Monday, 7 August 2017

Improving by playing

David Font

Volkswagen launched a campaign, The Fun Theory, aiming to improve habits by introducing game techniques. Let's look at an example.

Anna Sort, a nurse, a professor at several universities and an expert in gamification (a new word) in health, in her blog Lost Nurse in the Digital Era defines gamification as "the use of playing techniques in activities that initially contained no play" with the objective of involving people and solving problems. She argues that we are all potential players and that video games have introduced the game into many aspects of our lives. Mechanics such as collecting, awarding points, providing feedback, promoting exchanges or personalizing, favour motivation and involvement. The challenge is to transform any activity into fun and to make the game difficult enough for people to be enthusiastic about solving it, without finding it impossible.

I remember a visit I made to the Institut Guttmann years ago. We were told that certain console games were an important work tool for rehabilitation. In the health care sector, we can imagine many opportunities for improvement by applying the game: promoting healthy habits and preventing diseases, educating the patient with a chronic disease to favour their empowerment in their adherence to medication, just to give some examples. There are many products already on the market, such as Diguan Game that supports adolescents with type I diabetes, promoting therapeutic education, or as QuitNow, a game designed to help people quit smoking.

And we could also think of similar dynamics to enhance the involvement of professionals and encourage change. Could we, by playing, improve the compliance with hand washing? Or create a game to facilitate the implementation of a new information system? Or design a game to share the strategic objectives of the institution?

The experts answer those who say that gamification is not serious enough to introduce to the business world that nobody plays to lose, that when one plays the level of concentration is very high and one constantly tries to be better and these are very desirable attitudes in any business.

Introducing the game in our organizations can generate initial resistance. To overcome this, it’s crucial to know where to start and ensure success in a first experience, to show the results and then to extend it to other activities. This journey ought to be started with the assistance of a gamification expert that understands the needs and culture of the organization. Hopefully we are in front of a lever that, in the first place, increases the satisfaction of professionals and patients improving their quality of life and, in turn, accelerate the introduction of improvements. And if all that happens, will it be sustainable over time?

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