Thursday Thinkpiece: Kimbro on Gamification for Law Firms

Each Thursday we present a significant excerpt, usually from a recently published book or journal article. In every case the proper permissions have been obtained. If you are a publisher who would like to participate in this feature, please let us know via the site’s contact form.

Gamification for Law Firms

Stephanie L. Kimbro, Fellow at Stanford Law School Center on the Legal Profession and author of Virtual Law Practice: How to Deliver Legal Services Online (2nd Ed. ABA 2015).

Working paper published on March 13, 2015 and available on SSRN

Excerpt: Introduction and Part II

[Footnotes omitted. They can be found in the original via the link above]


Gamification is the use of game mechanics merged with behavioral analytics in a nongame setting. Gamification is used to improve production and performance in the workplace by engaging the user to behave in a way that is aligned with the goals of the business. Gamification occurs when you take a process, such as entering billable hours into the firm’s software or filing out an online client intake form, and add game elements to that process to motivate the firm members to complete the tasks in a more desired way. Gamification strategies have been used in businesses with differing levels of sophistication for issues including customer relationship management, training, market research, business intelligence, and education. Professions, including the medical and health care profession, are also now turning to gamification to increase engagement in a number of workplace processes for both their members and the clients they serve.

Several years ago, gamification made its way into the workflow of companies. A report by Gartner Inc., an international IT research and advisory company, showed 70% of Global 2000 organizations would have at least one application that was gamified and predicted that by 2015 25% of workplace processes that have been redesigned with have some form of gamification designed into them. The market for gamification is expected to grow to over $2.8 billion by 2016. In the workplace, the number of employees who grew up as a generation of digital natives is increasing. These employees are used to receiving real-time feedback and online communication. They are also used to more engaging methods of communication, most of which already incorporate game mechanics.

Why is the use of gamification increasing? More of our workplace productivity has become automated. Human and technology interaction are commonplace and workers are spending more time communicating online with technology than they are meeting and working with people face to face. This creates a work environment that is less human-centered. Employees are not engaged with their work and have no psychological connection to the company. This makes it more challenging to build a company culture that fosters collaboration and human communication and interaction – factors that are often essential to innovation. Even increasing the productivity of a business becomes more challenging when the work becomes more rote and is less human centered. Gamification can help increase productivity and communication and collaboration among members of a company. Carefully designed gamification projects that tap into intrinsic motivation can align the individual interests of the employees with the business goals of the company.

Law firms are not immune to these changes in the workplace environment and face the same challenges to their growth and success as businesses. As law firms evolve, they need to foster a positive organizational culture and encourage associate individual growth and morale. Without injecting challenges into the daily operations of a law firm, it is difficult to create and maintain the right balance of work and socialization that motivates employees to continue to grow as individuals and to seek out innovation in their work for the benefit of the law firm and its clients. When corporations focus on building this form of workplace cultural, it often shows up in the form of “team building” or corporate events. Law firms often attempt the same thing with law firm charity events or law firm nights at a sporting event or annual parties. However, what really motivates the members of a workplace to feel a part of the law firm culture and to bring their best to the organization can’t be created in single events or one-time incentives. The motivation needs to be insinuated into the daily workflow of the law firm’s business. This is where gamification has been injected in the workplace of other companies for the best impact.

Law firms face similar problems as traditional companies when it comes to employee motivation and building a law firm culture that fosters innovation. The law firm organizational culture is largely built upon the reputation of the law firm with its clients and the public. Associates know which firms require x number of billable hours per week to survive on the partnership track. They also know which firms are family-friendly and provide more flexible hours and time away from the office. While these different law firm “personalities” may be a source of bragging rights for some associates, alone, they do little to ensure the growth of the law firm in the long run. This is especially the case as larger numbers of lawyers who are in partnership and mentorship positions in their firms now move steadily toward retirement. Most law firms lack innovative thinking and tend to follow the traditional law firm hierarchy in terms of training, mentorship, and production of work. Therefore, many law firms are looking at losing not only the mentors for younger lawyers but also losing the traditions and culture of the firm. Clinging to these traditional organizational cultures and relying on annual events and one-time incentives that are pay-based may not be the best long-term strategy for the growth of a law firm, especially as the legal marketplace continues to change rapidly and competition increases to retain the top associates.

