Mark McDonald

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Mark P. McDonald
GVP EXP
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

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Enterprise Games: using game mechanics to build a better business — A Book Review

by Mark P. McDonald  |  November 28, 2012  |  1 Comment

Enterprise Games picks up where Jane McGonigal’s book (Reality is Broken) left off – how gaming ideas and practices can apply to business.  This book is a hidden treasure that I would not normally have picked up, but I am very very glad I did.  Michael Hugos, the author is an accomplished practitioner and innovator bringing his real life experience to a potentially academic subject.   Highly recommended for anyone looking to understand the practicalities, practices and pragmatism required to introduce a radical new concept – gaming – into business and business processes.

Overall the book concentrates on how the four defining traits of any game apply to the ‘game of work.’  Those traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system and voluntary participation, shape the organization and direction of the book.

Hugos’ central thesis is that ‘using gaming mechanisms might be as powerful a model for organizing knowledge and creative work as the assembly line was for organizing industrial and repetitive work.’   It’s a powerful idea and one that Hugos backs up across 14 detailed and informative chapters.

Hugos makes a compelling case to look at the nature of work in a new light.  Work in the post-industrial/information age shares many traits with a successful game.  Success rests in exercising sound judgment, influence and coordination.  Some of the key ideas in this book illustrate this point:

Game traits explain new means to generate influence and coordination that leverage big data information and social media which each provide context and connections necessary to create real results.  Hugos shows how these traits apply to business, management and operations in ways that provoke the reader to think about a revolution in the way we work rather than another round of incremental evolution.

Executives should read this book in order to think through ways to invigorate and engage their associates, customers and trading partners.  Chief Process Officers and Process Owners should study this book, as the future of process requires incorporating new goals, creating dynamic rules, raising situational awareness/feedback and creating a more engaging workplace.  The traits of gaming describe the future of business process.  CIOs and IT professionals should read this book to consider the impact of new technology beyond further rounds of automation and integration to create real innovation.

Highly recommended for anyone who has thought about games or gamification and how it might apply to work in a serious way.  If you read McGonigal’s “Reality is Broken” and wondered OK, so what is next?  THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU.

STRENGTHS

Good case examples, illustrations and descriptions of situations where gaming traits have been applied to real business situations.  While the illustrations are a little light on the details and net results, as I would have liked, there is more than enough to fill in the blanks.

Comprehensive in the sense that Hugos looks at multiple aspects involved in applying gaming trends to business process, organization, strategy, IT and operations.  He also has chapters focusing on new technologies like big data, decision support, social media and mobility.

A clear business focus and purpose as opposed to an academic or entertainment based discussion of gamification.  Hugos understands and appreciates the need for business leaders to understand how this applies to them, their processes and situations.  His application examples related to Sales, Supply Chain Design and Products and the Customer Experience give the reader a critical mass of ideas to actively consider how it applies to their situation.

Hugos has thought beyond the potential fade to express an appreciation for the potential of applying new technologies (mobile, big data, social) and new management models (gaming traits) to transform the nature of organizations, business process and work.    This broader context gives you more to think about than just the idea of making business processes a game.

CHALLENGES

The book loses track a bit in the middle as it delves into explaining the Continuum of Functionality – Simulations to Serious Games (Chapter 6) and Massively Multiplayer Games and Real Time Collaboration (Chapter 7) which focus more on how gaming works than how do applying gaming concepts to the work.   This draws the reader off into a side discussion just at the time when they want to learn more about application.

The book is filled with screen prints and picture illustrations of the different gaming environments and applications.  Normally this is a great addition to the book, however the resolution on the graphics is not sufficient to study them and gain additional insight.  They wind up being more eye-candy than advancing the argument.   Its not a major point, but it is a challenge.

While the book covers a range of issues associated applying gaming traits to create new types of work, it misses a few elements that quickly arise as you think through how to apply these ideas.  Points and pitfalls regarding the need to evolve the organization structure, performance reporting, compensation structures, etc. are not a focus of the book.

Netting it all out, this is one of those books that I am glad to have read, will think about how to apply, heavily underlined and will refer to in the future.  The world and nature of work is changing and Hugos’ Enterprise Games provides a thought provoking and practical look at how gaming applies to our future.

Again, highly recommended.

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