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Is Your Business Ready for Gamification?

Are you and your business ready for gamification?

gamificationAs you probably already know, gamification is the latest hype in the business world, with companies ‘gamifying’ everything from order forms to customer reward systems. But before you jump on the band wagon, it is advisable that you take the time to understand what it means and what it could do to improve your business and help you reach your goals.

Although it can be a useful tool, it is not necessarily right for every business. By the time you finish reading this, you should be fairly certain about whether or not your business is ready for this new trend.

What is Gamification?

Gamification uses the same techniques as video games, in order to engage an audience. It has the potential to change a routine or boring task into a creative or at least passable activity, which is why some businesses use it as a motivational tool for employees or customers.

Companies have found that gamification can be used in their marketing campaigns, as a way to increase traffic to their websites, get feedback or even get employees to complete tasks that would otherwise be undesirable.

Google recently found a way to gamify the routine activity of reading news articles by awarding readers with badges based on the specific topics they read about each day. Users can also choose to share their badges with other Google+ users, which brings an element of social pressure into the picture.

Another interesting example of how gamification has been used in the business world is the Finnish National Library, which uses an online game to get volunteers to help update the library’s online e-archives.

Does Your Business Need It?

If you think you would like to start using gamification techniques in your business, you should first ask yourself what you are looking to accomplish by doing so. Are you just following along with the trends or do you have a clear end goal?

Gamification is not just about awarding points and prizes or creating a fun atmosphere to work in. Although these things can be beneficial to your company, you should learn how to gamify your product or service in a more complete way, to engage and collaborate with other users.

When you can’t identify a clear reason for gamifying your products, or you can’t see how it would benefit your customers and employees, make their lives easier or provide them with meaningful interactions, then it is probably not going to be of much use, and you would be better off using different methods to generate interest in your business. On the other hand, if you have a clear set of goals in mind and an idea of how get users to help you reach those goals, then you may be onto something.

Who Are You Targeting?

Once you have decided that this is the path you want to take, you need to identify your audience. Who is it you want to target and what are they interested in? By identifying a clear demographic, you can zero in on that group and see what makes them tick.

What kinds of games are they already playing? Do they like interactive or competitive games? If you are going to spend the time and resources to create a gamified product, you had better be sure that you have the answers to these questions, or you will be wasting your time and money.

Research has shown that advertising is ineffective for 95% of all people who see an ad on a billboard, television or online. The same is true for the use of games in marketing. Your gamified product probably won’t appeal to a very large group of people, so you need to make sure that you know who you are targeting and how you can best engage them.

Some people make the mistake of assuming that a more general gamified product will appeal to more people. The problem is that by making your product too general, you stand the chance of not really engaging anyone fully. So narrow your focus and find out what will work for your audience.

Find the Right Balance

When creating a game for your business, you will have to find the right balance between challenging tasks and relaxation. If the game is too difficult, your users will tire of it quickly, especially if they don’t see any rewards for their efforts. On the other hand, if it is too easy and they fly through it without any difficulty, they aren’t likely to bother playing it a second time.

The key to a greater user experience is to use both long and short-term goals throughout the game. The long-term goal should be whatever goal or objective you have previously identified for your business. Then, in their quest to reach the long-term goal, users should be kept busy with smaller challenges, mysteries to solve, tasks to complete or meaningful interactions with other users.

There should always be rewards and feedback loops along the way every time a small challenge has been completed, as this will motivate the user to continue.

Obviously, there is still a lot you will have to learn, but you should treat it as a work in progress. If you have set clear goals, weighed the cons against the pros and decided that this is the right path for your business, then it’s best to make your move as soon as possible. Be honest with yourself, and if you see that it’s not working, be prepared to step back and consider how you can improve your methods.

Gamification is not the only way for you to engage customers on your site. Having high quality content and the ability to debate will do this as well!


Have You Devised Your Disaster Plan Yet?

The importance of a disaster plan for your business.

disaster planUnfortunately, too many business wait until it is too late to consider the effects that a natural or manmade disaster would have on their business. The truth is that one out of every four small businesses are never able to recover after disaster hits. The good news is that if a business has a well-organized disaster plan in place, they are likely to see less overall damage or loss and reopen for business quicker. When devising a comprehensive plan, your management team must consider the important questions.

Who Do You Need to Run Your Business?

