Gamification and Project Management

There has been a lot of talk about gamifying the workplace to boost engagement and use fun for motivation. Some have even talked about making project management fun! Tools like RedCritter Tracker seem to be making a great start with solid gaming platforms to provide an easy to use system of badges, rewards, points and leaderboards so you can easily gamify your own project management.

The question I have is this. Okay so we have some great gamification tools, but do we know how to use them?


Gamification is based in large part on the concept that if you make an activity fun, people will want to do it. But is that enough, and can it be sustained? Just because I like going bowling doesn’t mean I want to go bowling all day every day until I am 65. I don’t care how far up the leaderboard I get. The message here

Build motivation into the job, not just how you interact with it

Points, Prizes and Recognition

There is a lot to be said about peer and professional recognition. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs talks about respect, achievement and self esteem. All powerful motivators for helping us feel that our efforts are worthwhile. When defining your own awards system, why not include links to professional achievements and qualifications, customer feedback, and peer recognition?

Gabe Zichermann starts of this great talk by reinforcing that gamification is not just about redeemable points, it must focus on experience points (recognition for a job well done). The message here

Don’t just issue arbitrary awards, badges and points. Think about what you about what you are doing

Transparency and Social Commentary 

This is my favourite aspect of gamification for things like project management. The ability to see what others are doing and achieving, and to interact with that by leaving comments, liking or making connections e.g. “that’s great work, I’ve been doing something similar, let’s collaborate on this”.

This last part in particular seems to me to be a real opportunity for gamification to do more than just award points for what we already do. Gamification has the opportunity to act as a platform for redesigning what we do as well. It’s time to redesign work. Read more on work redesign according to Harvard, or far more interestingly by 37 signals


One thought on “Gamification and Project Management

  1. “Don’t just issue arbitrary awards, badges and points. Think about what you are doing”

    Well, couldn’t agree more. There are lots of problems with simple “count-’em-up” badges. First, they are very easy to game. Inside a project team, the management needs to rely on the data. Second, there are good workplace studies out there (surveyed in Dan Pink’s popular book Drive) that show carrot/stick motivators have short-term and often regressive effects. Competition within your team is not necessarily a good thing, especially when everyone knows the person who spent the most time farming points in the system won — which is likely the person who spent the least time doing real work 🙂

    Gamification is a powerful force, and should be directed to ends that benefit the whole team. You’re right that recognition is the key. But recognition needs to come with real accomplishments. If not, everyone knows it’s a joke. Badge systems should be stingy and direct you to behaviors that are hard to game. They should be based on long-term trends, not something you can get by spending an afternoon farming points. And the rewards should be for things like teamwork, spreading your knowledge, keeping your teammates informed, being prompt and doing quality work — long term work habits, not one-time anomalies.

    We’re tackling this goal with a system we’ve used for 6 months internally, and just brought public. Check it out here:

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