New law firm associates may not be interested in the traditional partnership track and therefore, existing pay-based work incentives do not appeal to them. Partners who have worked at the firm since they graduated from law school may not be open to learning new technology to work with clients even if there is evidence these tools will increase law firm efficiency. Similar to a company that deals with balancing shifting values in its employees and long-term growth strategies, law firms have various cultural and social issues to address in order to maintain the firm’s growth projectory. Law firms may benefit from the use of gamification methods to create a coherent law firm culture and to increase cooperation, mentorship, and collaboration among law firm members.

Why should law firms care about increasing engagement through gamification? Members of a law firm are increasingly expecting to interact with the technology at work in the same way that they interact with it at home with their friends and family. When they communicate online in social applications, the user interface and user design (UI & UX) of the application facilitates the interaction and makes it more enjoyable. Law firm members expect technology systems to be well-designed if they are going to be expected to be their most productive. Second, the new wave of law firm members have grown up playing games and working with technology applications that are gamified outside of the workplace. They already know how to communicate and collaborate using these systems and are most engaged when using interfaces with game mechanics. In fact it’s not only millennials who are used to gaming. The average game player is 31 years old and 48% of gamers are women. Law firms that can grow to adapt to the changing workplace method of its members will succeed at engaging and retaining them in the long-run.

In many firms, a generation gap exists between the firm’s partners and its associates. Games can be used not only to motivate desired behaviors for increased productivity, but it may also be used to bridge the generational gap by incorporating friendly competition, positive peer pressure, and an added measure of accountability. Keeping new law firm associates who are digital natives engaged in the daily work of a traditional law firm is a serious challenge for law firms that have not made efforts to learn how to communicate and engage with them at their level. Gamification can be used to foster collaboration among generations in the law firm or to simply help associates of a younger generation stay engaged in the work of the firm.

Even if a law firm were not motivated to explore gamification for the benefit of increasing productivity and retention of law firm associates, the make-up of the law firm’s client base is changing as well. Law firms cannot ignore the desire of consumers today to access their legal services online. Even if a law firm works primarily with corporate and business clients or in-house counsel and GC of companies, these clients are also increasingly looking at their law firms to use technology to make legal services more cost-effective and to find ways to unbundle legal services with alternative fee arrangements. Elements of gamification may be added to processes that would help the firm deliver legal services to different types of clients in the way that the client prefers, giving the firm a competitive edge.

This paper will look at the ways that other companies, including a handful of innovative law firms, are using gamification and how these techniques may be applied by law firms for similar purposes. The methods of gamification will differ vastly based on the make-up of the law firm and the goals that the law firm has for increasing engagement. Accordingly, this paper will provide the basics for understanding how gamification and game design could be applied to the internal processes of a law firm and provide some sample applications and a basic guide for moving forward with gamification. Some of the objectives for the use of gamification in law firms that will be considered in this paper will include:

  1. Increased associate retention rates,
  2. Efficient and effective training of new technologies and processes, including methods to improve associate recording of billable hours,
  3. Human resources productivity, such as onboarding new associates, training new hires, collecting associate reviews, etc.,
  4. Increased communication between members of the firm,
  5. Encourage inter-generational mentorship,
  6. Increased participation in pro bono activities,
  7. Desired use of firm resources, such as training and education,
  8. Encouragement for individual law firm members to innovate for the benefit of the firm.

