Archives For social business design

by David Mastronardi & Tom Cummings , originally posted here.

In our previous post, my colleague Tom and I recapped Seth Priebatsch’s SXSWi keynote address and introduced the concept of enterprise gamification.

That's engagement

Taking tacit game mechanics already at play and providing deliberate structure and reward schedules gives companies a potentially powerful social business design tool. Enterprise gamification’s power lies in its ability to influence individual behavior and create hivemind, an often elusive enterprise dynamic. While the right game makes this dynamic more achievable, the complexity of influencing human behavior necessitates planning and design. Taking time to understand game mechanics and the psychology of rewards will lead to more effective games, engaged employees and better business results.

The Email Game

To explore these concepts let’s outline a simple game that helps Company X promote its low cost provider strategy. The goal of the game is to lower network storage costs by reducing the amount of email employees store in their inbox. Company X decides to reward employees with one point whenever they delete an email.


A well designed game aligns individual rewards with the strategic objectives of the business. Properly incentivized employees will then repeat behavior beneficial to company goals. Two types of rewards exist:

Intrinsic Rewards

Intrinsic rewards come from the enjoyment of the activity itself, reducing email storage in Company X’s case. The best games, often the most addicting, create enjoyment by fulfilling basic human needs:

Autonomy is the feeling that your activities are self-chosen. Company X can incorporate this feeling into their game by giving employees additional ways to earn points.  Besides deleting emails, archiving emails locally can also result in a point. Now employees have choice.

Competence is the feeling of confidence and effectiveness in one’s activities. The accumulation of points gives employees direct and frequent feedback.  The Email Game can provide additional feedback by creating dashboards that track saved space and individual contribution to company cost savings.

Connectedness comes from a sense of closeness to others. The Email Game can create connectedness by allowing org-chart based groups to compete. Individuals will be rewarded for working together to reduce their organization’s email footprint.

Extrinsic Rewards

These rewards come from outside the individual: the Email Game’s points. While not as personally meaningful as intrinsic rewards, extrinsic rewards set the basis for competition, standard measures by which players compare performance. To increase their value Company X can tie their extrinsic rewards (points) achievement to real world benefits, e.g. paid-time-off, gift certificates to the company store, a meeting with the CIO.

Game Mechanics

Rewards explain why people participate, Game Mechanics dictate the who, what, when and where. A well designed game’s incentives harmonize with its mechanics.  SCVNGR, Priebatsch’s company, defines 47 game mechanics. Let’s review four in the context of the Email Game:

Appointment is a mechanic that involves returning at a predefined time to perform a predetermined action. Company X might make the lunch hour more productive by offering a double-point bonus.

Influence & Status uses social pressure to modify behavior. By implementing leader-boards across geographical, organizational and individual levels Company X can create a sense of status and competition.  This mechanic also feeds an employee’s sense of Competence.

Progression is a mechanic by which progress is displayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks. A simple daily progression in the Email Game could include two steps:  clicking through all mailbox folders to check for deletion candidates and archiving your entire inbox to a local directory. Successful completion of these activities results in a point.

Communal Discovery is when a community must come together to complete a challenge. The previously suggested idea of group based incentives is an example of Communal Discovery.  This mechanic also directly ties in to an individual sense of Connectedness.

By no means an exhaustive guide, this post introduces fundamental concepts to Game Layer creation. Turning work into a game involves more than bribing employees with points. Developing effective games for your company will be an evolutionary process.  Even the simplest games engage complex behavioral dynamics. Be sure to plan, measure your progress and iterate as new behaviors emerge.

Game on. (Game on)

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Communication as Work

July 14, 2010 — 3 Comments

A knowledge worker spends a good portion of the day communicating – meetings, status reports, emails, phone calls, water cooler talks.  Much of this activity is considered unproductive overhead; when you look at a calendar full of meetings you wonder when you’re going to get any REAL work done.  And while many popular forms of communication may be inefficient and ineffective, communication is work; perhaps the most important work knowledge workers do.

Knowledge work is aimed at turning information into something decisionable and actionable; too often reports, presentations, survey results are mistaken for such.  While they are a key part of the decision equation, they are not enough.  They don’t provide insight.  The only thing they’re good for on their own is filling repositories.

Knowledge, unlike the data and information contained in reports, is a living & breathing thing.  It can’t be put in your enterprise content management system.  It exists in the heads of employees (often referred to as ‘tacit’ knowledge), constantly being shaped by different stimuli: articles, blog posts, pictures, models, books, conversations with colleagues, etc…  Communication is the process by which this constantly evolving knowledge is applied on data and information to a decisionable end.  This process will generate insights on how to take advantage of the information you have gathered.  Unless the reports, presentations and survey results are subjected to scrutiny and analysis through communication, no insights are created and decisions are delayed or malinformed.

Communication is more than just a block of time on your calendar.  It’s an opportunity to  share knowledge, gain insight, make better decisions and create for your company a competitive advantage.

What does communication look like where you work?  Is it enabling the application of knowledge to data and information?  Where do your company’s insights come from?