The first major question to ask yourself is who are the key players of the business. This includes essential employees and suppliers who are necessary in order to operate your business. Your essential employees should understand your disaster plan and know that they will be needed in case of an emergency. You should keep the contact information for all of the essential members in several locations and gather the necessary information such as phone numbers, emails and account numbers. You should also consider creating an alternative list in case one of your employees or suppliers is unavailable during the disaster.

What Supplies and Files Do You Need?

You will also need to consider what supplies and files you will need to successfully operate your business in case of a disaster. This includes the necessary inventory, equipment and tools that are used on a day-to-day basis. If at all possible, keep back-up materials and equipment in good working condition and at a separate location from your business. Regularly back-up the vital documents, such as payroll, account receivable, account payable, personnel, insurance policies and account information.

Where Can You Relocate Your Business?

As part of the business disaster plan, you must decide on several locations that the business could relocate to if necessary. Take in to account the current location of your business and the area in which it resides and list a few good alternatives places. If the business can operate out of a person’s home for a while that would be a great alternative, but if an actual new site needs to be found, you must be the first one to find it. You must also understand your insurance policies and how they work in case of a disaster. By quickly submitting your insurance claims, it can provide you with the necessary cash flow to relocate & execute your disaster plan effectively.

When and How Can You Reopen for Business?

The goal for any small business is to reopen as soon as possible after disaster strikes. The most important thing during your downtime and even after your business reopens is to keep the line of communication open between you and your customers. Use any method necessary to communicate to the customers that your business is prepared and they will be reopening soon. When possible, post messages on your website, send out emails and call vital customers to let them know the status of your business.

Why Do You Need To Be Prepared

If disaster hits your business, things will be chaotic enough without trying to quickly devise a plan of action. By creating a plan ahead of time, it allows you time to think through the process, so that your do not forget any of the important thing. Depending on the nature of the disaster, afterwards may be too late to fix an oversight. For example, if a fire destroys your business it may be very time-consuming, difficult or even impossible to retrieve all the important files that have been destroyed.

Hopefully disaster will never hit your business, but if it does it is imperative that your business has a organized plan in place. This will help your entire team know exactly what needs to be done to ensure your businesses success. From communication with employees, suppliers and the customers to relocating the business to gathering all the necessary materials, a disaster plan can have your business reopening in no time.

By having a disaster plan in place you can now focus on more important things such as customer engagement! “Is Your Business Ready for Gamification?”

Build Teamwork & Increase Productivity with these 10 Simple Exercises. Part II

Part II: 10 Simple Exercises to Build Teamwork & Increase Productivity

In the office and at the workplace, success is rarely the result of a single person. Rather, success is the result of several people coming together to work as a single team. Thus, effective managers are well aware that the key to increasing productivity in the workplace is to build teamwork. In part 1 of this series, we looked at some ways you can build teamwork and increase productivity. In part 2, we look at 10 more simple exercises you can do to build teamwork. Each of these exercises takes less than half an hour to complete and need little to no preparation time. Yet at the end, you will have a team better suited to working together effectively to meet both short-term and long-term challenges.

Planning Exercises

The Human Knot

Time Required: 5 – 15 minutes

This planning activity is a simple exercise that requires zero preparation time. First, organize everyone into groups of no less than 5 but no more than 10 people each. Once you organize the groups, have each group form their own circle. Then have everyone place their left hand into the center of the circle and tell them to grab the hand of someone else not standing next to them. Repeat again with the right hand, but be sure everyone holds hands with a different person. After this, the group must use teamwork to untangle themselves without anyone disconnecting. You can optionally run this activity as a race between groups. The goal of the human knot exercise is to get your group working together as a team to meet a common goal while also having a fun time. Of course, it requires not only creativity and planning, but flexibility as well!

Magic Shoes

Time Required: 30 – 45 minutes

This planning activity is another simple exercise that again involves zero preparation time. Depending on the size of the group, you may want to split people up into teams of between 5 to 10 each. Instruct the teams that they are stranded in the desert and that they must cross a patch of very hot sand roughly 50 feet across to reach an oasis. Be sure you mark off a starting line and a finish line for the patch of sand. However, to cross the patch of very hot sand, you need magic shoes that can only be worn by each team member /once/. The magic shoes should not be actual shoes, but can instead be represented by a piece of paper or even just a stick. These shoes cannot be thrown or separated, and each member of the team must eventually cross the sand. As the shoes can only be worn once by each person, the team will have to devise creative strategies about how to get everyone across such as by carrying people and who carries who. The magic shoes exercise teaches the wisdom of planning ahead.