Part II

Starting the Development Process

The above sections explained the basic science of gamification and detailed the various methods that may be used to maximize the benefits of the psychology behind the use of game mechanics. The following section will specifically lay out a process for a law firm to implement gamification to address one or more issues in the firm. The law firm should develop a team of two or three individuals who will be the primary developers of the gamification strategy. These individuals should be members of the firm that are skilled at listening and whom others will easily work with and open up to when talking one on one. They will also need to have the leadership skills to coordinate and get cooperation from a number of different individuals in the firm from partners to entry level associates and paralegals. If the law firm knows ahead of time that the implementation of a gamification method will most likely include the law firm’s technology or knowledge management systems, then recruiting a member from this department with some technical knowledge may be helpful in both understanding the initial issues and behavior to change, analyzing feasible implementation methods in the firm’s technology and resources, and in setting up the final game mechanics within any existing system.

Many aspects of accomplishing these steps towards a gamification strategy include the use of design thinking and methodology.

A. What Issues Does the Firm Want to Address?

To help identify the issue or issues that the law firm would like to address, it’s important to first understand the goals of the law firm both in financial and reputational terms. Are the firm’s goals in line with the issue that the firm has chosen to address? Without the support of the business goals of the firm behind any gamification plan it will be difficult to get support for both funding to develop and the maintenance of any gamification method put into place.

It is also important to know what kind of law firm culture existing, including traditions, social behaviors of the members of the firm, whether the firm tends to be more conservative or innovative, and the basic demographics of the law firm that might create more than one law firm identity within the larger firm culture. Can members of the firm be flexible or are they more set in their ways and resistant to change? Does the firm have more of a culture of cooperation or competitiveness among the firm members? Whose behavior is involved in the potential issues that the firm wants to address and how might that behavior needs to be changed?

Understanding both the law firm culture and its business goals is a good starting point for the team to then go to the members of the firm and learning their daily routine. This is where the team that is developing the gamification plan needs to take on the role of an ethnographer. Conduct interviews of the firm members whose behavior might need to be changed. An informal interview may work better with certain law firm members who otherwise might feel pressured under the circumstances or who may not answer fully depending on their place in the law firm hierarchy. Questionnaires or surveys might also be a way of gathering this data in general, but it will not be as effective at identifying more specifically the issues to be addressed. Finding a neutral party within the law firm to handle this interview process might be a better method of gathering accurate data about the firm member’s daily routine and their thoughts around the issues the firm wants to examine.

Some tips for interviewing law firm members to tease out the issues include 1) asking questions that start with “how” or “why” and avoiding “yes” or “no” questions. Asking “why” helps you understand the motivation the member has in taking that task, 2) focusing on listening and not interrupting or interjecting responses, and 3) ask for stories that are related to the law firm and the potential issues. The results from these interviews should be well documented for the gamification team.

In addition to the interview process, the team may conduct nonintrusive observations of law firm members. Many law firm members would resent having their daily actions observed even for the purposes of identifying processes or efficiencies within the law firm. Employers at companies may always install software that records the websites and online habits of employees. However, for many law firm associates and partners, this form of employer spyware is not welcome and in this case might not yield the most useful data for understanding the workflow of the firm members. Instead, some of this data might already be gathered in the law firm’s technology as the firm members interact with it. For example, the firm might have a record of how often law firm associates are submitting their time sheets. The firm’s technology might record how often and to what extend the firm members are using features of the software. For example, if the HR Director of the law firm has a number of video tutorials and learning materials for the firm associates and new hires to use, how often are they making use of these materials and are they retaining the information in them sufficiently to pass a test or some other form of accountability for having completed them? Another way to gather the data to understand the process that a firm member goes through in a day, would be to have the firm member keep a daily journal that essential tells the story of their day. Ask them to write down their habits and routines. This is potential behavior that the team may design to modify through gamification. Even if the individual does not label this as a routine or habit, asking the firm member to keep a journal on multiple days may help to identify an action as a routine and gathering similar routines showing up in the journals of multiple firm members provides telling data for the gamification team to analyze.

