Sales Leads In Business Innovation – Again

In a session at ReadWriteWeb’s 2 Way Summit last week’s Chief Scientist, JP Rangaswami, described how and why gamification is the the future “modern work.” He describes how we will be motivated and how we will be rewarded. Rangaswami describes a new generation of knowledge workers who will come with new expectations and will be motivated differently than in the past.

Rangaswami suggests that leveraging game mechanics such as badges for accomplishments will be the way to reward and motivate employees. He argues today’s knowledge work or modern work is “lumpy” and has peaks and valleys of intensity. This is in contrast to the steady work flow of the assembly line work of the past. He says, by adding gaming, companies can smooth out the lumpiness and increase productivity.

I agree with Rangaswami.  I’ve always thought companies should have figure out a way to do this.  In sales however, this is nothing new. Sales has been “gamified” from at least the start of the industrial revolution. Sales organization have used “gaming” as a way to incent and motivate people from the beginning. Presidents Club, public stack rankings, weekly contests, top producer, public leader boards, are all tools of the sales trade used to reward and celebrate individual sales accomplishments. Gaming is nothing new to the world of sales.  It’s part of the sales culture.

Gaming should be part of modern work. However, I’m not so sure it will be. What sales has come to accept, that the rest of the work world has not, is in gaming there are winners and losers. Gaming requires a clear focus on performance and delivery, not tasks and effort. There is no hiding in the world of performance measurement. Inherent in gaming is the existence of a winner and a loser. Gaming in the work place goes beyond the increase in digital natives familiar and comfortable in today’s social media world with applications like Foursquare; it’s a cultural shift. Gaming upsets the notion of hard work wins. In the gaming world hard work “wins” only if it delivers results. This notion is in contrast to today’s entitlement based work environment. I don’t think we are ready for winners and losers at work.

Gaming in the work environment is nothing new to sales.  Gaming an organization is more than creating a few “badges” for accomplishments. It’s a fundamental change in how work gets done. Although creative, gaming for  “modern work” innovation is far from innovative in sales. We’ve been at it for years. If Rangaswami is correct and gaming is going to be the way modern work is done, he and others may want to look at sales. We’ve been doing it for a very long time.

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