Hot Lava

Time Required: 30 – 45 minutes

For this planning activity, you will need materials large enough for two people to step on at the same time. Stuff like old notepads or pieces of cardboard work great, as do narrow wooden boards or cinder blocks if you have any lying around. You will need about 5 to 7 of whatever you grab. As with magic shoes, you will need to create an area with a starting line and a finish line. Place the materials across this area and label them 1 through 7 (or however much you have). Split your group up into teams of between 3 to 6 people each and instruct them that the marked off area represents hot lava. In order to get across the hot lava, they must step only on the materials. However, the entire team must hold hands throughout the exercise to make sure no one falls into the hot lava until each team member makes it to the finish line. Moreover, once a person steps on whatever material you are using (e.g., notepads), that notepad must always have at least one foot on it before the last team member passes it. To make this more challenging, make the area longer than the materials you are using when placed next to another. This way, in order to succeed, the team will have to pick up the materials they cross along the way. That is, after each team member passes, say, the first old notepad, the last team member bends down to pick it up-without letting their hand go-then passes it up to the front of the group. The hot lava game teaches not only planning but communication as well. If a team member touches the hot lava, the entire team must return to the starting line.

The Tallest Tower

Time Required: 20 minutes

For this planning exercise, you will need a variety of building materials such as paper cups and bowls, masking tape, construction paper, cheap pens, and cardboard. Split your group up into teams of between 3 to 5 people each and give them a lot of one material but very little of the other materials (vary this among teams). Tell them the goal of the exercise is to build the tallest tower in just 20 minutes. In order to succeed, each team will have to plan about how they will use their building supplies, and each team member will have to communicate with one another. You can optionally allow groups to barter materials to demonstrate the importance of cooperation between different teams.


Time Required: 5 minutes

This is another very simple planning exercise. Before getting started, you should create a list of 10 items that one would need in a survival exercise at sea, such as a life-preserver, food, water, flare gun, compass, inflatable raft, knife, rope, etc. Once you are ready, split the group into teams of between 3 and 5 people each. You will then instruct the teams that they are on a sailboat that is now sinking. Give them the list of 10 items you drew up and tell them they have room on the lifeboat for only three of those items. Moreover, they have only 5 minutes to make a decision. At the end, have each team say the 3 items they took and explain why. This team planning exercise encourages communication among team members and promotes creative problem solving.

Trust and Communication Exercises

Trust Lean

Time Required: 5 – 10 minutes

This trust-building exercise involves all the members of your group and requires zero preparation time. First, have everyone count off starting with 1. Once everyone states their number, all group members should join together to hold hands. Tell the odd numbers to lean forward and the even numbers to lean backward slowly after you finish counting down from 5. If the group succeeds, everyone should be able to lean forwards or backwards in such a way that if one person let go, the entire group would fall. The goal of the Trust Lean is to show how the team must implicitly trust one another to meet a common goal. Keep in mind, however, that you may want to use spotters to make sure nobody actually falls.

Blindfold Runner

Time Required: 5 – 10 minutes

This trust-building exercise requires enough blindfolds for half your group. First, create an area roughly 30 feet across with a starting line and a finish line. In this area, create small obstacles with sticks or pieces of paper. However, be sure no one can trip over the obstacles! Secondly, split everyone into teams of two and tell one member of each team to tie a blindfold around their head. The blindfolded teammate will go to the starting line while the second teammate goes to the finish line. The teammate at the finish line must then direct the blindfolded teammate using verbal instructions to cross the area. If the blindfolded teammate hits an obstacle, the team must start over again. For added difficulty, make everyone with a blindfold spin in a circle three times before starting. The goal of this exercise is to promote trust among one another and to foster effective communication while working to build teamwork.