Add to this diary recording process the actual physical path that this individual takes in the firm on a single day. For example, when the associate sits down in the break room, what are they sitting on, what do they see on the wall, what are they doing in this space, who and what do they interact with in that environment? When the associate sits at his or her desk, what is the main screen on the computer where they spend the bulk of their time? Is it in Word drafting? Is it on the firm’s matter management system or on the firm’s legal research tool? Are they spending the bulk of their time on the phone speaking with individuals or in conference calls? How often does another individual interrupt the environment of that law firm member and how does that occur? Break this daily path down from their physical interaction with items and spaces in the firm, what their reaction to is that item or environment and what the pinch points might be in their interaction with that item. What does the firm member need in that interaction and how do they feel about their interaction and what they want to accomplish? What do they see and hear and then what do they say and how do they act? The team must have a clear, empathetic understanding of the individuals in the firm in order to tease out the issues that may exist that the members of the firm themselves would not have otherwise been able to notice without that level of empathy and understanding for individual members.

Gathering this data will give the team a full picture of any issues that the law firm may wish to address through gamification methods. The next step in this process of defining the issues includes identifying all of the individuals, the stakeholders, in the law firm that are involved in the issue(s) to be addressed. Start with one law firm member or department and then add the other members whose interacts affect that initial group. These are the individuals who will be asked to buy into any gamification strategy. Mapping this out in a mind map of interested parties can often be useful for seeing the larger picture of how individual firm member’s actions on a daily and weekly basis may interact with each other. Working from the starting point of a single individual in the firm, map out how these other parties group themselves together and how they interact within those groups. Do they collaborate or are their often disagreements in the dynamic? Who do they answer to and what are the relationship among all the parties in the group?

After conducting this research, the gamification team can narrow down to identify the issue(s) the firm wants to address.

1. What is the gamification goal and issue that needs to be worked through that is align with the law firm’s business goals that the firm wants to address? Examples might include: associates failing to record accurate billable hours in the firm’s billing software, a lack of collaboration and communication between partners and younger associates, associates spending an excess of time using a specific software program or failing to use the firm’s desired data entry methods, or fewer recorded pro bono hours than the firm’s desired output.

2. What is the specific behavior that is involved and who are the individuals taking this behavior? This also begs the question of who would be impacted by the behavior as it is done now and with the desired behavior. How can each person who is engaged in the behavior or would be affected by it benefit from this change in behavior? Ask again if the behavior involved is in line with the firm’s business goals and would it still be and how so if changed?

3. What environment will this behavior change occur? Examples might include within a practice management or other technology solution the firm uses, physically within a room or space in the law firm, online or offline, in-person or remotely, between law firm members of which groups and relationships. Are there any rules or limitations in the environments that would impact the desired behavior change?

4. Given the above three steps to narrow down the issue(s), what is the appropriate platform for any gamification method? For example, would it work best as a mobile application, imbedded within the law firm’s technology solution, as a paper-based or board game, or a physical game that takes place in different environments in the firm?

B. Understanding the Players in the Firm

The interview process and data gathering described in the first part of the process will help the team to understand the individuals in the firm in terms of their daily activities and interactions. However, in order for a gamification method to work, the team has to design the game for the players as individuals, not necessarily as employees of the law firm. What does that mean? It means understanding what might motivate the players to modify their behavior and engage in the game. It’s not going to be possible to design a game that is ideal for each individual user because of how many different player types there might be within a single law firm. However, the team can gather together the basic demographics of the players, including gender, age, professional experience, education levels. Based on the user types discussed in early sections of this article, identify potential players as Killers, Achievers, Socializer, or Explorers. How many of one do you have more than the other? Are these players more individual or team oriented? What generation do they come from and how does that generation typically interact in firm settings? Did they grow up using the Internet and socializing online or are they uncomfortable with online sharing and untrustworthy of cloud-based interactions? What types of behaviors do these player typically exhibit in a social setting and in the professional setting? Gathering this information, the team can step back to identify the characteristics of the majority of the law firm members who would be playing the game. This allows the team to move forward to design a gamification strategy that will be most in sync with the individuals it most wants to engage.