October 2, 2009 — Leave a comment

Ever think you know someone really well and then you meet one of their siblings and they’re completely different?  You never could have imagined it.  Same parents, same church, same school, same neighborhood.  What gives?  One goes out all the time, the other stays in.  One got straight A’s, the other never finished high school.  One likes their beef grass-fed, the other is vegan.  I think you get the idea.

Well, IT projects can be a lot like that.  You can have two projects, same goal and they can be worlds apart.  Same company, same vision, same CEO, same culture, same training.  What gives?  Well, I’ve had the opportunity to work in such an environment (project = e2.0 deployment) and I can tell you what gives.  It’s the requirements.  Well, not so much the requirements but from whom they come.   Talk to IT.  Talk to BD.  Then talk to HR, Marketing, Comms.  Then go and talk to your ‘product’ folks.  Worlds apart.  Even though everyone at the company is committed to the same mission, they’ve each got their own role and their own care-abouts.  The ‘thing’ they want designed is obviously going to be biased to what makes their world tick.

So, to whom do you listen?  It’s a tough decision in the ‘social world’.  My advice is actually the same I offered in this post I wrote in June (I was at the e2.0 Conference in Boston).  The difference is that now (more than 3 monhts later) I’ve got the experience to back it up.  Turns out I was right.  Doesn’t happen often.  But when it does I’m going to blog about it.  Here’s an excerpt:

My advice to you is do your homework.  Know the vendor space, know your architecture, know your security model, know your requirements.  Most importantly: know your business and how this new tool set will help you solve your BUSINESS problems.  Do all of this before even approaching a vendor.  Get a sponsor from your BUSINESS.  HR is not OK.  Comms, eh, you’re getting warmer.  IT…COLD.  Get at the heart of what your company does and find out who does it.  Once you find them, they will tell you everything you need to know.   If you can make them happy and solve their problems you greatly increase your odds of success.

Looking back on that advice, it’s a little rough around the edges, but it absolutely rings true.  Jeremiah Owyang has a new post here where he urges companies to bring ‘social’ beyond just the marketing department.  I agree, but if you’re talking internally focused efforts (and I understand that wasn’t his intent, so this is not a criticism) his advice doesn’t go far enough.  You need to start with the ‘core of your business’ folks.  They will cover many requirements of the other functions, but it won’t work the other way around.  Once you get the right requirements from the right people you’ll have created an excellent foundation from which you can become holistic.

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In the past week there have been three very smart posts on dynamic signal: one from David Armano , one from Skillful Minds, and one from Mark Fidelman.  The dynamic signal is one of the key elements (archetypes, as Dachis Corp calls them) of developing a successful social business (internally, externally, or preferably both); it is an enabling capablitiy whose fate will be decided by an organization’s culture and its employees’ willingness to create a dynamic signal and embrace its potential.

Back in January, I posted on this topic of pushing information to the edge of organizations.  The theory is actually based on the military’s traditional methods of Command and Control and how they are attempting to evolve information flow, much like we’re trying to do with a social business.  Below, given the recent discussion of dynamic signals, is an appropriate excerpt of that post.  If you wish to read the entire post, it is here (actually written around an event incited by David Armano).

Command and control (C2) was the traditional method (and is still widely used today) for organizing military forces.  As a soldier (on the edge) you got your orders only once, from the top (the core).  You followed them, no deviation.  One of the main reasons for this approach was lack of bandwidth.  Chances were, once you got into the field, should an unforseen situation arise there was almost no opportunity to communicate back to the top.  You had no choice but to proceed as planned.  And speaking of unforseen situations, C2 assumed that there wouldn’t be any.  We knew who our enemy was and how they operated (think Cold War); not so true in today’s world (think 9/11).  Resulting from this C2 approach was a very strong/smart ‘core’ and a very weak/uninformed/dumb ‘edge.’  That just won’t work today.

Power to the Edge urges the military to change its approach, to empower, educate & sharpen the edge.  Things do happen in the field and the the front lines need the ability & freedom to operate and overcome those obstacles.  Technology & bandwidth have made information flow to the edge possible; the edge can be smarter and more effective than ever before.  However, there is a foundation that must be in place for Power to the Edge to occur :

• Clear and consistent understanding of command intent;

• High quality information and shared situational awareness;

• Competence at all levels of the force; and

• Trust in the information, subordinates, superiors, peers, and equipment.

So, I think the bullet points above represent key requirements for companies looking to generate a dynamic signal (each bullet probably deserves its own post).  While a dynamic signal could be a great asset to an organization looking to be more effective/efficient/innovative, you don’t just order one from Amazon (or HP).  You have to build it, and it’s not a tool – the tool amplifies the signal, but the tool does not create the signal.  Employees, given the right culture create the signal.  Once you’ve got that, a tool can tap into the signal and distribute it very efficiently.  But, even after you achieve distribution of your dynamic signal, does your company have the culture (or design) to act on it?  To benefit from it?  Are your employees ready for this?  Are those who hold the power in your organization ready for more informed employees?