Apparently nobody reads  words anymore, so I've been deconstructing for an hour now to shorten the hemline of this post a bit. How do its' legs look?


Anyway, the big hooplah at SXSW interactive this year is social gaming. Zygna (think "Farmville") is making mega-bux schlepping ads in fake worlds that stay-at-home moms escape to for over 60 precious minutes per day. My own wife plays. Honey, if you're reading this, don't forget to water and feed the real children.


All this leads to Seth Priebatsch, CEO of SCVNGR, and his prediction that the next decade is all about the "game layer," which could be 10x more impactful than the social layer. All these layers make me want to eat cake real bad, I'm not even gonna lie.


Here's the (kosher) beef:


  • The game layer will be about "using dynamics and forces to influence the  behavior of where you are, what you do there, and how you do it"
  • Game dynamics are not the same as loyalty programs like frequent flier clubs and credit card incentives, which do use some basic tenants of gaming but still "just suck."


So the game layer will be about making us all act even more like alcoholic lab rats and tricking us into doing things which may or may not be in our best interest. At his recent TED talk (embedded above), Priebatsch said, ". . . with 7 game dynamics you can get anyone to do anything."


I've taken the liberty to watch numerous Preibatsch keynotes so you don't have to wonder whether he ever washes the orange shirt or puts the orange sunglasses on his face instead of the top of his head. As best as I can tell, the answers are no and no.


A few of the top secret "7 gaming dynamics" that Priebatsch and team will use to establish an all-orange national dresscode:


  1. Appointment dynamic - a dynamic in which to succeed, one must return at a predefined time to take a predetermined action. (Think restaurant happy hours, or in Farmville, crop maintenance.)
  2. Influence and status dynamic - the ability of one player to modify the behavior of another's actions through social pressure (American Express Black Card, Modern Warware (I'm a level 4 but deparately want to be a 10)
  3. Progression dynamic - a dynamic in which success is granularly dislayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks (LinkedIn: Your profile is 85% complete, seeing how many cups of coffee you need to buy to get a free one through a loyalty program)
  4. Communal discovery - a dynamic wherein an entire community is rallied to work together to solve a challenge (Digg, which uses a community to find and source the best news, for example)


There's much discussion already online about what the remaining 3 dynamics are, at least one of which is likely the viral dynamic (and others theories suggest scarcity, social dependence, etc.) Read the banter here.


The game layer and ITSM

So how we embrace the coming game layer and create an opportunity for help desk customers (or the employees that respond to tickets all day) to  "level up?" I loved Priebatsch's assessment of why our school system is broken. He says school is already a game, it's just not a very good one. The rewards are arbitrary letters (A, B, C, D, F) and you can fail. Instead, in riebatsch's view, students should earned experience points based on milestones, and we should swap the negative reinforcement with positive.


Here's a short and by no means exhaustive brain dump on incorporating game dynamics into ITSM:

  • Perhaps tickets themselves are akin to crops in Farmville, and resolving them is much like tending the crops. Changing the UI for help desk workers to make it look more like fun and less like an intimidating (and seemingly endless queue) of mundane tasks could encourage participation and job satisfaction. Fast-food chains time employees on how quickly and accurately they serve each customer. To an extent, the employees are playing a game.
  • Allowing the next-gen help desk employee to "level up" by solving more tickets, unlocking advanced tickets and problems for them to solve, and perhaps even basing real-world rewards like vacation time on "in-game accomplishments," employees might be less likely to burn out and more likely to strive for higher performance
  • Can users be similarly rewarded? Could they earn experience points for turning to a user community or a wiki before they open a ticket? What do they get in exchange? Perhaps priority service when they DO open a ticket? Yahoo Answers and other "crowdsourcing" question and answer sites grant points to community members that correctly answer another community member's question. Points are meaningless if they don't carry perceived value, whether it's status or the ability to redeem them for something.
  • Apps like Four Square use badges to encourage repeat behavior. The person who "checks in" the most at local coffee shops and restaurants can become the "mayor" of that establishment, often unlocking sponsored rewards from that business. Could help desks use badges or equivalents? You could unlock a "user helping users" badge, or badges in very specific content areas. With each badge, your status in the community escalates. Community status could translate to things like higher perceived value in the marketplace in the future, unquestionably.


Perhaps the scariest / most exciting thing is that the concept CAN carry over to so many aspects of our professional and personal lives. I, for one, would LOVE to see some healthy competition - perhaps embracing the progression dynamic - around starting and ending meetings on time. Since I have my own unique conference calling code, when I schedule a meeting with others it should include a meter (a la the trend with airlines to report the on-time percentage of flights during booking) telling them my meetings start on-time 99% of the time. Similarly, I could see how often my invitees dial in on time, and we would all be more attentive to our schedules in an effort to preserve our scores.


How else can game dynamics drive positive behaviors in IT service management? Is the greater potential impact with the service requestor or the provider?