You may have noticed that I talk a lot about the importance of play and playfulness at work. I’ve even created a product to help people develop playful skills. (Do you ever give it a rest? – Ed)

When I talk about Play, people will often respond with something along the lines of “Oh, we’ve done some stuff on Gamification”. These two things are related, but not the same.

Play is a mindset, and something that people do. Play can be competitive (sports, board games), collaborative (some games, music making, art projects, much of innovation at work) or solitary (much of the above but alone), or any combination.

Gamification is a way of manipulating people’s motivations to try to get them to do something. It can be playful (this example from Microsoft for example) but a performance review process with employee grading is a gamified process which is usually anything but. Do X to receive Y.

You can have too much gamification. Look at this nonsense from the app that configures my headphones for a classic example:

Really, Sony?

Can you have too much play? Probably. But it’s very much the opposite problem in most organisations.

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