Gamification for Knowledge Management

What is Gamification?

The term Gamification applies to a range of techniques borrowed from the field of computer-game design and applied in other contexts, essentially turning non-game applications (including, websites, mobile apps and social media platforms) into pseudo-games for the purposes of incentivising interaction & user retention. Gamification can be a powerful tool for increasing user engagement as it fulfils inherent human needs to be recognised, competitive, increase their status, and be included.

Key Gamification Techniques

Points/Scoring System – a points system awards points for completion of tasks. Points accumulate over time as new tasks are completed
Progress Bar – A progress bar is a visual representation of how close a user is to completing a task or achieving a badge. It looks similar to a thermometer and as each task is completed the progress bar fills. Once it is full, the user is awarded a badge or other achievement.
Leader-board – the leader-board is essentially a public score board that displays the ‘Top 10 High Achievers’ points tally. Appearing on the leader-board acknowledges high status users and appearing on the leader-board is a reward in itself, although other awards may be attached to this achievement, such as badges or virtual currency incentives.
Badges/Pins/Achievements – By completing a set group of tasks, a user may be awarded a badge of achievement. The badge is added to the user’s profile and signifies that the user is proficient in a specific skill, has completed a certain number of tasks, or has spent a certain amount of hours using the platform, etc.
Levels – Levels may signify a users’ proficiency in the system, i.e. beginner, intermediate, advanced. Although these are usually given more imaginative labels such as:

  • Novice
  • Greenhorn
  • Professional
  • Expert
  • Guru
  • Sensei, or;
  • White, Orange, Yellow, Green, Purple, Blue, Brown, Red, Black belts

As a user accumulates points, achieves badges and engages with the platform they achieve higher levels.
Virtual Currency – virtual currency is awarded, like points, to users and may be used to ‘purchase’ items within the platform. They cannot be traded for real dollars.

Gamification for Knowledge Management

The increasing popularity of gamification and it’s potential for increasing user generated content and engagement suggest it will be a powerful tool for knowledge management teams seeking to improve employee use of knowledge management systems within organisations. Indeed, Deloitte, one of the ‘big four’ international accounting firms has successfully implemented gamification (‘The Games Businesses Play‘), with Yammer and Badgeville. Accenture is also employing gamification techniques in their knowledge management strategy with some success (‘Let’s Play! Using Gamification to Encourage KM and Collaboration‘).


John Moss, ‘Can Gamification lead to business success?’ points out that Gamification is still in its infancy and many early adopters of the technology will struggle due to skills gaps and design failures.

Other Resources

  • Erica Swallow, ‘Is Gamification Right for Your Business?’ via Mashable.
  • Gabe Zichermann & Christopher Cunningham, ‘Gamification by Design’, O’Reilly
  • Gamification of Work blog
  • G Co “Gamification Co is your one stop for the latest news, insight, research and commentary on gamification. Come here to find the best technology providers, read about the most exciting companies, attend one of our events and workshops, or just connect with experts.”
  • Gamification, Penn Univerisity of Pennsylvania, “Gamification is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. This course will teach you the mechanisms of gamification, why it has such tremendous potential, and how to use it effectively.”
  • Gamifcation Wiki “The Gamification Wiki is the most visited resource in the world for information, examples and media for Gamification and is currently being translated into over 15 languages and will have sub-wikis for Education, Marketing, Enterprise and more.”

The Keys to a Successful Online Community

It’s easy right? Sign up, create a group and then watch people flock to join, and like, and share, and tweet, and comment. Day one: 2 members. Day two: twenty. Day three: two hundred. Day four: you’ve gone viral and TV talk shows are ringing to set up interviews while journalists are blocking your front door hungry for comments. Most of the time, this is #NOTWHATREALLYHAPPENS.

So what does it take to create a successful online community?



Your community needs to have a definite purpose. People need a good reason to join and that reason is a specific focus that your community offers, especially if it offers a slant to a topic that people can’t find anywhere else.

Questions to Ask:

  • What are the goals of the community?
  • What topics will be covered?
  • What topics won’t be covered?
  • What makes the community unique?


Your audience are the people you would expect to be joining the community. Think about the ideal member, their demographics and their interests. Be specific. If you’re creating a community about dogs, don’t just think that your audience is anyone interested in dogs. Are you trying to connect with baby boomers who already own dogs, families who want to buy a dog, females with small dogs who live in apartments…? You get the idea…

Questions to Ask:

  • Who would be interested in joining this community?
  • Where do they normally go for information?
  • Who needs access to the community? Will community features be available to anyone or only to members?


Sponsors are the advocates for the community; they are the super users who will define the initial tone and principles of the community. In the early days they’ll be doing most of the work to promote and contribute to the discussion.

  • Who are the sponsors?
  • How available are these people to make regular contributions?
  • What happens when a sponsor wants to resign?


Online communities may have a limited number of features, or they may have a whole suite of tools available for use. Features might include things like, calendars, discussion lists, document libraries, photo galleries, wikis.

  • What features would your audience find useful?
  • How might these features be used?
  • What features will you use first and what ones will you introduce at a later stage?
  • What are people going to do when they are logged in to the community? eg. chat to others, find out about upcoming events, read information, view photos or images, contribute…

Content & Connections

This is the most important element in the beginning because if you don’t have interesting and useful content your initial users won’t return. It’s the content that users keep coming back – content and connections. Connections to like-minded individuals who are experiencing the same frustrations and problems that they are experiencing, or are interested in the same topics that they are and share similar emotions, whether that’s the same sense of humour, or passion for a topic, there’ll be a common element to your audience that differentiates them and connects them to each other.

Start Small

Often it’s better to start small and concentrate on a particular audience. With a small group of members you can create stronger bonds as individuals get a chance to know each other better, whereas in a larger community individuals are more likely to appear anonymous and you’ll attract more lurkers. Starting small also gives you the chance to experiment with tone and strengthen the culture of the group before ‘outsiders’ start to join.


Depending on the topic of the community you may or may not attract members who contribute negatively to the conversation. Consider controversial topics like abortion or euthanasia. These topics attract people with strong emotions on either side of the debate. You need to decide on a strategy for dealing with negative or unwanted contributions.

Questions to Ask:

  • Will negative contributions be retained or deleted?
  • Will members be removed if they post inappropriate content? You might implement the three strikes and you’re out rule or instant dismissal?
  • Will members be screened before they are admitted?
  • Who will be responsible for moderation? Can the community self-moderate or does there need to be a delegated person who deals with all moderation issues?

Be Consistent

Be consistent in how often members can expect new content to be available on the community. If you have a monthly publishing cycle or a weekly cycle, keep it that way, or let your members know it will be changing. Consistency refers to frequency of new content as well as consistency of culture. Social customs change over time but they do not change overnight, once you’ve established the culture of the community do not try and change it. Think of it as wet clay that needs to be moulded slowly or it will crack.

Celebrate Successes

When you hit milestones let people know about it, then celebrate. Some ways you might celebrate is by running competitions or giveaways, providing special features at specific milestones, or offering incentives to members to help you reach milestones. If you’ve started to celebrate successes, congratulations you’ve created a successful online community :)

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