C. Establishing a Gamification Strategy Focusing on the Principle Design Goals of the Project

The team has now identified the issues to be addressed and understands the players that will be involved. Going back to reaffirm the primary goal of the gamification project is important before beginning the build the strategy. What is the principle goal that the law firm has for this project not just in terms of a final deliverable, such as increased productivity and revenue, but in terms of how the gamification will impact the law firm members. For example, does the firm want to modify associate behavior, increase cooperation or foster competition, or does it want the firm members to learn some new skill while accomplishing a task? What is the overarching principle in terms of behavior change and action or inaction that will underlie the gamification strategy as it leads to the firm’s larger goal for the project. Then identify the more specific “raison d’etre” or the mission for the game itself. For example, 1) the design principle: fostering collaboration among associates while they improve their skills at using the firm’s matter management software and 2) the goal of the gamification project: associates will more consistency and correctly use the software which will decrease error and increase efficiency of law firm workflow and productivity. Again, check back to make sure that both the design principle and the mission for the project are in line with the law firm’s larger business goals. Is this mission for the game something that can be clearly stated, tracked and monitored and recorded so that results can be analyzed by the firm? Without the ability to clearly state this goal and to have a way to track its success, the gamification method has less of chance of getting full buy-in from the law firm’s partners and associates.

a. Case Study: Houthoff Buruma: Law Associate Recruiting

In 2010, one of the largest law firms in the Netherlands, Houthoff Buruma, created a “serious game” to attract law students from the top law schools. While traditional recruitment methods might uncover the smartest students with the highest grades, these methods are not the best at identifying creativity, problem solving skills, innovative thinking, resourcefulness, or social skills that a law firm might also want to foster within its walls. Houthoff Buruma worked with game design company, Ranj Serious Games, to create a game for recruitment purposes that was focused on corporate acquisition. Players are given the experience through gameplay of working within a legal practice. During a visit to the law firm, the law student players are given a challenging case legal to study within one and half hours. This case is built inside a multimedia setting that includes a laptop with document files, a paper file, and a desktop with a central computer hub for the project. During the timed game the students are bombarded with video chats, emails, social media, and news broadcasts. They have to respond to these and decide how to handle each character in the storyline. There are different paths that the game can take and time it is played will have a different outcome and way of getting to a solution.

The students are first placed into teams which are pitted against each other, spurring competition and teamwork. Each of the teams works for a Chinese state-owned company called, Chinese Mining and Marine, and assist in taking over a small company called, ‘t Hoen, a Dutch offshore company. The legal issue is that this small business owns IP rights to innovative technology that is critical for the Chinese company’s business success. Through the media in the game, including video interviews with the characters in the storyline, the teams find out more information about the case and the motives behind the parties involved. They are given timed tasks. The teams then use this information to create an acquisition strategy. One of the challenges that arises for the law student teams comes as more facts are revealed that must be solved in a limited amount of time. Analysis of these facts also requires that the students have some political insight into the surrounding circumstances of the acquisition aside from just the facts that are presented in the game. After the case is handled by each team in their own way, a plenary sessions is held where each team’s solution is compared and discussed before a winner is announced. The results of the game and the discussion afterwards where the students defend their solution to the matter, help the law firm understand how each student operates under stress and their individual skills at solving problems and defending their position in front of others. The law firm

D. Ideas for Games

Brainstorming is the next step in the process but it doesn’t happen until there is agreement on the general theme and game aesthetic keeping in mind the players and their nature. This process still involves broad thinking and the team needs to come to it with an open mind laying out all of the possible ideas no matter how crazy they sound on first mention. This is the no judging component to the process which may feel uncomfortable to lawyer unfamiliar with creative and design thinking. Details are not on the table at this point. Rest assured these ideas will be narrowed down in the next steps in the process as specific game mechanics and measurable goals are connected.

