Gamification vs Boreout: using games to boost productivity

We are only 13% to be engaged in our jobs. It’s a very low rate that is presently being counteracted through intranet social platforms. A good idea to improve internal communication. But to motivate employees, why not use those interfaces to introduce gamification in your management!


During the industrial era, it was all about productivity and we were supposed to perform our tasks efficiently. Today, we are asked to use our creativity to engender innovation, pursue the goals of our company and take the right decisions, every day.

Problem: we are only 13% to be engaged in our work. *

(*Gallup employee engagement survey, 2012)

The delight of being engaged in one’s job. The other 87% don’t know what they’re missing.

The key is to acknowledge the efforts of an employee and give them feedback in order to motivate them to stand out and perform at their best while sharing knowledge and communicating efficiently with coworkers.


To this end, the latest trend is to use internal enterprise softwares inspired by social networks.


The Enterprise Social Softwares (ESS)

According to Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, the enterprise social softwares are efficient if they have these functionalities :

  • Search: allowing users to search for other users or content
  • Links: grouping similar users or content together
  • Authoring: including blogs and wikis
  • Tags: allowing users to tag content
  • Extensions: recommendations by users; or content based on profile
  • Signals: allowing people to subscribe to users or content with RSS feeds

These recommendations – made in 2006, or just 2 years after Facebook was born – make this software really look like a simple social network.

So this kind of platform is not enough in itself, but we can use it as a support to introduce gamified communication and interaction. And while points and badges for your employees’ achievements are important, there’s much more you can do.

A tutorial will explain the processes of your company, its goals and the development expected… And grant users their first experience points.

Specific content, only accessible via a kind of scavenger or treasure hunt, will motivate the most curious Explorers among your employees.

Random mini-missions will affect their intrinsic motivation and curiosity.

A “likes” system on every publication will accentuate feedback and social aspects, as proposed by Igloo, for example.

The design is an important parameter to take care of. Although Office 365 is renowned as an efficient platform, it looks about as much fun as a kids’ champagne party with a bunch of accountants.


Case study: Gamify a meeting

For 6 year olds, you would use the good old talking stick. They are allowed to speak only if they have it in their hands. And then pass it on to their classmates.

In a corporate meeting, if we are not careful with the clock or the organization, we can easily slip into a configuration of waiting one hour, speaking for 3 minutes, and finally not remembering much of it.

In the office of Janaki Kumar, Vice President of Design and Co-Innovation Center at Palo Alto, they strike a gong – yes, an actual gong –  when the meeting is about to start. And instead of passing a stick, they toss an Angry Bird plush toy to each other. It’s cute, it’s funny, but it’s not really gamified.

What could be done (even though the meetings would be a lot messier) is to make real challenges to add some fun:

  • Everyone builds a little plastic cup castle in front of them. You aim the toy at a colleague’s castle, and you’re allowed to speak only if at least half of his cups fall down. Once you’re done with your speech, the colleague you aimed at does the same to earn their right to speak. (Important: preferably use empty cups.)
  • You can take your turn anytime you want by intercepting the fluffy bird.

Remove the staplers from the meeting table beforehand. (Helmet and shoulder pads are optional. Unadvised during pregnancy.)

  • You can aim at a colleague’s nose instead of their castle. If you hit (and nose is still ok), he/she has to go get coffee for everyone.


Of course, there are ways to optimize this process and make sure that the meeting is productive. For example, by applying NONE of the above.


In my experience, the technique of the timer is efficient. (Janaki Kumar uses it too.) You can, for example, show a dynamite stick on a screen that explodes once the fuse is consumed.

We wanted weekly informative meetings that last 10 minutes maximum. So each of us had 1 minute and 30 seconds to say what we had done, what we will do and what we wanted from our colleagues.

Previously every meeting would take almost 30 minutes. With the timer, all of them ended on time.

Moreover, this method revealed two advantages:

  • The reduced time to speak obliged us to be ready when our turn came. No or little dithering, no useless blah-blah-blah. So no time for the others to fall asleep or to forget the beginning of your sentence.
  • A good laugh – combined with some friendly mockery – when the first explosion happened.

If you can afford to hire Denzel Washington as “The Timer”, do not deprive yourself.

And for those who would be motivated by extrinsic motivations, be nice and open a box of chocolates if the global time is respected!


Incite creativity during brainstorming

For meetings in which decisions have to be taken, you have to encourage your employees to be creative, but also efficient, to avoid the effect “Yeah! There were a lot of great ideas! So… What do we do now?

Thus, a simple real-time points system for a good idea would be, on the one hand, a solid base of motivation, and would, on the other hand, provide immediate feedback. On the third hand, peer acknowledgement. And on the fourth hand, it will motivate the shiest or lower-ranking employees to get involved.

Monkey handsHow many hands do you have?

Exponential COMBO option:
for each person following up on the same idea, or proposing a specific application of it, increase the number of points given.

And the volunteer who accepts to take notes and send a recap email, gets 10 points right away!

And as points are meaningless on their own, after 10 points, you get a free coffee on the house. After 20 points, a free dessert. And with 1,000 points, a salary increase?..

Kudos Johnny! Thanks to those 3 points and the 7 from last week, you overtake Charles! You win his green marker. You earned it!

So now you have an idea what can be done with an Enterprise Social Software.

You’ve got the communication interface, meaningful leaderboards, challenges, rewards, motivations…

All the tools you need in order to make your employees feel valuable andvalued!


One thought on “Gamification vs Boreout: using games to boost productivity”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.