Pros & cons of teamification

Rise    LetMeGetMyScarfTeam based gamification, recently branded “teamification”, has much going for it.

For one, it avoids the problems of individual gamification at work, particularly around badly drawn comparisons on leaderboards that cause unwanted disengagement  (“I’ll never get to the top, I’m happy being a middle ranker I’ll just stay here, I can’t get a top score because I don’t use that tool”).

The benefits of teams are in the shared celebrations, the shared sense of endeavour and collective achievements create bonding and high relatedness amongst team members. We all like being in winning teams.

Recently I put this to the test with a collective endeavour twitter competition to see if we could spread the word among “foreverists” – fans of the recently cancelled ABC show “Forever”. I published an hourly-refreshing leaderboard during the tweet storm and it was well received among the fans who saw their personal dashboard, their rank within the community, and most importantly the progress of the whole community towards the goal.

It worked really well and we hit  our goal and more. 349% of our target to be precise. For 284 participants to drive 4500 tweets, 2300 retweets and over 3000 mentions is no mean feat. Clearly the power of teams and collective endeavour is worth tapping into.

But is there a downside?

Certainly being stuck in a perpetually losing team is no fun either. Teams that lose frequently tend to disband or morale simply drops through the floor – worse, being a loser becomes the cultural norm with anyone trying to challenge the status quo being laughed off as naive.

Within teams there are issues too.

At a recent Gamifiers meetup, Sebastian Deterding highlighted the issue of Social Loafing – that’s what happens when someone coasts on the back of the rest of their team’s hard work – not really contributing yet sharing in the team rewards.

In a short term finite campaign like the Forever example above, it’s not an issue, but in a long term infinite scorekeeping project, the problems of social loafers can become acute.

The problems that occur (probably after the two week honeymoon period any group seems to enjoy) are infighting, factions, politics and disengagement. They can be just as damaging to individual motivation as badly designed leaderboards that pit individuals against each other.

Avoiding the issues of teams is worthy of another discussion but for now it is worth bearing in mind that although teamification has its strengths it also has weaknesses too.

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