Gamification at work

Can having more fun at work improve our effectiveness? Åke Nygren explores tools and apps that could put the play into work.

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And there is a lot more than just Foursquare and Gowalla to choose from.  With the launching of services like we can link our everyday locations to a wealth of historic material., run by the Swedish National Heritage board, is a community for collaborative storytelling linked to geographic data. Anyone can contribute with his or her own story about, say a grandparent's house, a forgotten shop or a certain location in a forest where something extraordinary once happened.

Another interesting geolocal service,, was recently launched by the Finnish founder of Jaiku (a Twitter competitor that was rather widely used in the nordic countries some years ago).  Ditto gives you a user experience similar to Foursquare, but here the focus is not primarily on where you are, but where you are heading to. With Ditto you share your immediate plans with the world and other "Dittoers" can join you for lunch, an art exhibition or anything you are up to.  A potential tool for serendipity and random meetings and perhaps even for work related meetings?

All these services can be used as tools for the gamification of everyday life. They have the potential to add some extra motivation sparks to our work situation, help us to create new meaning, and maybe even make us more productive. In other words: working and having fun might not be completely incompatible after all?  

For some months now, the Stockholm municipality (including Stockholm Public Libraries, where I work) have been trying out Yammer, a social networking tool similar to Facebook and Twitter, but aimed exclusively at businesses and organisations. With Yammer you can create a 'social intranet' which can boost transparency, networking and sharing among colleagues. This in turn can lead to more creativity and productivity, more motivated employees and a better atmosphere within the organisation. Our Yammer network is growing organically and voluntarily.  It is not the result of a formal decision by the municipality. It started with one enthusiast creating it and inviting other co-workers to join. Now we have new members joining every day.  

Although Yammer is not meant to be a game I see it as a potential part of the gamification of our working lives. By being allowed, not obliged, to express ourselves through status updates and group conversations in a more casual way we can all develop a new attitude towards work that makes us more motivated to share with our colleagues. Maybe it's just a question of time before Yammer goes geolocal and we can start sharing pins and rewards amongst ourselves?

Image courtesy of Hodgers via Flickr.

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