Slice ‘n’ Dice

Time Required: 15 minutes

In this trust-building exercise, have your group form two parallel lines of the same length and facing one another. The two lines should be standing roughly a few feet apart, and each person should extend one arm across the gap so that it would block anyone trying to walk between the two lines. Then have one team member at a time walk through the gap. To allow the team member to walk through, each person will have to raise and lower their arm. Once the team member walks through, have them rejoin one of the lines. Repeat this until each team member has gone through at least once. At this time, the group should have more confidence, and you can increase the difficulty by having each team member walk briskly or even run through the gap. This is a very simple exercise that relies a lot on trust. That is, each team member must learn to trust the other team members to raise and lower their arms at the right time. The goal is to create and foster a sense of trust among the group.

The Silent Birthday Game

Time Required: 15 minutes

This is a simple communications exercise that requires no preparation. This exercise will teach your team how to communicate with one another using nonverbal cues. In it, first instruct your group that no one can talk but they can use any variety of hand signals. Then tell them that the goal is to organize themselves in such a way that they form a single line in order of birthday. So the first person in the line may have their birthday on January 2, the second on January 17, the third on February 25, and so on. This is a great and simple exercise that demonstrates communication is not always verbal. Moreover, it teaches how to overcome barriers to communication. It is also a fun way for your team to learn more about one another!

Draw a Circle Exercise

Time Required: 15 to 20 minutes

This last communications exercise requires a large enough table for the group to sit at together, or at least tables for everyone, and a marker and one sheet of paper per person. After everyone is seated, tell them that you want them to follow your instructions word for word, there can be no questions, and to not look at anyone else’s paper during the exercise. First, tell them to draw a circle. Second, tell them to draw a triangle in that circle. Third, tell them to draw a square in the corner. Lastly, ask them to sign their name on the paper. At the end, ask everyone to hold up their sheet of paper for all to see. Chances are everyone will have drawn something slightly different. At this point, you should ask why everyone’s paper looked different. You may get a variety of responses such as, “The instructions weren’t clear,” or “You didn’t allow us to ask questions.” After this brief discussion, begin the exercise over again. This time, tell them to draw a circle four inches in diameter, then to draw a triangle within that circle such that all three corners touch the circle with the triangle pointing up. Then ask them to draw a square in the top right-hand corner roughly one inch wide and one inch tall. Lastly, ask everyone to sign their name at the bottom center of the page in cursive. After you’re done, ask everyone to hold up their sheets of paper. This time, each sheet should be nearly identical. This exercise demonstrates the difference between vague and clear instructions.

A Final Word

These 10 simple exercises to build teamwork and increase productivity will build a greater sense of trust, foster more communication, and encourage more cooperative planning in the office. However, for any team building exercise to be truly effective, you must communicate the goals well. Without an understanding of why they are engaging in activities that seem silly at times, the group will approach the team building exercises with a collective groan. However, you can avoid this by planning ahead and communicating your goals. This will in turn create trust between you and the group. Done right, team building exercises are a lot of fun, provide a break from the monotony of the office, and will lead to big productivity gains. So get out there and have fun!

There is more than exercises to Build Teamwork & Increase Productivity. Techniques such as Participative Leadership will help management to set the pace in the work place.

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TeamLab, An Open Source Solution to Creating an Effective Corporate Portal.

What are the benefits of using Teamlab, an open source solution, for creating your corporate portal?

TeamLab is an online hub application that allows users to edit documents, manage projects, create tasks and send instant messages, all from an Amazon cloud-based platform. Project managers can enable and disable the various modules on demand, allowing TeamLab to be customized to the unique needs of each user. Other features include blogs and forums, image uploading, poll creation and a simple registration process.

The best thing about TeamLab? It’s free. According to Teamlab.com  the freemium open-source model is a business process management application designed for small and mid-size companies that need an effective platform for hosted project management. Supported operating systems include Windows Server 2003-2008, and Windows 7, Vista and XP.

TeamLab Development Timeline

First launched on July 7, 2010, TeamLab was developed by Ascensio System SIA of Latvia, a IT solutions provider. Founded in 2009, this fast-growing company also has offices in London, UK, offering most of their services and features for free.

According to their July 28, 2011, corporate blog, TeamLab now has over 115,000 worldwide users in 148 countries, representing a 300 percent increase over the past six months.

