Tools, processes and organizational policies are important elements but they will only get you so far. Culture is the cornerstone that will determine the willingness of your employees to participate in knowledge management.
How do you influence employees in your organization to adopt productive behaviors around collaboration and knowledge sharing? The answer may be found in a new concept called gamification.
What is gamification? It is a new and rapidly evolving area, but the following description is a good starting point: gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.
That definition of gamification contains three distinct elements:
- Game elements - this is about leveraging the components, design patterns, and feedback mechanisms that you would typically find in video games, such as points, badges and leader-boards. It is sometimes referred to as the engineering side of gamification.
- Game design techniques - this is the artistic, experimental side of gamification. It includes aesthetics, narrative, player journey, progression, surprise, and, of course, fun. Games are not just a collection of elements, they are a way of thinking about and approaching challenges like a games designer.
- Non-game contexts - some common areas in which gamification has taken hold include health and wellness, education, sustainability, and collaboration and knowledge sharing in the enterprise.
- connect: how people connect to the content and communities they need to do their job;
- contribute: the level at which people are contributing their knowledge and the impact of those contributions on other people;
- cultivate: the willingness to interact with and build upon the ideas and perspectives of other employees, to help nurture a spirit of collaboration.
We can identify three ways to affect intrinsic motivation: mastery, autonomy, and purpose.
Getting really good at something, be it a skill, sport or mental discipline, has its own benefits. The goal of gamifying collaboration is to help people get good at it and, therefore, realize its inherent benefits. As participants progress through the "game", they gradually learn the skills to find expertise, build their network, and share their knowledge in a way that makes them more effective, and advances their careers.
Autonomy is about giving people the freedom to make meaningful choices. Instead of dictating a prescribed path, an autonomous approach allows them to set their own goals, choosing how they wish to collaborate, and ultimately providing a sense of ownership. The more individuals feel that they are in control, the better engaged they are going to be. Participants can share a document, write a blog, post a microblog or create a video. It is about giving participants choices, equipping them with the tools, and rewarding them for their knowledge sharing behaviors regardless of the specific mechanism they used.
While there are plenty of personal benefits to collaboration, people are more engaged when they feel socially connected to others as part of a larger purpose. As part of that wider organization, they can take pride in the fact that they are making a broader impact on their organization and collaboration is a key part of that experience.
The use of gamification assumes that you already have knowledge management program in place. Assuming gamification can magically transform absence of knowledge management program into something engaging is a common error. A well thought-out and sustainable approach to gamification offers significant potential to make collaboration fun and engaging.
Don't lose sight of your objectives
Start with your business objectives in terms of their outcomes and keep your eyes on those objectives and validate them as you design, develop and implement your knowledge management program.
Focus on behaviors, not activities
It is very easy to get caught up in focusing exclusively on activities and end up having people busy doing "stuff". Similar to objectives, keep a focus on the behaviors you want your people to adopt and identify activities that are indicators of those behaviors.
Data is king
You need to be able to capture, store and retrieve data. Without a way to quantify and measure it, you will be stuck in the first step.
Spread the recognition
Don't limit the number of people who can be recognized through your program. In addition, recognize people's efforts in a variety of meaningful ways. Some examples of recognition are:
- e-cards with 100 recognition points (monetary value of $100);
- thank-you notes from leadership;
- shout-outs in internal corporate communications;
- badges on employees' profile pages;
- feedback during the employee's performance review process.
You will need to pay attention to people who want to "game" the system. Where possible, build in approaches to limit the ability of people to do so.
Start small and evolve
Gamifying collaboration is not just something you build at once. To arrive at a good and sustainable knowledge management program, you need to be iterative, creating rough versions and play-testing continuously.
No silver bullet exists
Gamification is not a silver bullet. All the available evidence suggests that it can be leveraged further to embed the collaborative behaviors that go to make up a meaningful culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing across any organization.