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So one of my responsibilities at work is to build an internal tool that helps the workers enter in all their information. It's an enterprise application that is similar to a Windows forms database tool.

So it's not much different than like developing a Word + Excel combo application, but the average person in this workgroup is a 20-40 year old woman or a random chatty male type. Plus I know all of these people are heavily involved with Facebook on a daily basis.

How bad would it be if I styled my new interface to be similar to what Facebook does. People could get award points and stuff when they fill out different types of forms and basically compete against each other like it was a game. When people had completed one, it would be posted on their wall and everyone could comment/like stuff just like in Facebook. And it would be like they are doing peer reviewing for fun.

The rewards would be outstanding I would imagine. These people are so into Facebook and Facebook games that productivity would rise due to them trying to compete and earn points and achievements.

Would this be taking advantage of the people by 'tricking them into working harder by giving them a game' or would it be viewed as something that would improve happiness at work?

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I'd suggest putting time into real-time statistics tracking and convince your boss to put up monitors displaying the information around the office. –  Jeff Swensen Feb 6 '11 at 2:14
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My god. What a strange workplace. –  quickly_now Feb 6 '11 at 2:24
    
@Eric P: Sounds like a nice idea to me, if they are game. Can't see it would be a trick, just explain it to them, if they like it, they like it. –  Orbling Feb 6 '11 at 2:25
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It's a good idea. Do it. –  kirk.burleson Feb 6 '11 at 2:56
    
@quickly_now Indeed, it seems like some sort of alternate universe, in which the world is run by my mom's Facebook friends. –  Jonathan Sterling Feb 6 '11 at 13:55
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3 Answers 3

What you are talking about are game mechanics and there has been a lot of talk in the past year or so about how widely they can be applied in software (inspired by the success of sites like FourSquare that added a game twist to location tagging).

Game mechanics can be especially useful in a corporate environment, where employees have to work with software that is boring or uninteresting, but necessary, and can provide more benefit the more use it sees (like project management software).

Experiments in this are pretty new, but here is some reading that can help get you thinking about how this would work for you:

I would make sure you get buy-in from the stakeholders (management, project managers, whatever) for your software. And interviews with real users will help get you thinking about what kinds of activities will be best for social or game functions.

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I think it's a fantastic idea, and I've heard of other companies doing it. For instance, have a look at this article from the New York Times:

Why Work Is Looking More Like a Video Game

The main caveat is to make it entertaining but not condescending. Kongregate-style games with Achievements can be fun if you're by yourself killing time, but they could potentially feel degrading in a work environment. It's a fine line to walk.

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I'm not sure where your responsibility lies versus that of your boss or whoever is in charge of making sure the job gets done (and gives the paychecks).

I find it strange that you would both establish requirements, code and deploy without any control from someone else. If it was me I would present the idea to my boss before attempting something that has the potential to radically change the way people work (even if that change is supposed to be good - there are likely other consequences you might not have thought of that your boss will have some idea about). I have presented ideas in the past, sometimes with great success, but it is essential to get your bosses' approval first as 1/ this may have a significant impact on work ethics, 2/ he/she may have points of view to consider that you have not (schedule, costs, priorities), 3/ he/she may want solid information to base their decisions on, 4/ it never is a good idea to be judge and party - so get a second opinion from someone with authority at your work.

Of course it will help if you present a well formed idea, using relevant information such as that suggested by Renesis in answer to your post.

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