As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

If this website has anything approaching a "mission," it is to help readers have a clearer picture of where you’re going so that you will be less inclined to take just any (old) road to get you there. 

Said another way, it’s to help ensure that the kind of employee engagement you’re pursuing is the kind of employee engagement that will yield the kinds of business results promised in all of the compelling research done on the topic in recent years.

Which brings us to this week’s Worst Idea, which appeared in The Bangkok Post in an article headlined:  “Boost employee engagement and productivity with gamification.”

Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Each organisation is different, but what makes some better than others? Products, technology or even strategies can be copied over time. But one thing that is very hard to copy, and is a key success factor is talented people. It’s up to companies to see how they can bring the best out of their people. Employee engagement is the answer.”

There’s a serious logical hiccup in those last two sentences.  It’s not that employee engagement “is the answer” to bringing the best out in people; it’s that employee engaged is the bringing of the best out in people.  The way the article words things is the logical equivalent of saying that “the answer to improving your golf game is shooting lower scores.”

Please understand: I am not saying that what the article dubs gamification--"the practice of applying game mechanics and game dynamics to non-gaming contexts with the aim of engaging users to achieve a certain objective"--cannot be useful in getting people more deeply engaged in a given task at a given moment.  What I am saying, though, is that when you begin from such a fundamental mischaracterization of what engagement actually is, you run a greater risk of taking any road to get you there, all the while operating under the delusion that you're making more progress than you really are.  You can begin to believe that the key to engagement is the application of instrumental techniques rather than, simply, doing the hard work required to understand what makes people tick.