One successful blitz resulted in changing the process of how claims are scheduled in an office. "It sounds like a mundane process, but leadership didn't recognize how complex it was and how much stress it was causing employees," Manzella says. Changing the process saved the company $18 million a year in adjusters' time.
Another successful blitz involved suggestions for features that should go into the company's mobile app. "It just comes down to the problem," Manzella says. "People want to contribute to something that's outside their normal scope of work, but they don't want to contribute to improve some boring process. Mobile apps are low-hanging fruit -- they participate like crazy."
It's also important to have buy-in from senior management, and a commitment to doing something with the results, he says.
Allstate has been running blitzes for four years, and has generated more than 5,000 ideas and more than a million visits to the tool. In addition to coming up with the ideas, participating employees can vote other ideas up or down, or add their own comments to existing ideas.
Their only reward is the personal satisfaction of solving an interesting problem. However, Manzella is considering adding some recognition features as well. "I would like to use more of the reputation management and point system" in Spigit, he says.
The bottom line? Rewards need to be aligned correctly with the gamification project, as well as the company's culture.
Points of failure
Choosing the wrong rewards for a gamification project is one way to lead a project to failure. Another is letting a project get stale. Video game companies know that they need to release updates, expansion packs and brand-new games to keep their players interested. Enterprise gamification programs also need to change and evolve.
"If you don't keep systems like this vibrant and current, if you don't continuously evolve your gamification approach, it will become boring," says Gabe Zichermann, chair of the Gamification Summit and CEO of Gamification.co. "Nothing is interesting forever."
Companies should also be careful not to try to use virtual rewards in place of reasonable compensation, he adds. While companies can save money by awarding badges and reputation points instead of cash bonuses, employees will see right through it if a company tries to use gamification as a substitute for being paid appropriate amounts and having good working environments, healthcare and management relations.
For some companies, it's the word "gamification" that causes problems. "Traditional managers are used to the idea that work is not supposed to be enjoyable," says James Gardner, chief strategy officer at Spigit. "I used to be the CTO of one of the largest government departments in Britain. I used to have middle managers say, 'My people are not here to play games at work, they're here to do their jobs.'"
Gardner suggests using the phrase "psychological dynamics" when approaching managers. "The word 'gamification' is guaranteed to cause enormous headaches."
Another trap to watch out for is that of unintended consequences. "When people first put sales contests into place, there were some people who quit as a result," says Arun Sundararajan, a professor at the NYU Stern School of Business who specializes in digital economics. "It causes salespeople to undercut each other, steal each other's business. But we've had these contests for 50 years, and have refined them over time, and understand what the unintended consequences might be."