or that you made the wrong CRM choice (if you’re a user).


One thought on “Is the need for gamification an admission of failure?

  1. Wonderful post however , I was wondering if you could write a litte more on
    this topic? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Appreciate it!

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