April 21, 2018

Small biz advice

How 'gamification' can work for your business

“Enterprise gamification, making everyday business tasks such as data entry and management training more engaging, continues to see burgeoning interest.” ~Wall Street Journal

Jerry Osteryoung | 5/14/2012

Occasionally in my columns I highlight emerging technologies that entrepreneurs should be aware of and consider for their operations. This week, I want to talk about gamification, a new tool that has many neat applications for businesses.

The word was coined in 2004 and, in 2010, became widely used. The basic idea is to apply gaming theory to business settings or environments, which means you first have to have an understanding of these attributes.

Jerry Osteryoung
Jerry Osteryoung

The first relevant theory is the concept of behavioral momentum. This refers to the tendency of a player to continue doing what they have been doing. A second concept deals with giving rewards when success is achieved. Thirdly, there is the concept of blissful productivity, which addresses the fact that people prefer to be working hard in a game and earning more rewards for their hard work. A fourth concept, discovery, refers to building in opportunities for gamers to discover new attributes about the case. This is used heavily in the classic game, World of Warcraft, in which players can find new lands to explore as they progress through the game.

There are many other attributes that game designers use to make their games more exciting and addictive, but these four relatively universal concepts can be applied in business environments to make a mundane task much more interesting.

Salesforce has used gamification to support their popular CRM platform. Salesforce applies various game mechanics and enables direct competition among the users within an organization. Incorporating competition drives additional user engagement in the system.

Another system called CheckPoints allows firms to drive product engagement by applying gaming-style rewards for certain shopping behaviors. Users are incentivised to scan specific products for CheckPoints, which can then be exchanged as virtual currency for rewards such as gift cards.

One of my favorite products is called Fitbit. Fitbit works like a pedometer on steroids by recording both the number of steps you take and stairs you climb each day. Data is recorded both wirelessly through the Internet and on the Fitbit device itself.

During my recent visit to London with my daughter and grandson, my Fitbit said we walked over 12 miles and 33 flight of stairs in one day. This data helped explain why we were so exhausted that day!

Fitbit uses a number of gamification concepts to encourage you to walk more. The day we walked 12 miles, they sent me a badge to reward us for walking over 20,000 steps.

Fitbit also has a new weight scale that wirelessly connects to their website to give you a history of your weight loss. When I lost three pounds, they sent me a congratulatory email, which is a wonderful way to get rewarded for this achievement.

The concept of gamification will become more and more important for businesses over time. Its many applications can be useful to a wide variety of business types, so take some time now to learn about this neat new concept and see if it is appropriate for your operation.

You can do this!

Go to Links Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is the Director of Outreach of The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at The Florida State University; The Jim Moran Professor Emeritus of Entrepreneurship; and Professor Emeritus of Finance. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book" is an bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at

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