Big Data to Save Gamification?

*Note: This post is credited to Ankit Shah (helped lead classroom and educational gamification initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania under Prof. Werbach) for giving me the topic idea. Follow him @AnkitAShah

Looks like gamification has met yet another challenge, but this time it isn’t as simple as convincing managers that games help efficiency and productivity. With all the advocates preaching gamification to be the next biggest thing since sliced bread, there has been an overinflating of hype and expectations. Gartner has predicted that about 80% of gamified solutions will fail in reaching business objectives by 2014 due to poor design. Their article claims by using the Gartner Hype Cycle that gamification needs to figure out ways to move past “the peak of inflated expectations” so it can be on the path to mainstream adoption.

What is the best way to improve gamification? Aside from complementary solutions such as gaining an overall better understanding of behavioral sciences and usability in order to implement better User Experience (UX) design, the best chance gamification has at improving its results is “Big Data”. Big Data is under the umbrella of Business Intelligence and is defined by the International Data Corp. as new generation “technologies and architectures, designed to economically extract value from very large volumes of a wide variety of data by enabling high-velocity capture, discovery and/or analysis.” The IDC expects spending on Big Data to be about $16.9 billion by 2015, an increase from the $3.2 billion spent in 2010. This increase is for good reason. Having worked in Big Data before, I have seen the potential benefits it has of analyzing large volumes of data in statistically significant ways. What this means for gamification is that B2C loyalty and B2E productivity/efficiency can help companies better understand the behaviors of customers and employees respectively. The ‘3V’ model of volume and variety combined with velocity will improve feedback to both consumers and companies—one of the core values of gamification.

In May 2011, the McKinsey Global Institute published an executive summary that explains Big Data in full. In it, they mention the five broad benefits Big Data will bring forward to the exponentially increasing information that is on Internet and multimedia. Attached is an excerpt from their summary:

1. Big data can unlock significant value by making information transparent and usable at much higher frequency.

2. As organizations create and store more transactional data in digital form, they can collect more accurate and detailed performance information on everything from product inventories to sick days, and therefore expose variability and boost performance. Leading companies are using data collection and analysis to conduct controlled experiments to make better management decisions; others are using data for basic low-frequency forecasting to high-frequency “now”-casting to adjust their business levers just in time.

3. Big data allows ever-narrower segmentation of customers and therefore much more precisely tailored products or services.

4. Sophisticated analytics can substantially improve decision-making.

5. Big data can be used to improve the development of the next generation of products and services. For instance, manufacturers are using data obtained from sensors embedded in products to create innovative after-sales service offerings such as proactive maintenance (preventive measures that take place before a failure occurs or is even noticed).”

a. B2E gamification solutions can rest easy from the sound of this. Being able to understand the behavior and productivity of employees will allow companies to design gamified environments that are conducive to both company and the individual employee. Who knows? It may even be possible to create individualized gamified plans so that employees can compete against themselves and collaborate with others.

b. Transparency and feedback are two big wins for gamification as they allow companies and consumers to understand themselves and each other better with objective quantifiable data.

c. Creating products tailored to individuals will allow for better customer support and will thus increase loyalty. Another win for gamification.

 In short, gamification is going through a hurdle of defining what is feasible and what is ideal. Gamification’s first few wins with the creation of Foursquare, Nike+, Decode Jay-Z, and SaaS companies such as Badgeville, Bunchball, and Big Door have shown promising hope for increasing loyalty, productivity, and efficiency across many sectors of B2B, B2C, and B2E. The early increase in hype has made many companies adopt gamification in their business objectives, but it is one thing watching the NFL and another thing actually being a quarterback or wide receiver. However, Big Data is the best chance companies of all sectors have in collectively benefiting from gamification and moving the concept towards mainstream adoption.

As the new year of 2013 is upon us, let’s make a resolution to practice better gamification habits. Happy New Year and good luck to everyone’s personal and business objectives.





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