When I first began hearing about gamification, frankly, I thought it sounded a little silly: translating the features that motivate players in video games into non-game settings (e.g., the practice of law). Images of Candy Crush, Farmville, and my teenagers’ Portal and Assassin’s Creed games flashed in my mind. Then I remembered Tetris and got nostalgic, but I digress. Naively I thought gamification was all about “playing games.”
Like law, gamification appeared to be based on competitive principles, but it seemed that it was basically all about awarding points and badges. My reaction was dismissive: surely no lawyer is going to be seriously motivated by earning points and badges, right?
Familiarity Breeds Respect
That’s what I thought until I actually decided to experience gamification in action. In the process of implementing gamification for one of our Knowledge Management (KM) applications at my firm, Fish & Richardson, and later through working with gamification experts while planning the upcoming ILTA Imagine Gaming the Lawyers session (This is a non-subliminal prompt: KM track, Tuesday 8/19/2014 at 11:00, #ILTA14, #KMPG5), I learned that gamification is not only a lot more nuanced and complex, but also that it can be a powerful tool for motivating people to change.
Let’s Just Go with the Status Quo
Most people are at best uncomfortable with change – any kind of change – personal, social, operational, or vocational. Many deeply fear or actively hate it. As creatures of habit, we value stability and security more than novelty and innovation. We prefer the devil we know to the devil we don’t. Accordingly, the changes sweeping through the legal profession have left many lawyers ashen-faced, defensive, and very resistant to innovative approaches and technologies, much less major paradigm shifts. Is there a way to loosen this rigidity?
Imagine if, instead of dreading and resisting any new approach, people could be positively motivated to try it. What if they could become the leader in their community – be the first to change, be the one who contributes most, be recognized for their knowledge, or be the one others look up to and admire?
This is what gamification can bring to the table, even a table surrounded by lawyers. By learning about and implementing game mechanics concepts, you really can motivate people to try that new application you just spent months building or installing. As a bonus, they might even become more engaged in their work and actually have fun while trying that new application.
To gamify any activity, you first need to decide on the object of the “game.” Is your goal to get people to switch from using system A to system B? Is it to get users to contribute content? Or is it to get people to consistently enter their time daily?
Whatever your goal is, once you know the desired outcome, you can start thinking about what behaviors you want to reward. Yes, you can reward the desired behaviors with points. And, yes, maybe a certain number of points earns a badge. But the key is in the social component – others seeing that badge you just earned.
If you think these competitive incentives sound trivial, you should watch them in action. Maybe the person sitting next door to you saw that you just earned the “I’m awesome” badge, and now they want to try doing whatever you did, because they want to prove that they are more awesome than you. Before you know it, you might get a whole group of people competing to be the most awesome. Imagine what changes you could bring about – what resistance you could overcome — if you could make this happen. You might just become the most awesome person in your organization.
Let’s be clear: gamification is more than just points and badges. It focuses on engaging people on an emotional level to motivate them. This is different from merely playing games, which is primarily an entertainment activity. It also goes beyond rewards programs (all those points and badges) which engage people on a transactional level primarily to compensate them with something (remember the old coffee shop punch cards?). For more on this, see Why Gamification’s Not a Game (CIO Journal).
Gamification is already being used in education to engage and motivate students to learn (e.g., Fantasy Geopolitics) and by corporations to engage their employees or customers. For example, after building a gamified experience for their customers, New Belgium Brews saw an 8x increase in new user registrations in just one day and a 5x growth in daily logins. Imagine if we could get those types of metrics in KM.
The bottom line: If our job as Knowledge Managers is to engage people to participate in our programs and help them to adjust to change, gamification can be a powerful tool indeed.
Here’s the Pitch, Folks
Want to learn some practical techniques for becoming awesome? Want to get a handle on the ABCs of Gamification? Come to our ILTA Imagine Conference session on Tuesday after the keynote, Gaming the Lawyers: Driving Adoption, Contribution, and Change. You will learn a lot more about gamification from our panel of experts:
- Scott Reid, Director of KM Innovation at Littler Mendelson and former CKO at the US Army JAG Corps. Scott will share his experience motivating JAG lawyers to participate in their enterprise social network through gamification.
- Pam Woldow, Partner and General Counsel of global legal consulting firm Edge International. Pam has worked with law firm and law department clients who use gamification in their business and has written compelling posts on the benefits of gamification in the legal industry.
- Raul Taveras, Manager of IT Application Projects at Fish & Richardson. Raul is an avid Foursquare gamer and self-professed hashtag king. He will share his experience in gamifying KM and training efforts at Fish.
- Rubsun Ho, partner and co-founder of Cognition LLP. Rubsun will explain how Cognition motivates lawyers to provide outstanding client value and service with a gamification process that earns them redeemable points.
#ILTA14, #KMPG5, #GamifyLaw
Milena Higgins is the Director, Litigation Knowledge Management at Fish & Richardson. She provides strategic oversight and support in driving business process improvements. She captures and disseminates relevant knowledge, information, and metrics to increase attorney and staff productivity. And, she acts as lead architect for development of knowledge management, process and project management, and practice management tools.