PHD book touts the benefits of ‘gamification’

February 12, 2014  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

The massive global success of the mobile game Flappy Bird (more than 50 million downloads before being mysteriously taken down on Feb. 9) has once again underscored our fondness for games.

Co-author Jane McGonigal has worked on alternate reality games for Oprah and the New York Public Library

That love of games – and the competition they provide – is the basis of a new book by Omnicom Media Group’s global media network PHD called Game Change. The book posits that adding “gamification” to business practices can transform how companies operate.

The book was authored by PHD’s global planning and strategy director Mark Holden and Jane McGonigal, an American game designer who has developed several alternate reality games and previously authored the book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.

An estimated 1 billion people spend a minimum of one hour each day playing video games. Game Change suggests that if businesses can harness just some of that engagement with gaming, the rewards could be huge.

PHD launched its global planning tool Source in November 2012 as a way to add gaming elements to its business processes. The tool mimics a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game with more than 1,750 staff in 70 countries playing and collaborating on client problems each day – and tracking their progress on a global leaderboard.

PHD Canada CEO Fred Forster said that Source has “changed the game” for PHD by creating a different way of working, and a newfound sense of connectedness between the network’s offices.

“This is very much how we go to market now in terms of building our strategies and plans internally, getting from consumer insights to thought leaders to communication strategies to channel plans,” said Forster. “People have the ability to contribute to all of those things through the global gamification aspect.

“It’s very different both in terms of how you physically do the work, and how you think about your role within the organization and how you fit within the bigger scheme of things,” he added.

The marketing communications industry is known for adopting and quickly discarding new tools and practices, but Forster said that the gamification trend taps into a fundamental human need for competitiveness – and fun – that should ensure its longevity.

“Gamification is not necessarily a product – it’s more of a way of doing things, a cultural direction,” he said. “You don’t have to invent something like Source to have gamification within your organization, but using the aspects of gamification, the things that make gaming a collective experience and an engaging experience, those are the things that have longevity.”

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