KM Gamification—Holy Grail or Child’s Play?

Phil Green

Phil Green

July 29, 2016

Gamification can enhance KM adoption, and encourage ongoing usage. As these two items are critical to the success of any KM system, they deserve careful attention.

Performance and promotions

Some organizations tie performance reviews and/or promotions to meaningful KM participation. But can mid-level KM managers make this happen?

The answer is that top management advocacy is usually required, and this is often driven by a company’s culture and the desire to make knowledge sharing a critical part of that culture. But mid-level KM managers can work with Divisional Heads to push for the inclusion of KM participation as a performance input, and this can be effective, especially if you can demonstrate a link between division success and knowledge sharing.

While you definitely need top level support, remember that most reviews are done by line managers, so working with line management is also critical to making this effective.

Rewards and Recognition

Everyone should start with enabling recognition as part of a KM system. Recognizing participation and collaboration in KM systems is easy to do and does not require layers of management approval. But note that offering rewards is a great second step. Rewards (as in a bit of cash or a gift certificate) are a powerful way to reinforce KM participation. Recognizing participation is fun and motivational, but when an organization puts its money where its mouth is, this sends a strong message that KM participation is important.

Scoring systems

Many KM systems implement scoring systems as a form of recognition or in conjunction with badges. A key issue in scoring systems is that everyone needs to understand how to keep score. For example, a friend of mine is using a municipal/town website that uses scoring to encourage citizen involvement, but my friend has a lower score than other citizens, when from all visible measures she has higher involvement. This makes her feel like a Bernie Sanders supporter and that “the system is rigged.” So in this case the scoring is having the opposite of its intended effect.

So, let users know exactly how you are keeping score, and provide details of a user’s score in their profile.

Badge Complexity

Many KM systems use badges to recognize knowledge sharing activities, and some badging schemes are very elaborate. Badging tackles two separate problems: a) initial adoption, and b) ongoing participation.

During initial adoption, you want badges to convert the lurkers into contributors. You need to prime the pump and get everybody into the pool. Badges can help provide this motivation. Except when the first badge is something like “Newbie”—and now you have converted happily anonymous users into shamed users who have not done much in the system. That badge is like a scarlet letter. Oops! So choose your badge names carefully.

Simple naming conventions are often the best, and to promote ongoing usage, you need a ladder of levels. For example:

  • No badge—user (or the dreaded lurker)
  • Contributor—ask a question or share a document (denotes basic use of the system)
  • Collaborator—answer a question (denotes more advanced use of the system)
  • Expert—acknowledged guru and regular contributor / collaborator

In systems where you have problems maintaining momentum and ongoing participation, you may need more levels. This means more badges, since you want people always trying to get to the next level. But remember, you also want achieving the top badge to be hard, so it really is a badge of honor and conveys something special—and is something everyone can strive for, but few can attain.

Do you use gamification in your KM system?

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