When brainstorming, the team may want to think back to game, both video and board based games that they are familiar with. Is there a metaphor that would work for the situation and with the players? Is there a clear storyline that could be created that would engage and encourage players to move through it? Thinking of existing games and imagining how they might be modified to meet the firms design principles and goals is a good starting point. What storyline or challenge would most engage the players based on their player type? What aesthetic would go best with that storyline? Would it be a fantasy world, a “legal” world environment, a game based in reality, real-time play, or a hybrid aesthetic?

E. Developing the game and how game mechanics will be used

Games need to be clearly defined so that the players know what the objectives are and when those objectives will end or reset. Depending on the goals of the firm, the game can last for a day, a week, a year or continue on indefinitely. The point is to design a game that focuses on engagement not only to initially get the player involved, but to maintain his or her interest throughout the course of the game. There are different ways to increase engagement by selecting different game mechanics and designing how they are laid out.

In the case where the game could go on indefinitely, this might serve as a recurring form of motivation for firm members to play. Here the objectives of the game would still track specific measurable goals with “ends” leading to another goals. These goals might be reinforced with new levels and challenges or with new rewards that could be obtained by the player. This tactic allows the game to “reset” so that if the game is score-based, such as a leaderboard, the players end up or stay at the lower end of the scale do not become discouraged. This also encourages others who have not played the game before to enter in at any level and to have the same chance to achieve among the others who have been playing for a while.

Another method of increasing engagement through game design would be in focusing on creating a storyline and the arch of that story through game mechanics. To example how this concept works, generally speaking, with most good movies or books of fiction, there is an accumulation of tensions, events, or conflicts that grab the attention of the audience from the beginning. These build through the storyline until the final culmination of events that brings that dramatic conflict or issue to a tipping point. Immediately following is a resolution of that conflict which brings a feeling of calm to the audience. This rollercoaster ride of emotion is the reason why the audience, hopefully, finds the movie or book worthwhile. They become engaged in the work early on through the hook of the interesting plot in the storyline and then there are touch-points of emotional highs that progress throughout and carry the audience through until the final resolution and resulting emotional release or reward for the audience. How could this be used to design a game for a law firm?

Think of the process or the technology platform that the firm might want to gamify as having a storyline. First, the team should look at the frequency with which the player is interacting with the process or platform that the firm may want to gamify. In order for this model to work, the player needs to have some relative frequency of interacting with that platform so that they will stay tuned into the game. Game mechanics are added to build the roller coaster of a storyline that will lay out the objective of the game, the actions to take and what the results of those actions will be.

F. Game Design Elements Described as Layers

Game designer and researcher Sebastian Deterding and others in the field have laid out five different layers of game design. This is another way to looking at a gamification project and may help a design team break out the different components that need to each be addressed separately.

1. The interface of the game: This might be a leaderboard, badges in a profile, or the levels of the game. These will be more easily recognizable to the player as a typical implementation of a design component. For example, most people recognize leaderboards and understand how they represent players by points earned.

2. The game mechanics or patterns of play: This would be the number of turns, limiting resources, or a time constraint placed on an activity that involves some aspect of the gameplay. For example, the players will know that they have x number of turns per day or x number of points that may be earned per the listed activity.

3. Design principles of the game: These are the goals of the game and might look like guidelines provided to analyze a problem and find a solution. This sets up the continuing play and provides for a variety of game styles. For example, this would be would the law firm wants to get out of their members playing the game which might be some form of behavior change.

4. Models: This is the actual concept of the game or game experience which might embody a challenge or spur curiosity. For example, the law firm might create a storyline that walks a new associate through a fictional legal case with a more experienced member of the firm to build collaboration and mentoring skills among firm members. The storyline and the fictional world that is created for it are part of that game model.

