Are you a gamer? Traditionally, we might think gamers are teens locked away in the basement playing games like Borderlands and Call of Duty for days on end. However, the traditional view of a gamer is changing as games like Farmville and Angry Birds are played every day by mass amounts of people. Even more, games are now being incorporated into classrooms and workplaces and “gamification” is growing as a method to impact everything from employee onboarding to internal sales processes.

Christine BirdsGamification by definition is the use of game theory to engage people in the performance of everyday tasks. Typically, gamification applies to non-game applications and processes to encourage people to adopt them or influence how they are used. Companies are now working to understand how these elements can be incorporated into traditional programs, especially as members of the millennial generation enter the workforce and push their organizations to find new ways to improve participation in activities that are thought to be routine or mundane. And gaming could be that solution.

The goal of gamification is to achieve higher levels of engagement, change behaviors and stimulate innovation. With the prevalence of Facebook, Twitter and Zynga, more and more companies are looking for ways to tap into the social networking and digital worlds to take game elements into areas that are unrelated to games, such as loyalty programs or sales training. In fact, according to Gartner, it is estimated that by 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will apply gamification to those business processes.

The opportunity for businesses looking to use gamification is great, but is it a good investment?

Recently the Wall Street Journal spoke with gamification author Gabe Zichermann about whether gamification is a passing fad or a legitimate business investment.  Zichermann explains that one of the biggest misconceptions, causing some to think this is a fad, is that “we’re trying to turn things into a game.”  The goal is to use the best technologies being created through games to create engagement and change behaviors.

The idea for gamification is based on the fact that we are not a society free from structure, rewards, or penalty for bad behaviors, says Zichermann. Gamification is simply tapping into those natural instincts we have to keep score to motivate today’s workforce and can prove to be a strong tool for any company looking to improve even the most mundane tasks. Here is a sampling of a few games that companies are providing to their employees and customers:

  • SalesForce’s Sales Contest Builder – game created to inspire healthy competition between sales employees
  • Foursquare – organizations and brands can use badges to give gaming opportunities to customers
  • Microsoft Xbox Live – while this is a gaming platform, they have been able to take their product even further with Gamertag where gamers can compete against other gamers for bragging rights

Are you ready to join the ranks and make gaming a larger part of your organization? Share your feedback and if you think there is a place in business to play games.

C. Kunde– Christine Kunde is a closet gamer and account executive at Airfoil Public Relations, high tech PR agency with offices in Silicon Valley and Detroit.