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Child's play? Gamification has implications for government IT needs.

Jul. 1, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANNETTE RIPPERT   |   Comments
Annette Rippert is a Managing Director at Accenture Federal Services, where she serves as Technology Strategy Lead with a focus on Emerging Technologies.
Annette Rippert is a Managing Director at Accenture Federal Services, where she serves as Technology Strategy Lead with a focus on Emerging Technologies. (File)

You can see it all around you. As you glance around on an airplane flight, or watch a group of students waiting for the bus, or even while riding in a stroller—children engrossed and engaged in apps on the latest hand-held gadgets. Even looking at my own dinner table, my kids excitedly peck away at their screens. What is so captivating about these devices?

Games!

As we increasingly go digital with mobile devices and applications, the concept of gamification has steadily increased in popularity, making it one of the next big things in emerging technology. Fortune magazine found that companies are realizing that using the same mechanics employed to hook gamers, can also be effective in driving outcomes for business. For example, Microsoft launched a game called “Ribbon Hero” to help educate their users on how to use the new Microsoft Office interface. It made learning about Microsoft’s new interface an entertaining and fun activity. It’s one of the most highly regarded tutorial applications Microsoft has released to date.

Gamification is also changing the education sector by changing the way professors teach and the way students interact and engage with learning material. Children are excited to engage in learning when it is presented as a game. Their innate sense of curiosity, interest and determination leads to an environment of learning under the guise of playing a game. Gamification.org states on its website that students feel more pride in their work, learn to think more critically and work better in teams when learning in a gamified environment.

How can gamification help the federal government? One example lies in the challenges facing the federal workforce. With an increasing number of experienced professionals leaving the workforce, a key challenge lies in training the next generation of leaders. Major shifts are occurring that directly affect federal procurement practices such as the acquisition of new technologies like cloud. Not only is cloud a new, complex technology, but the components of cloud solutions are often sold in new elastic “as-a-service” business models. Inexperienced professionals may struggle with how best to structure and assess procurement criteria against these new technology offerings. This can lead to suboptimal acquisitions and unrealized business value.

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One way to address this experience gap is through training simulation based on gamification techniques: training that engages new professionals and assists to quickly overcome the learning curve, provides needed knowledge and encourages critical thinking, while capturing and preserving years of expertise and best practices from the more experienced experts. This idea is not new, in fact, according to Forbes magazine, the U.S. Department of Defense leveraged gamification techniques in its Defense Acquisition University program to teach its professionals how to spot procurement fraud. Other areas of application of gamification in the federal government are easy to see – from weather systems forecast simulation, to emergency response formulation.

Federal agencies also can apply gamification concepts as they seek to achieve higher levels of engagement, enterprise efficiencies, and user adoption within its workforce. Accenture is an example of an organization that uses gamification techniques to encourage and recognize collaborative activities. By using strategies such as status recognition, competition, performance rankings, milestones, social networks and personalization, Accenture’s employees are motived to make the most of their collaboration with others and be rewarded for it. So as more agencies invest in deploying their own collaboration and unified communications platforms, incentive and recognition programs like collaboration contests will increase adoption and use, while developing robust skills in collaboration, therefore, helping to maximize mission outcomes.

Why is gamification so engaging? According to the industry analyst firm Gartner, gamification can actually change brain chemistry, truly influencing the behaviors of employees by changing how they feel and react to new concepts, radically transforming performance. Similarly, a JWT Intelligence study shows that 63 percent of American adults agree that making everyday activities more like a game would make their work more fun and rewarding. They agree that if a layer of competition were added to everyday activities, they’d be more likely to keep closer watch of their behavior in those areas.

So as kids can attest, the best games provide clear rules, an engaging environment and achievable tasks with instant feedback as a way to engage and accelerate learning and target outcomes. They create a desire to do more, to achieve more, to improve. Federal agencies can achieve that same type of engagement from their workforce by looking for opportunities to add game mechanics to interactions with employees, citizens and consumers driving engagement and energizing mission results.

What we all learned as kids still holds true, “Life’s a game; all you have to do is know how to play.”

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