'Gamification' attracts companies looking for innovative training techniques

Looking to find a new job in this down economy or seeking to learn more about becoming a war correspondent? Then odds are that you may need to sharpen up those video game skills in addition to polishing up that résumé, as more industries look to “gamification” for solutions.

Gamification may be a relatively new term for most. But that has not stopped an ever growing number of companies as well as industries from already reaping the benefits of adding game-like elements to things like employee training or solving complex tasks.

Not only has this process already led to some stunning discoveries, such as last week’s cracking of the AIDS enzyme thought to be responsible for spreading the virus, but according to an article published on Bloomberg on Monday, gamification has also helped Answer Financial improve new agents’ six-month sales average by as much as 50 percent.

Previously, the insurer stated that new hires sold only half as many policies as more veteran agents.

As a result, the company concluded that, “More often than not, we were not hiring the right people,” said senior vice president of sales, Peter Foley.

To rectify this trend, the company replaced its normal interview process with an online application that examines the potential applicant’s sales acumen.

According to Foley, the hour-long simulator “doesn’t tell us who to hire. It tells us who not to hire.”

Other companies have also found success with gamification.

Stella & Dot saw an increase in figures among its more than 10,000 independent sales representatives after the company introduced an application called “Nitro” to its training program.

Here users earn rewards by participating in additional training programs, completing tasks or by answering questions in the applications trivia module.

SAP is another company that has also looked to gamification as a means to better connect with its users.

Mario Herger, technology strategist and community manager at SAP Labs, said, “Video games are very good at providing the right balance between skill and difficulty. The right information is exposed at the right time to keep users engaged and not overwhelmed.”

Aspiring journalists hoping to one day take their craft onto the battlefield may also get a better idea of what reporting is like on the frontlines thanks to a new game called “Warco: The News Game.”

Here, instead of gunning down enemies in a blaze of glory, as with most titles, the player’s task is to collect footage from the war and edit it into a compelling TV news story.

The game, developed by Defiant Development, is the brainchild of reporter Tony Maniaty.

Maniaty, as some may already know, was the former ABC journalist who first broke the story of the group of journalists executed in East Timor by Indonesian troops during the invasion of 1975.

Speaking to ABC News Online, Maniaty said, “Of course there’s no way of replacing the ultimate experience of actually going in the hot zone, watching soldiers at war and even being shot at yourself. But games can be frighteningly realistic these days. The trick in reality, as in ‘Warco,’ is to balance the consequences, and to know when to stay and when to go, when to pull out. Ultimately, no story is worth a life.”

Maniaty also said that because of the relatively low entry costs for equipment, “A lot of younger journalists freelance into war zones, hoping to crack a major story and accelerate their careers. That's understandable but also extremely dangerous since few have had any security training, and at best they learn from their errors, assuming they survive.”

However, as the veteran war correspondent explained, “Warco” is about more than just surviving.

“If you wanted that, all you'd have to do is move further back to safety, but that isn't going to help you get the story on film. To do that, you have to get close up. As the famous war photographer Robert Capa said, ‘If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.’”

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