Humans are wired for two things that has not changed ever since we figured out how to live in societies. The first is social interaction. We engage in reciprocatory interplay with others with apparently no immediate intent of benefits. Without hijacking this into a sociology discourse, mutual profit motives in social interactions are quite deep rooted, fructify in a complex manner over time and are played out over a labyrinth of relationships. It is sufficient to say that social interactivity is a net positive outcome for both individuals and society. The second constant in our wiring is the desire to win. This truism is well borne out by the Darwinian theory of evolution and intersects nicely with the desire of social interactions. How would we otherwise know what benchmarks to hit – and exceed – in order to win at whatever is it that we wish to win at? It is at this intersection of social interaction and the competitive gene that the concept of gamification stands

Gamification can be loosely defined as application of competitive games (that is where multiple players engage each other with reward systems that setout cardinal rankings) to situations that can result in a collective net positive outcome by increasing competitive awareness and intent. Gamification existed for a long time, perhaps even before the term was coined. Sales personnel were rewarded on their performance relative to each other, support engineers were cherry picked for promotions by the numbers of cases successfully addressed and so on. What gamification has brought about is a transparent process where not only the benchmark is visible to players but also the ranking of all who are playing the game (what good is running a race with only the end tape visible? It is the breath on your shoulders that matter the most)

Corporations looking to create better engagement with end users take gamification out of their firewalls into the wider world. Take for instance the Chevy Volt. Volt is a car that runs of electricity but switches over to gas when the charge runs out. To get optimum mileage from your car it is important to charge the car batteries regularly. You get a certain mileage from your volt – but how do you know how you are doing vis-a-vis other Volt owners? Up comes a website community where you can unleash your competitive spirit and while at it, get into good habits about eking the best fuel productivity from your vehicle. Net positive for the society. Corporations internally use gamification to improve upon – that is push the boundary of the net positive – goals that lend naturally to gamification. Sales and Support are two great examples (easily extensible to bugs per kilo lines of code for software developers!)

There are some areas where gamification can improve the net positive of societies outside corporate walls but these have not been tested well enough. Take for example outcome of financial savings and wealth creation. All of us save and invest in multiple financial and nonfinancial assets with an intent of maximizing portfolio value. It goes without saying that creation of wealth is a hugely competitive activity and hence should be a good candidate for gamification. But the play currently does not make it so – it is once again like that race where one does not know where others stand in this race (I am twenty seven, female, been working for three years and have a net worth of X. How does that stack up within my demography?). Keeping wealth creation at the core of this hypothesis it becomes easy to identify offshoots – like, a family of three in Hyderabad spends Y on groceries each month – so how do other similar families stack up?

I would love to know what you think about this and if there are services that have tried this out

By the way, I stumbled upon this interesting webcourse on Coursera on Gamification. It hasn’t started yet so there’s time yet to sign up – seems it will be fun