5. Design methods: This includes playtesting, playcentric design and other forms of game design practices.

G. Finding the right game mechanics

Based on the profile of the primary gamer for this project, the team can select from a number of potential game mechanics that might engage the players. These game mechanics will most often be combined into a game to make a cohesive game design. For example, a progression bar might be used to indicate where the player is in the desired behavior but it would be used with achievements and punishment mechanics such as giving a score for positive behaviors and loosing points on the score for the undesired behaviors.

Examples of game mechanics include:

  • Achievements, such as badges, certificates, rewards, awards, raw scores
  • Social mechanics, such as comments, ratings, review, followers
  • Disincentives, such as losing points for behavior that the firm wants to discourage
  • Progress bars to indicate progression through a process or task
  • Programming rewards such as giving a specifically named reward for a desired action when it is taken within a specific amount of time
  • Countdowns
  • Lotteries
  • Productivity, such as adding elements into a work process that would make the players happy to be playing a game because it means they are being productive at the same time
  • Modifiers, such as making it so that accomplishing one task will add points to the next task or multiple the score
  • Adding significance to the accomplishment of the task so that the player feels the result is important

These game mechanics are paired with motivators that the players might think were fun. This is the hook to engage them in the game. Again, the motivators that would work best for the firm’s players are going to differ, but the team should try to identify what the key motivation would be for the majority of the player type it is working with. More than one of these motivators might be combined in a single game. Examples of motivators include:

  • Collecting (this could apply to the collecting of objects or points or the collecting of information or knowledge about something)
  • Creating custom worlds or environments
  • Exploring new worlds or environments
  • Exploring or experiencing beauty or art
  • Socially interacting with others (sharing or trading gifts or giving and receiving feedback)
  • Feeling accomplished after completing something
  • Random discoveries
  • Organizing or creating order out of a mess (like working a puzzle)
  • Role playing (pretending to be someone else as a character)
  • Becoming the king of the hill or the center of attention
  • Fantasy exploration
  • Being involved in a mystery
  • Relaxation or mindfulness
  • Learning a new skill
  • Competing with others
  • Bettering society
  • Self-improvement or doing things for one’s family
  • Taking care or helping others
  • Laughing or engaging in the absurd
  • Being scared

After determining the game mechanics that would be used and pairing them with the motivators of the primary players, the team should look at any scoring that is involved in the game. This is as important as clarifying the objectives and rules of the game from the beginning because the players need to know that the score is recorded fairly. This also takes into consideration the process of what happens when a reward is given or when the player loses. In most gamification scenarios where the team wants to see continued use of the game, more attention should be paid to the fairness of the scoring process. It is less likely that loosing is going to be emphasized without some method of reengaging the player in the game. Instead, a system of scoring that has points which are rewarded at selected intervals and a system of punishments where the scores and lowered for the “failure” of the player rather than “game over” occurring. As discussed in the first section regarding the psychology behind games, it is important that the rewards are not interfering in the intrinsic motivation of the player. The game will be more effective if the player is primarily motivated by one of the items listed above than by the promise of receiving some reward. For example, making the accomplishment of a task rewarded with a substantial monetary reward may actually not make it as desirable as rewarding the accomplishment with a smaller monetary award but a larger intrinsic award such as the player’s desire for acknowledgement of his or her work in the firm.

a. Case Study: Gamification of Knowledge Management: Accenture’s A3 Game

Accenture is a technology, outsourcing and management company that began a gamification project to pull together its more than 250,000 employees into a more collaborative culture. The company developed Addo Agnitio Award (A3) to reward communication and collaboration in the company by assigning a point system to tasks that employees could do that encourage collaboration with others in the company. The company was then able to analyze the behavior of users engaging in the gamification method to get insight into the impact that that employee was having on the company based on his or her activities and also to discover what motivations there were in the company for employees to collaborate with each other. The company discovered through this gamification that the key motivator for their employees was not to be on top of the company’s leaderboard or having the top score of points in the game. Instead, the primary motivation for playing was so that the company would give recognition to the employee’s individual contribution and impact that their activities had on the company as a whole. Not status, but recognition for work well done was the motivator. Accordingly, the company provides recognition through electronic cards with 100 recognition points which carry monetary value of $100, notes from management with thanks, international company emails with recognition sent out to colleagues, and badges on the player’s profiles. The points acquired during gamification also show up on the employees’ review process. The company was able to collect data showing that through the use of their gamification techniques they had increased engagement, but more importantly, then also have statistics that the activities they desired to change were happening. They had more than doubled their document repository activity and training completions among other activities deemed critical to the success of the company.

