Gamification 2.0: The Global Language of Data, Competition and Opportunity - Part 2
June 08, 2021

Michael P. Morris
Topcoder

Focus, Fairness and New Opportunities

Start with Gamification 2.0: The Global Language of Data, Competition and Opportunity - Part 1

A 2.0-level benefit of the vast amounts of data generated from gamified software development is the ability for organizations to better identify professionals that have specific talents to meet distinctive business needs. The gamification of work enables individuals to showcase skills and demonstrate value in ways previously unavailable to employees and employers.

In baseball, for example, teams used to measure the value of players based on athletic talent, which typically focused on height, weight, speed and other indicators of health and proficiency. However, legendary statistician Bill James reinvented that process by valuing players based on a team's specific needs and a player's specific talents (e.g. the isolated ability to steal bases). With that model modification, previously overlooked players with underappreciated niche skills could now change the outcomes of games and season records.

Baseball analytics continues to progress beyond that simplified example to influence the next generation of decision making. Similar statistical innovations are already being applied to hiring professionals for work that's based anywhere in the world. AI, digital assets, data innovation and more are elements that contribute to a gamified understanding of talent that empowers companies to know what they need, as well as for global talent to know what it can offer.

For example, hiring a job candidate who is ostensibly smart and capable may end up delivering less than a candidate who is talented at accomplishing a specific task. This data-informed approach to hiring and working has accelerated the long awaited shift to a gig economy marketplace that was well underway before "COVID" became a household term.

Gig professionals are, typically, hired to accomplish a specific goal in a defined amount of time. When that goal is achieved, gig professionals reset their skills and passions for the next objective and deadline, which may be similar or different. Gamification supports that approach to work, as it allows techies to have talents assessed in ways that tell their personal stories and open doors to new projects and opportunities.

Many companies have applied gamification to enhance the culture of an organization, advance hybrid development teams and drive initiatives that have a global impact. For example, Stanford University partnered with Topcoder on a precision medicine challenge aimed at creating an AI solution to help detect and treat pancreatic cancer. Notoriously difficult to diagnose, pancreatic cancer is often discovered in its later stages and is one of the deadliest cancers a person can develop, carrying a five-year survival rate of just seven percent.

More than 1.6 million Topcoder Community Members had the opportunity to participate in a gamified setting on the Stanford University project. Those who joined the pancreatic cancer detection challenge competed individually and as teams to solve one of the most formidable obstacles in treating pancreatic cancer — determining which tumors are considered respectable (able to be removed with surgery) versus unrespectable. Prizes, in addition to the pride of winning, were worth nearly $8,500. The gamified development challenge generated highly valuable, original algorithms now used to advance the world's understanding of how pancreatic cancer tumor structures interact with human tissue, and how doctors can best assess situations and successfully treat patients.

Gamification can also accelerate how businesses integrate new technologies into operations. Xerox employed Topcoder's gamification model to explore design concepts for a product lifestyle tracking application that leverages the connective benefits and transparency of blockchain technology. The application demonstrates how blockchain supports the autonomous functioning of each supply chain element for the print hardware lifecycle, while also providing consistent information to Xerox and its partners. A gamified approach allowed Xerox to quickly and cost-effectively harness the potential of blockchain technology and create real results to swiftly advance the initiative from concept to proof-of-concept status.

Use-cases for gamification are extensive and demonstrate how healthy competition drives engagement, change and outcomes. Through gamification, software development professionals are measured according to performance, which is perhaps the fairest measurement of all — and one on which people can build lifelong careers.

Life, after all, is very much like a game of chess.

Michael P. Morris is CEO of Topcoder
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