Current TeamLab Features

Improvements and updates to the TeamLab application are occurring frequently as the Ascensio developers respond to user feedback and beta test results. As of August 18, 2011, the following features are included in TeamLab:

  • Project Management: Using the Project Management module, milestones can be created along with lists of active, completed and overdue tasks, and due date notifications. Tasks can be designed and delegated to specific team members, and discussions between team members are enabled. Managers can use the time-tracking tools to generate detailed project reports, and the access rights feature (for Premium subscribers) allows for the creation of different visibility levels for files, tasks, milestones and discussions.
  • Business Collaboration: These features enable users to create and manage corporate profiles, manage internal announcements and develop polls. Photos can be uploaded to the cloud server and shared using the blogs and forums tool. There is also a wiki section to a create corporate knowledge base through the TeamLab portal.
  • Document Management: These are among the most popular TeamLab tools, and let users edit, import, share and integrate documents directly on the TeamLab portal. Document version control is enabled through automatic file saving and organization, including the ability to restore to earlier versions sorted by date and time.
  • Instant Messaging: TeamLab users can chat live with contacts through the portal, as well as integrate the corporate messenger with other desktop email clients.

TeamLab Security Features

All TeamLab portals are protected by HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol), which adds an extra layer of digital data protection with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to personal data like passwords, login information, and all the content on the portal. SSL encrypts all communication within the TeamLab environment, making it virtually impossible for hackers to obtain any private business information through the TeamLab portal.

As of August 12, 2011, TeamLab is offering a free online diagnostic system that scans all applications and services automatically during system startup, with the goal of detecting and eliminating threats like viruses, trojans and damaged files.

TeamLab Premium

Launched on the first anniversary of TeamLab, TeamLab Premium is available for $49 a month. Along with the features included in the /freemium/ version, TeamLab Premium users receive:

  • 10 GB of cloud-based storage versus 1000 MB in freemium model.
  • 100 MB file size upload limit (up from 10 MB per file in the free version).
  • User-controlled file sharing, private projects and access rights management.

Premium subscribers also enjoy faster upload speeds in comparison to the free model, and have priority access to customer support service from TeamLab.

Planned Upgrades to TeamLab

Ascensio System Limited has announced the following upcoming features for TeamLab:

  • A full mobile version of the project module for Android and iOS devices, with the ability to email team members, edit tasks and comment on events, blogs and forums.
  • Email integration via the TeamLab portal, including user-controlled tag-based message filtering.
  • CRM support integration including sales and communication tracking, report generation and the ability to import data from Highrise.
  • A calendar feature with customizable tracking, history logging and separate work and personal scheduling.

Other improvements to the application will include Gnatt charts for project management, currency conversion tools and customized contact and deals forms.

TeamLab User Reviews

Early users of TeamLab are impressed with the fact that 90 percent of the features are free, it supports multiple languages, and the portal is completely customizable at the point of use.

According to an August 18 post on SoftwardReviewBoffin.com, TeamLab earned a five-star rating because of the variety of collaboration tools, ease of IM client use, and the fact that, “TeamLab is the only project management solution that includes fully featured online editing.”

On AppAppeal.com, an editor rated TeamLab four out of five stars, noting that, “TeamLab offers a unique solution that brings individuals together, no matter how many miles may lie between them.” This reviewer recommends TeamLab for freelancers as a simple, cost-effective (currently free) way to collaborate with clients, as well as small businesses looking for team management software. AppAppeal.com also suggests that schools and nonprofit organizations could make extensive use of TeamLab for work on projects and to facilitate effective communication among stakeholders.

Ryan Stubbs touted his approval of TeamLab in his May 18th post on Appstorm, where he writes, “TeamLab just ticks all the boxes for me.” He points out that all-in-one solutions are usually priced beyond the reach of most start-ups and small businesses, and other applications include features that typical users simply don’t want or need. Stubbs likes the fact that TeamLab has made disabling features “incredibly simple”, reducing portal clutter while improving usability.

::Start-Up and Small Business Applications::

TeamLab developers focused on making this application easy to use for both IT professionals and regular Internet users, with an emphasis on providing collaboration and project management tools for startups, small, and medium sized-enterprises. This product is unique in the way it combines a number of different functions in one user-controlled portal, increasing both security and ease-of-use. For managers and freelancers who require a comprehensive, stable and customizable solution for both projects and ongoing collaboration management, TeamLab provides a cost-effective resource.


While Teamlab is an excellent productivity application, what about solutions for personal productivity? Up Next:  “Using Pomodoro Technique and the Results Curve for Productivity”

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