“Stop playing with your phone,” the manager whispered sternly to the sales clerk. “You’re at work.”

That exchange happened in a well-known consumer electronics store, but it could be in just about any office, mine site or boardroom in the country: we know people are addicted to their devices.

The compulsive behaviour is encouraged by good design and gamification. Even if you don’t play ‘games,’ you’re likely under the spell. Twitter followers and retweet counters are the leaderboards. Facebook’s never-ending scroll is a slot machine of social capital, offering just enough randomness to keep us hooked.

Developers and social scientists have converged to create technology which rewards us for continuing to ‘play’, smacking around dopamine and serotonin receptors like so much crushed candy. Smart team managers are now seeing that same technological approach can also play into how to engage employees at work.

Writer for CNN Money, JP Mangalindan explained: “With ‘gamification,’ companies study and identify natural human tendencies and employ game-like mechanisms to give customers a sense that they’re having fun while working towards a rewards-based goal.”

Can Gamification Have An Effect On How We Work?

Gamification isn’t limited to consumers. From staff training to meditation, positive habit forming through games is a method used by forward-thinking employers to increase staff productivity and efficiency.

We already know apps and gamification can impact behaviour in the real world. Nike+ gave fitness fanatics a leaderboard and rewards for reaching milestones, turning solo exercise into a game. In a similar vein, Pokemon Go still had 60 million monthly users as of this time last year, a which grew maker Niantic’s worldwide revenue by US$1.2 billion. The benefit: usually pallid gamers actually getting outside.

Sales managers have long known the benefits of leaderboards and rewards. Take a look at any high performing a sales department and they’ll have a victory celebration for closing a deal (ringing the bell, afternoon drinks on the company). For larger or longer-term goals, a team exceeding their KPIs might get a cash bonus, or, in the case of travel agents, a free holiday.

These incentives further boost the dopamine levels alongside the actual achievement. Public Displays of Acknowledgement (the other kind of PDA) also drives lower-performing workers to strive a little harder to reach their goals. Ringing that sales bell is very Pavlovian.

How Gamification Benefits The Mining Sector

The difference with true gamification is that the challenge and reward are almost entirely internal mechanisms, incorporating automation to limit the amount of input needed from higher up the organisational ladder.

Cortex is applying gamification theory and practices to industrial and mining systems to make occasionally ‘mind-numbing’ work more rewarding.

Through monitoring of every aspect of a particular piece of machinery, such as an exploratory drill, we can record which crews work more effectively and KPIs beyond merely metres-drilled-per-day. For example, data sets show who’s used the fewest litres of fuel per metre, had the least downtime or has the highest production rates.

Results can all become part of an automatic leaderboard to encourage performance, and tap into the serotonin-inducing win akin to a good week in the footy-tipping. The reward of a win is already intrinsic, but this can be compounded with an automated financial incentive, tickets, time off or whatever is a further motivator for the team.

For an employee, approaching tasks as a game and seeing regular rewards can boost overall happiness. In his book The Best Place To Work Psychologist Ron Friedman explains that reward frequency is more important than size, and that a focus on achievements leads to better job appreciation. Gamification turns workers into players (and stayers).

Automated and detailed monitoring for motivation also allows managers to see which team members are underperforming in specific areas, to diagnose issues and help lift standards site-wide.
Author Mark Manson posits that life is sort of a video game anyway, (not that we’re all stuck in a Matrix simulation). Cortex Intelligence Systems continues to make industries safer and more profitable through bringing mining tech into the future. Game on.