Playoff meets up with: co-authors of Culture4Gamification

  • Snjezana Slabek and Emir Dzanic are co-authors of Culture4Gamification methodology, that helps business to adapt gamification culture.  They are also co-founders of Gamification Academy “No Game, No Gain” and they conduct  training Strategic HR Gamification. We have asked them, tell us about their vision of innovation in HR field and how they are using  gamification elements in their projects. 

    We’ll start with a curiosity… Emir as an Open Innovation and Snjezana as a HR Manager how did you get in touch with gamification?

    4 years ago, I was leading an organisational intervention in the large food manufacturing company.  The objective of that intervention was the adoption of Open innovation, the business practice that involves a number of external and internal stakeholders, their relationships and knowledge transfer among them. The essential issue during the intervention, that essentially was the organisational culture intervention, was, how to in the most effective and efficient way approach the change process. I chose a blend of techniques and approaches ranging from Appreciative inquiry to gamification, where gamification turned out to be a particularly interesting for it is applicable to almost any business process. It was a great experience to participate and observe this social negotiation process and learn all the advantages of gamification in organisational development.  

    Whenever new practices and changes were introduced into the company, it was a big challenge to keep people’s attention and get them engaged, especially on the long run. I worked for 10 years at a large international corporation as a knowledge manager in HR and was involved in change management, especially in implementing new digitally based HR processes such as e-learning, people development, knowledge and idea management. As employee motivation is generally a big challenge nowdays, I have noticed that through properly designed gamification, employeees interest can be strongly influenced. Gamification has attracted a lot of attention as a way to engage employees in HR-related activities. First I decided to introduce game elements into e-learning, and later on very intensively in knowledge sharing and innovation management. The results were surprisingly high and this encouraged me to start a much deeper and more serious study of this topic and to continue to use gamification to add real value to organisational processes.

    Which is your vision of innovation in the HR field?

    I am a strong advocate of both HR involvement in corporate innovation processes as well as of changing and innovating HR itself. After all, people are driving business processes and they innovate in organisations. In an example, if an organisation wants to become more competitive for the market, it usually needs to adopt new business practices. This, in turn, means that the new ways of, “how things are done around here“, are introduced, and consequently, organisational culture is addressed. At that point, HR can find an excellent opportunity to learn how to participate in organisational change on the level of organisational culture and at the same time to explore and innovate its processes. As I see it, there are two major areas for HR innovation. The first is development of metrics for HR processes that contribute to evidence-based and more informed decision making. The second is development of HR tools and practices such as gamification that contributes to the efficient management of organisational development. When combined and creatively addressed within organisation, those areas can bring innovation to the HR processes but also foster innovation in other areas of the organisation (R&D, supply chain, production, business development…).

    Human Resources is definitely one of the business area where gamification techniques are increasingly applied. Approaches in managing people in organizations have been changing dramatically in the last few years. “Carrots and sticks“ motivation that is actually the industrial management paradigm of the last hundred years is no longer effective today, especially when we speak about the motivation for innovationThe new paradigm that sees people as intrinsically motivated, forms fertile ground for gamification. For the development of creative and innovative organizations, it is important to create a supportive environment that will influence autonomy and mastery, be fun and challenging, and have a high degree of collaboration and support for personal development at the same time. You can gamify the whole employee experience but it doesn’t work by itself. It needs human-centric design and a qualitative input.
    When your project is bad, gamification won’t make it better.

    When we ask you a clear example of how gamification works well, what comes to your mind?

    Gamification works particularly well when applied to the mid or large size organisations with well-developed communication process. Its success also depends on the nature of the organisation, in other words its organisational culture. If organisational culture prevents new practices to be applied, and the organisational resistance is too strong, than gamification should be implemented slowly and blended with other organisational development approaches (appreciative inquiry, design thinking…). What is true for majority of contemporary organisations, is that gamification shines either alone or as a part of blended approach, driving organisational transformation and fostering innovation..

    You need to be clear on what you want to achieve: what specific behaviour do you want to see more or less of. I think it is important that gamification is designed in a human-centric way with a deep sense of the audience that is addressed to. A good story is crucial for it keeps the attention along the way. It is an art to connect fun and mastery in a meaningful and engaging way. Human drivers like purpose, autonomy, mastery and relatedness are the design principles for work in this age and they should be incorporated in any gamification project. From my point of view, it is not possible to make a gamification experience truly engaging just by adding points, badges and other mechanics. Gamification is beyond that, it is a science of engagement in the digital era, far away from just putting game-mechanics into the process.

    You are the author of “Culture4Innovation” and “Culture4Gamification methodologies”, could you tell us something about them?

    The  Culture4Innovation method is a way to optimise organisational development and customise it to the particular organisation using a blend of approaches (design thinking, Appreciative inquiry, gamification). On the other hand, the Culture4Gamification is specially focused on the use of gamification in that same environment. Because, in practice, gamification turned out to be a very versatile and applicable approach, we decided to develop a practical method for its application. For that reason, we developed Culture4Gamification framework explaining the way to reach and maintain the players win state within a sustainable gamified environment. The Culture4Gamification canvas, on the other hand, helps in the development of different scenarios, from simple to the most complex. We have shown in practice that Culture4Gamification approach is applicable to different gamification platforms, ensuring tool for flexible and sustainable gamification.

    And finally, as a Game Designer what do you expect from a gamification platform?

    Since gamification in the organisational environment relies on social interaction, a platform should provide knowledge exchange and social communication as well as the flexibility that is essential for developing different scenarios.

    From a gamification platform we expect to be able to manage all the stages of the game process; from initial discovery, skill development and action-boosting to mastery stages. 


    It was a pleasure to have Emir and Snjezana  as our guests. Their words  helped us  to understand how gamification can contribute to the efficient management of organisational development. 

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