Brief thoughts sparked by some reading I was doing earlier today...
My standing position for a long time is that Social Media is actually based on something really old, as human beings we have a need (I think almost at the instinct level) to help, to share stories, to seek the company of those that have the same context and likely understand our vibe and to be recognized for who we are and what we have contributed. All of these are as old as the human race, the beauty of Social Media is that it has eliminated the friction of these activities allowing for Amplification, Aggregation and Acceleration to levels never seen before and enabling the application of these behaviors to ends that were never practical before...
Gamification, I believe, is in a very similar place... however we didn't use to call it that (and maybe that was better); here a personal story: my son used to attend a school that was really recognized for its academic level, at the tender age of 4 he already spent at least 2 hours a day focused on homework and leaving little space for other activities, yet he did it willingly and almost with a furious focus.. at the center of the classroom the teacher had a big board and the board displayed a star next to each kid name for each day the homework had been perfect (not delivered, not on time, it had to be perfect).. the kids applied themselves furiously to ensure their name had the most stars possible next to them and never less than their best friend; that board with stars was a compensation / gamification device to encourage specific behaviors. Think back to any organization you have belonged to and to the sales compensation that is based on achieving specific goals, was that compensation mostly dependent on new deals? Did you ever notice in those cases the person couldn't care less if someone renewed? Maybe the compensation / goals were set by volume of transactions, did you noticed how volume was cranked up with little regard to quality? What about speed of response? New needs would be tackled ASAP at the expense of closing open issues.
What about the "employee of the month" picture display & parking space, the Boy Scout badges? the loyalty program that awaits the customer with a board displaying her name and allowing to skip the line, the NPR "thank you gift" that allows you to publicly showcase your support for it.. all of these are Gamification / Compensation / Reward schemas that are designed to drive specific behaviors.
Clearly that doesn't take anything away from its value, just like Social Gamification is benefiting from elimination of friction and solutions that were previously only available in academia or very well funded brands are now available for many more thanks to platforms such as Bunchball and Badgeville; of particular beauty is the fact that these services are set in such a way that you can (with relative ease) fine tune your Gamification / Compensation / Reward schema to ensure you are driving the behaviors you really want, this flexibility in tweaking the "formula" after implementation is priceless as you will likely never get it right the first time.
What do you think?