Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It’s all in the game

Here comes the latest trucking buzzword – gamification.

According to Merriam-Webster, gamification is “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.”

I’ll definitely catch flak for saying this, but at its core gamification attempts to make inherently boring things less boring.

In trucking, gamification applies almost exclusively to drivers. It’s possible because of the avalanche of tell-all digital technologies that include GPS, cameras, and all manner of onboard measuring devices. Management can know virtually everything you do and how well you do it.

In simple gamification, those performance stats – your fuel mileage, driving habits, and who knows what else – are compiled and displayed so you can note your “score” and try to beat it next time out. Some incentive programs offer prizes for good performance, things like gift cards, for example (money would be more meaningful, but let’s not go there right now).

No problem. Everyone should try to improve at what they do – all the more so for drivers where safety is concerned.

In the wider business world gamification is big, really big. Entire companies are devoted to dreaming it up and selling it to other companies. Gamification is taught at prestigious schools like the University of Pennsylvania. Lesser business schools teach it too, and you can be become a certified gamification guy at various levels from “intro” to “master.” There’s even a Gamification World Congress that according to its website believes “gamification has no limits.”

Gamification has yet to find a limit in trucking. Rather than prompt you to improve your personal best, for example, more recent gamification programs display the scores of all the drivers in the fleet. You can see everyone else’s scores and everyone else can see yours.

So now it’s a competition.

According to a recent press release from a company named Spireon, its “Driver Performance Program positively influences driver behavior with a fun, engaging incentive-based system. Individual drivers and teams of drivers compete for rewards and recognition during a competition season, and can view rankings and scores on their smartphones through the mobile app.”

Besides Spireon, trucking technology providers including Telogis, StayMetrics, and Roadnet Technologies describe at least some of their driver incentive programs as gamification. All make wondrous claims for their products. Safety, fuel usage, and productivity all improve, they say.

Okay. But what about the drivers more than halfway down the score sheet? What if every driver in the fleet is very good? Some will still outscore others, probably on a fairly consistent basis. Will that ignite a competitive fire or will it make a low-scoring driver think he’d feel more comfortable in another fleet?

Meanwhile, the term gamification is new to trucking but the idea of posting driver scores is not. Some fleets began doing it as soon as there were scores to post, but they didn’t call it gamification.

They called it shaming.

Maybe you have had a good gamification experience and see things differently. Let me know what you think.