For those not in the know, leaderboards are ranking systems that show relative performance. They are frequently used in social games as a means to incentivize and motivate users. After all a little competition helps spice up the excitement. In the business space, leaderboards are no strangers to sale teams. More recently however, digital leaderboards are being used as part of gamification of work, the act of gamifying enterprise processes to drive performance. However, is this really true? In the following we look at whether digital leaderboards are actually beneficial for enterprises.
Leaderboard Competition is beneficial
Competition can be a power influence and motivator for success. The act of setting up a digital leaderboard with people moving up and down and potentially a reward up for grabs is no different from a game and can definitely inspire action. People are social creatures and we are built for competition. The neurological reward of satisfaction from triumphing above others in the game may sometimes be a more powerful motivation than any actual prize.
Leaderboard Competition may encourage toxic behavior
The competitive nature of games with leaderboards often translates into toxic behaviour in gaming communities. This is an effect of human nature and not limited to the gaming community. When applied to the enterprise space the culture of a company may suffer in the long term.
In organisations, culture is an effect of not just lip service but also the structural aspect of a company’s structure. In one where leaderboards are the central focus sometimes to the exclusion of all else it can lead to long term negative effects. Hostility among employees, negative emotions and potentially ethical and regulatory breaches in the pursuit of results above all else.
Engagement and long-term success often requires more than just leaderboard competiton
Breeding competition may cohere with short term success through pure direction of time and energy in pursuit of a goal. A mentality of if u can spend 12 hours on a problem, I can spend 14 may lead to short term success overall but is it sustainable. However, the long-term success of teams may not be best served through such “brute force” direction of will.
In contrast, good processes supported by good infrastructure is invaluable and leaders that have the vision and force of will to direct and lead this will often see their teams respond in kind. A mindset of continuous improvement across all aspects including skills, access to resources and enablement of teams among others is critical to long term success.
Leaderboards good or bad?
Ultimately leaderboards and the competition they foster are just another tool in the belt of teams. Like a sharp sword it can cut both ways and more relies on the professional judgement of the person holding the sword to properly balance the pros and cons. Leaderboards by itself only serve as a motivating factor for individuals but do not intrinsically offer resources to support performance. In exploring gamification of work there can be other aspects of gamification such as design of onboarding, in-application guidance and other methods that offer more structural support for better productivity in performance.
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