The Danger of Solutioneering

As with any new (ish) concept, gamification suffers from a great deal of misunderstanding in the public. As such people often don’t understand what they are asking for when they say “We want gamification”. To some, that might mean “We want a game”, to others it may be “We want to inject some game mechanics to help with motivation.”

This puts the gamification designer in a difficult position, because very often the first thing the client asks for, may not be what they actually want or need. I spoke about having what you want vs what you need a while back and it is incredibly important to understand the difference!

The Rise of the Solutioneer

When you are asked to deliver gamification, it is so important to avoid solutioneering. “What is solutioneering?” I hear one person cry!? Here is my definition;

Solutioneering: Brit. /səˈluːʃ(ə)nɪ(ə)rɪŋ/
1. The act of creating a solution before understanding the true root of the problem

For instance, when a client comes to you saying “I need gamification because people are not being productive enough”, it is easy for us to solutioneer. If that is all the information we have, we could go and build a points, badges and leaderboard based system that rewards activity, thus encouraging more activity – leading to more productivity. Now, of course, we all know that is nonsense. Activity does not always equate to productivity, but you get the idea. However, it is what the client wanted and it is very easy to fall into the trap of just going away and building it.

Ask Better Questions, Solve the Real Problem

However, if we ask more questions or more importantly, better questions, we may discover the root of the problem is totally different. It may, for instance, turn out that the client actually has no true measure of productivity, so is assuming that adding gamification could make the workforce more productive. After more digging, you may discover that the workforce does not fully understand the software or the processes, so are not working optimally. In that instance, what they actually need is education – something we can very easily apply gamification. After that, you could build a gamified dashboard with key feedback and metrics for the staff to then understand what they are doing and what is expected.

Also, you need to be honest. If you dig down to the root, you may discover that the solution does not involve you!

Solutioneering is very tempting. It gets pretty pictures and grand ideas in front of a client quickly. It answers the question of “What does it look like” but really you need to answer the question “What will it solve”. That is not to say you don’t need a bit of pizazz, but you need to solve the problem, not just patch it with a pretty band-aid!

Be an engineer, not a solutioneer!

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Also published on Medium.

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