Fun and Games

When it comes to serious business, there is a tendency to be wary of anything that might seem fun. Indeed even in most creative agencies, where fun is apparently part of the DNA, such frippery is quickly tossed aside when trouble comes to call.

But there is a lot to be learned from fun and, in particular, from games. And what we may learn can have a dramatic effect on our business. Indeed, I am increasingly convinced that a more ‘playful’ approach to work can have serious consequences – boosting motivation, encouraging innovation, empowering creativity and fostering much greater agility.

For that reason, I’d like to see the gamification of the performance appraisal system.

Mitu Khandaker, an indie game developer whose doctorate is in gaming, opened my eyes to the power and potential of playing games. She ripped the stereotyped image of gaming geek out of my head and replaced it with an altogether different image that made me appreciate the significance and importance of gamification.

Her view is that games are a powerful force for good, helping us to find innovative ways to solve a whole range of problems while broadening our minds at the same time. And none of it is a chore because it’s fun too.

And Tom Chatfield, another games expert, agrees that by extrapolating the principles of gaming – and harnessing the power behind the tremendous success and growth in gaming – we can begin to develop important motivational and development tools, especially in a world of an ever-increasing social media.

At the heart of most games is the expectation for accurate and regular feedback, usually in the form of some sort of dashboard. This is our motivation, our reward, and there are plenty of examples of how this sort of ‘scoring’ has influenced our behaviors in everything from recycling and climate change to how we drive and what we buy.

A very basic example is in my Volvo V70, the dashboard of which tells me how many miles I have left until my tank is devoid of diesel. It obsesses me and has a direct impact on how I drive and, in particular, the speed at which I drive.

Chips in recycling bins that feed into your Facebook, electricity monitors that show up-to-the-second output and energy costs, price comparison sites…all these vehicles that crunch data to deliver an easy-to-read score impact hugely on our behaviors.

Clearly it makes sense to develop a similar process to measure and shape our performance at work. Something beyond the stilted and generally rather de-motivating annual chat between manager and managed.

Just imagine the benefits such system would bring…


Ben Young

Written by , HR Director

Ben Young has worked in the creative and media industry for more than 25 years, starting as a journalist on regional newspapers and then in national newspapers before a move into consumer magazines. Until 2009, Ben held the role of commercial creative director, but having always had a special interest in employment issues, he was asked to head up IPC Media’s HR Operations team. Since then he has brought his wealth of creativity and commercial understanding to the development of HR policy-making, strategy, change management and implementation in roles at Warner Bros. and Interbrand.

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