H. Testing

After a rough idea of a game has been created, the team should create prototypes of the game. These can initially be in the form of storyboarding or paper-based board games until the details of the game are fleshed out. Spending time and funds on building a game into a technology platform before running adequate testing and iteration of the design will result in a poor investment by the law firm. Therefore, starting with inexpensive paper-based prototypes and testing them early in the process and often is the best way to ensure that any final design has gone through various potential methods of use by the players and the kinks have been worked out. Volumetric modeling where the designers are actually building out models of the user interface are more costly and should be saved towards the end of the testing process. To provide an example of testing game mechanics in a law firm’s technology platform, the design team could create a board that looked like the dashboard of the platform. When the players in the real world took a desired action, they would add that action to the board, thus testing the game by playing it next to the actual platform to be gamified. To test out other concepts related to that platform, the design team could print out different pages, such as a leaderboard or badges or certificates and test the impact and observations of the players to those paper prototypes as a supplement to the actual platform. This is the process where the design team is getting the most feedback from the law firm players and will be able to gauge the buy-in from the players in the current prototype and what might need to be changed based on their interactions with it and the direct feedback. As with the initial interviewing of the players about their daily interactions with the system to be gamified, this is the time to find out from them if they feel that the scoring of the system is fair and whether the rewards and motivations that are involved are working for them. In other words, did they feel engaged and was it fun?

I. Monitoring and Metrics

After the team has designed and implemented the well-tested game mechanics into the process or platform at the law firm, firm members must be carefully on-boarded into the use of the system. If the design of the game, including the testing process was solid, the on-boarding method will be built into the design of the game and as the users develop expertise in using it, the game will progress. However, given the difference in the familiarity of some firm users from others (for example millennials might pick up the game almost naturally while others in the firm may take a few experiences to begin falling into a flow), there may be a learning curve before the firm sees results.

Therefore, it is critical to the success of the gamification to monitor the way that the game is used by the players from the beginning. This may change over time as the players in the firm become more familiar with the game mechanics. This is why having some method of measuring metrics is important to have built into the design. These metrics would look at the actions, motivations and level of engagement of the players. For example, to measure engagement of the game over time, the law firm would look at the average number of actions taken that involve the desired behavior, the number of players taking those actions and how often they return to do the same action and the level of satisfaction that the players provide as feedback on their enjoyment of the gamified platform. The law firm will want to record metrics such as if the productivity of the players increase, or if costs were reduced in the process of streamlining the workflow through the gamification process, and whether revenues increased due to the increase in the desired actions around the billing system.

In monitoring the use of the gamification method and the metrics that are recorded, it might appear that something in the game design did not work as fully expected. There are reasons that the design may not have met ROI expectations. These might include the fact that the gamification goals that were chosen were not in line with the law firm’s business goals after all. The game might not work with the law firm’s culture or maybe it only worked with a segment of the firm’s culture and it was not possible to adequately engage other segments of the firm. Messages between the firm’s players and the parties implementing the game may not have been clear so that the players were not clear about the expectations of the game or of their use of it and what any rewards or benefits might be for the individual versus the firm.

Lack of long term engagement might also be an issue as the players might start out really going strong with the method of gamification at the beginning of the implementation, but if the challenges or motivations in the game mechanics did not increase over time, this might decrease long-term engagement. While adequate testing might help to determine short term engagement success, longer term engagement is more a factor of monitoring and adjusting the game as needed based on feedback along the way.

Comments are closed.