Engaginglab / Gamification

Can Gamification Help to Solve a Social Dilemma? (from the archives; March, 10th, 2012)

Some days ago I have read an great article about our social dilemma concerning ‘Knowledge Sharing’. (University of Tuebingen, Ulrike Cress & Friedrich-Wilhelm Hesse)

It says that…

“…the performance of a group working collaboratively depends on its ability to make use of expertise of its different members.”

Therefore they have to share their knowledge. A tool for doing this is a shared database (Facebook or company forums are also shared databases).

But, when shared databases are implemented for knowledge exchange sometimes specific problems arise. Why? Because group members are often reluctant to share their knowledge because knowledge in groups is often seen as a kind of power which people do not want to give away. A potential knowledge provider has no private benefit if she contributes information to the database. Instead she only has private costs because of her time invested for entering the knowledge into the database. These costs lead to a situation where each individual personally achieves a higher benefit by not contributing any information. But if all people behave in such a way, there is no knowledge sharing at all, and all people end up less well of and have more costs (combined) than if they would have cooperated. So, according to an individualistic rationality it is more efficient for each subject to withhold information, while according to the group’s rationality it is more efficient if all individuals share their information.

Many psychological researchs have been done to find out how to overcome this social dilemma, or rather when does an individual person starts to share her information rather than keep it.

Because we don’t want to go deep here into the psychological research, I just give you some interesting results:

  • Incentives for sharing information mostly not enhance the quantity of shared knowledge, but it enhances the quality.
  • Reducing the costs (time) for entering knowledge into a database enhances the quantity of shared ‘high-quality knowledge’ but on the other side reduces the quantity of shared ‘low-quality knowledge’ in the longterm.

That’s very interesting, isn’t it? Does this mean that experts (the ones with high-quality knowledge of a given area) value their time (and so saving their time) more than non-experts?

  • Establishing prescriptive rules for sharing knowledge (you have to contribute a given quantity of information) don’t really enhance the amount of shared knowledge if it is a relatively low pre-set quantity. Is it a high pre-set quantity it even decreases the willingness to share.
  • This changes if you remember the persons (for example by using a pop-up window) that they should share. Now, people (no matter if low or high pre-set quantity) did better, even if they didn’t reach the pre-set goals.This shows the importance of triggers concerning the human behavior.
  • Providing feedback about the sharing-behavior of others works very well for already cooperative individuals to increase their contributions in the networks. But it demotivates less cooperative individuals to share information in the longterm.

Now, here is it where Gamification comes into play!

Using playful frameworks as role-models we can open up new opportunities to reduce this social dilemma. For example, Games are great at using feedback and social-collaborative tools to enhance sharing, cooperation, advises and mentoring. It often doesn’t even matter if the participants know each other or are completely strangers. It often doesn’t matter which culture they are, what society they are belonging, their gender or age. For the purpose of the mission they are teaming up.

Games can even create an environment where less cooperative individuals can contribute their skills and knowledge to a team without the need of interacting directly. This is called ‘playing alone together’.

So, by now I hope that it’s easier for you to think about the potential of game-dynamics and game-mechanics within a non-gaming context. Just think about it. There is more coming up where I go deeper and more specific into this subject.

Anyway, of course I’m anxious about your thoughts….


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