Competitive Silos or Collaborative Success

One of the most popular uses of enterprise gamification is to create competition. I don’t mean in the form of marketing campaigns, I am talking about internal competitions between employees. Sales leader-boards, fitness competitions, who is best at social etc.

The idea is to drive employees to want to be better than the others. Being at the bottom of the leader-board should motivate me to want to work my way to the top – I should want to win.

Whilst this is true in certain environments, it can be rather limiting in others.

Take an imaginary scenario.  You have decided that to improve the performance and time keeping of your bus drivers, you have put them into a competitive leader-board. Due to traffic delays, the 512 has ended up with two buses running in convey. The bus that is running a little late does not want to have their score affected, so keeps trying to overtake the other bus. Because the other bus does not want to lose position on the leader-board, they don’t allow it. Instead the compete for position on the road, for passengers and cause problems for other road users.

Had there been no competition and instead a more collaborative or even just cooperative approach, they would have just allowed each other to get on with their business, with the driver who was on time having no reason to stop the late driver from passing him.

In business you could see similar issues. If you are giving people points and position for sales, they will want to hog all the sales they can – even if they may not be the best person for that particular sale. They want to win, so will risk losing business over losing position or status. If you had a more collaborative environment, the sales people could work together and build stronger sales cases and potentially win more business.

  • Pitting people against each other does not always drive the best results. It can stifle ideas that may be good, but are being suggested by the quieter voices.
  • People at the bottom of competitive leader-boards are rarely motivated by it – they are very often put off and demoralised totally. Most leader-boards are competitions between the top 10 or 20 people at best. User them with care.
  • Don’t look at success in business as individual wins or losses, look at how your people work best and encourage that – don’t force them to compete.
  • Short competitions can be fun and create great ideas and even a bit of team spirit.
  • Long term competition creates silos, knowledge dies in silos. Sharing keeps knowledge alive and allows others to benefit for the expertise that may otherwise be hidden.

In the spirit of collaboration, check out this great post from Yu-Kai Chou on this topic!

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