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Project Management Gamification – An Overview
By Kelly Smith

The recent talk of the town in the project management scene is gamification. This new trend is increasingly popular within enterprises that seek new methods to motivate their workforce. What exactly is gamification? It’s simply the process of applying game mechanics to non-gaming contexts and functions, such as training programs and community activities aimed at psychological motivation of employees. Below, you can find a comprehensive overview of everything you should know about gamification in project management.

Gamification – benefits

We all enjoy games because of their inherent challenge and recreational aspects. These two features can be easily translated into the environment of project management and applied to stimulate the mind of employees who will have what psychologists call ‘cognitive surplus’ in their gamified tasks. Gamification brings about a sense of excitement because of its novelty – the change of pace itself will have a positive impact on the employee motivation.

During training, games can liven up boring material and offer a way to simulate things that are difficult to find in real case studies, but still tend to happen. In project management, gamification can assist teams, communication and human resources, inspiring workers to maintain a defined process, increase their productivity and observe deadlines on a timely basis. For managers, data collection during the games can provide valuable insights into the skillset of the team.

Gamification – tools

Project management gamification is a visible trend – there are countless resources like books, workshops and online tools available on the web. Those tools are usually aimed at monitoring the tasks performed by the employees by verifying their completion. They help in task management, enhance team productivity and allow you transform everyday tasks into an intriguing game, in which employees need to complete certain tasks to reach next levels.

Gamification – potential drawbacks

Some argue that gamification can only be used in certain contexts and not others. If required conditions are not there, scientists argue, the gamification process will only add to the cognitive load and detract workers from learning. For some of the recent insights in this field, have a look at the Cyber-learning, Games and Media section of the USC Center for Cognitive Technology archive.

As far as the reality of project management is concerned, games are still games – they can be risky. Gamification can lead to alienating some members of the team and the winner/loser system might have repercussions on the team as a whole. Moreover, some employees might not be happy about the prospect of being measured. Healthy competition can turn into destructive competition, and all the rewards and badges might become so commonplace that they fail to provide motivation. Then there’s also the question of cheating, which might lead to feelings of dissatisfaction among the team.

Gamification is an interesting way to spice up the everyday activities at a workplace, but, considering its risks, the application of games needs to be careful and well thought out.

Kelly Smith works at CourseFinder, an Australian online courses resource. She also provides career advice for students and job seekers.

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