Want a successful business? Get gaming

Smart Business explores the ways companies are thinking smart to thrive in our digitized world.

Story highlights

The principles of gaming are being applied to the business sphere -- a technique known as 'gamification'

Many companies now put potential employees through a series of games as a recruitment method

Senior business figures believe this is a more effective way of testing people's skills

CNN  — 

Business is a game, as Bill Gates observed, and in the modern workplace any distinction is fast dissolving. Firms are increasingly adopting the principles of successful gaming and applying them to the office to build teams of problem solvers.

The entire global games business could be worth over $100 billion, according to research from Digi-Capital, and its tendrils extend into the workplace even before a prospective employee arrives, with major organizations from Twitter to Quora using games in their recruitment process. Companies like HackerRank are hired to set a series of programming challenges and competitions for prospective employees, allowing both the organization and potential staffer alike the chance to get a real feel for the job they’re applying for.

“What we do is give people the opportunity to connect with any company on the planet by building a set of challenges that employ the skills required for a job there,” says Vivek Ravisankar, HackerRank’s co-founder. “There are so many diamonds in the rough, so it’s important for companies to introduce gaming into the hiring process in order to test their skills.”

With major companies coming round to this new mode of recruitment, the days of staid cover letters and less-than-truthful CVs could become a thing of the past, replaced by a far more practical test of one’s skills.

“It’s only a matter of time before this becomes a widely accepted way of thinking,” Ravisankar adds.

It’s not only businesses learning lessons from gaming: these principles are now being introduced to schools, too. While there has been much criticism of kids who spend too much time glued to an array of technical devices, 200 UK institutions (and 3000 worldwide) are encouraging children to play Minecraft in lessons. Teachers believe that the game, which sees users building villages, can help young people unlock their creative streaks, and endow them with more practicable life lessons for the future than traditional subjects.

Nigel Vaz, European MD of brand agency SapientNitro agrees, “My child is a big Minecraft fan and we encourage that stimulation. 50 years ago, games attracted fewer people, and it was a niche market, but now, games can be played socially and used to educate.”

Classrooms are just the start for games making their way into our day-to-day lives. Jesse Schell’s infamous gamification speech at Summit – in which he imagines a kind of dystopian, points-driven future in which people are rewarded for completing simple tasks like brushing one’s teeth, or practicing a musical instrument – helped to illustrate how easily virtual reality can become an actuality.

With a more diverse gaming space now in place – a recent study found that 52% of gamers are women – engaging every demographic in the market has never been more crucial.

“Games are designed with a narrative for the customer and therefore they have a better experience,” says Vaz. “Data is at the center: take Candy Crush – it’s all about the gamer, how many players, interaction levels etc. It’s real-time narrative with data, and businesses are learning from games how to use [it].”