The Gamification Of KCS

In ev’ry job that must be done there is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap! the job’s a game

And ev’ry task you undertake becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree! It’s very clear to see…

A Spoonful of Sugar, Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman

Games are becoming more and more part of “real life.”  Not just because more of us are playing more games (although we are:  183 million Americans are “active gamers,” according to Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken).  And it’s not because we’re spending more time playing games (although we are: McGonigal notes that people spend 30 million hours playing one game, World of Warcraft, every day.)  It’s because the techniques of gameplay are being consciously employed to engage people outside of games.

As any teacher knows, asking students to listen passively is a terrible way to communicate information.  Most of us learn by doing and collaborating:  as KCS practitioners say, “knowledge is a byproduct of interaction and experience.”  What better forum for “interaction and experience” than a game?

It’s no accident that the parts of the KCS Workshop that make the biggest impression are the games.  (We call them “exercises,” but they’re really games.  Don’t tell your boss.)  Product managers have used innovation games for years:  I remember a placid group of IT professionals who were so engaged by a game we hosted that they nearly came to blows over which feature to place their last quarter on.

Closer to home, game design is being applied to encourage people to participate in support forums.  (How many “kudos” or “solveds” have you gotten recently?  Are you about to level up to “Trusted Advisor” or “MVP?”)  Games are infiltrating our social networks: have you sent your friend a cow recently?  (FarmVille has over 100 million players.)  Car dashboards are encouraging fuel economy with game-inspired feedback: can you grow a tree by the time you’ve finished your drive?  (Some of these examples came from Jesse Schell’s fabulous presentation at DICE 2010, where he carries these ideas to fascinating extremes.  It’s well worth the 28 minutes to watch.)

The hard part of knowledge management, and KCS in particular, is engaging busy people to do their daily work differently.  Let’s gamify KCS!

  • Tired of boring tests at the end of a training module?  Let’s play a quiz show instead!  DB Kay is working with an innovative client to build just such a game—what else do we have for our wonderful workshop participants, Carol?
  • Do you get KCS certified?  (Yawn).  Or do you really level up?  Can we provide more granular recognition, and badges along the way, to keep people moving forward in the process?  (It’s a big day when you get the 200 citations badge, or the 1000 customer five-star ratings badge, or the “sharpshooter” award for a quarter with a perfect Article Quality Index.)  The creative folks at Cisco IronPort give contributors of quality content a special KCS owl.  To make it more fun, recipients have started dressing their owls to give them their own personalities…for example, here’s a KCS Warrior Owl.  Owl bobblehead?  Cheap.  Enthusiastic participants? Priceless!
  • We read that KCS is a Team Sport.  Can we take that a little more literally, and create teams for cooperative KM play?

I know, we all worry about people “gaming” the system (there’s that word again.)  And the caveats about over-rewarding activity still apply.  But in our experience, it’s apathy that kills, not enthusiasm.

Game on.

ps – four quick announcements, while I have your attention.

  1. I’ll be headlining a webinar on the ROI of KM next Tuesday.
  2. Also next Tuesday, if you’re in the Bay Area, we have a great Third Tuesday with Cordelia Naumann of Cisco IronPort.  She promises to bring an owl.
  3. If you’re coming to TSW in Santa Clara, I’ll be doing a professional development workshop on KCS during the first day.  Hit me up if you want a discounted registration to TSW.
  4. In April, DB Kay will be doing a three day KCS Foundations Workshop, also in the Bay Area.  Operators are standing by.