The Gamification of High Performance Teamwork - Why Gamification Will Soon Make Team Building Obsolete

As I was scanning over this great infographic [bottom of page] on employee engagement, with it's seemingly disconnected teamwork for business heading, I began to ask myself: 

Is  performance-management based #gamification slowly rendering classical team building interventions redundant?

Is what I call "engagement behaviorization" through gamification rendering previous evidence-based models of training and development obsolete in general?

Although gamification is not yet the model-t to the team building horse and buggy, the gamification of team building itself will not only revolutionize high performance teamwork, but it will make the kind of serious teamwork found in fortune 100 companies realistically accessible to just about any size or type of organization. New teams will begin to form and perform in a matter of  days instead of months.

Before I explain the incredible competitive advantage that the direct gamification of high performance team building will create for your organization, lets explore the real meaning of high performance teamwork.

So Why Build a  High Performance Teams Through  Gamification? 

The benefits of true teamwork compared to individual or mere work-group efforts are literally both measurable and incredible even before they're gamified. Put simply, real teams get vastly more work accomplished and the quality of their work is superior.

For decades the best organizational science has clearly and repeatedly demonstrated that most people love working in teams compared to working alone. This is one of the truly novel insights from the infographic that follows, apart from the neat graph that shows the relationship between active employee disengagement and fluctuations in our economy.

Not only do teams create a much higher quality product or service than individuals or mere work groups, but they enjoy far lower absenteeism levels and error rates. Real teamwork simultaneously saves and generates more revenue than any other form of human work.

The real secret here is that high performance teamwork is really active employee engagement for people who are working task-interdependantly [more on this a bit later].

From a performance management perspective, high performance teams are super-self-propelling. They're increasingly self-directing and self-motivating by design. So they eliminate the excessive costs of organizational hierarchies and silos.

Teams get their extraordinary results partly because they are jam packed with all the “natural” social and emotional rewards and recognition that we as human beings were designed to thrive on.

There is nothing more motivating in a work environment than the giving and receiving of genuine trust, collaborative support and the shared co-creation and realization of a team’s clearly defined performance goals.

"Real” Teamwork Defined

You've probably noticed by now that I have a tendency to use words like "real" and "genuine" when I talk about teamwork.

This is because there is a critical difference between real teamwork and the comparatively limited work that groups and individuals can do. The vast majority of so called team building efforts turn out to be little more than costly corporate entertainment venues collections of task-interdependent employees and work groups.

My Definition of Real teamwork is: 2 or more people doing "task-interdependent" work towards the realization of a shared performance goal; with in a healthy and positive team culture. And of course positive and healthy team cultures can be quickly unpacked, gamified and generalized as a set of discretely identifiable human behaviors.

For me, task interdependence, focus on a shared performance goal and a healthy, positive team-culture are critical to the definition and success of both real teams and real team building. All the more so for their gamification.

Task interdependent work describes work that by definition can’t be done by only 1 person. Many organizations make the mistake of investing in a team building intervention where teamwork will create no real value.

These organization's need to focus on building strong group or departmental cultures and group bonding rather than on building real teams. Let’s explore the classic example of team sports to better illustrate this critical point:

1. No-Task Interdependence

In the game of golf there is no task-interdependent teamwork just a serious performance goal. So it’s an individual work role. To start off with only one person can play at a time. Can you imagine 2-12 people (the average number on a real team) trying to swing a single golf club at the US open?

2. Intermediate Task-Interdependence

In bowling there’s very little task interdependence, but more so than in golf. On “bowling teams” each person plays independently one at a time, but they are working towards the shared performance goal of beating competing teams and highest score records. Individual efforts combine in the form of total points accumulated at the end of the game rather than in the work that earns them.

The most effective bowling teams must also have very strong team cultures to succeed. This means high levels of sustained team-bonding. Bowling team members are very good at supporting and encouraging each other under pressure and sharing corrective feedback.

Most organizations have work groups or potential teams that fall into this lower level of potential task interdependence.

The second core team building goal for low task-interdependent teams is capacity building for collaborative action learning. Even fully non-task interdependent workers (like golf players, or medical/academic specialists and office staff) can benefit immensely through the collaborative learning and continuous work-improvement process.

Collaborative action learning like RAD is a set of learnable skills that need to taught and generalized through a gamified performance management platform.

3. Full Task-Interdependence 

The Game of Football (not to mention hockey) is a perfect example of full task interdependence in sports. By definition a single player simply cannot play all of the positions or perform all of the roles required to win the game.

Each team member contributes to scoring goals by providing and continuously developing a unique skill set that adds serious performance value to the team. For example, defensive players practice and master the art of blocking and legal interference. Quarterbacks practice and master the role of passing, running and evading the sack.

What's often required of high task-interdependent teams is to really see and feel the big picture, that their work is really a part of each team member's work and vs vs.; that real quality and performance means shared quality and performance.

Cross Functional Teams are the football or hockey stars of full task-interdependent teamwork.

Examples here are radical applications software development (RAD) and project management teams - especially those working in the gamification field.

Cross functional integration is where different people from different departments or areas of knowledge specialization form ad hoc teams to create new and better internal and external products and services. Formal organizational structures, systems and processes are generally introduced to support these.

A member of the sales department can teach software developers what their best customers are looking for while the software development rep can share with the sales department what they're currently working on so the sales department can focus marketing efforts on upcoming, in demand products and services.

RAD software development is characterized by a continuous reformulation of final product goals, based on real time changing market and customer needs. There are always feelers out to tell the team if what they're working on needs to change to meet customer needs right now or in the immediate future. This way, products delivered in 3 or 6 months from now are better able to meet customer needs close to their end delivery point.

Cross functional team members from the accounting and purchasing departments can get a sense of how they need to optimally allocate budgets and other resources to fellow team members' departments in order to better enable meeting the organizations larger strategic goals.

The best cross-functional development and service teams invite and involve new team members from their top clients and from partner organizations  regular team meetings to facilitate the exchange of valuable strategic insights as well.

How Gamification Will Revolutionize High Performance Team Building

Gamifying high performance team building will also drastically slash the otherwise steep training costs with real teams trained and integrated into the larger gamified cross functional performance management architecture.

This will solve the problem of why over 90% of costly team building interventions flop  - namely a complete failure to generalize the new teamwork skills into the real world work setting or to maintain and grow them immediately and continuously once they get there.

As the leading organizational consultants and social engagement synergists will tell you (if you hire me) is that effective teamwork really boils down to a set of  easily learnable skills and behaviors.

And gamification, through what I call "engagement behaviorization" is making extraordinary, literally epic gains in all most every area of what was once the domain of knowledge and skills development in classical organization development.

These epic performance gains are showing up across the organizational spectrum from employee engagement to new hire-on-boarding to leadership development. There are even powerful gamification case studies in frontline customer service.

In my view the direct gamification of high performance team building, that will compound these already extraordinary gains, is next on the list!

Just look at:

How Bunchball is Revolutionization Behavior Based Performance Management Through Gamification

Build your team #infografia #infographic

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