DIRECTV Channels Gamification and Crowdsourcing

Developing internal knowledge and expertise is critical for organizations. But as a business grows and IT demands expand, the challenge of delivering real-world results can be elusive.

To deal with this challenge, broadcasting giant DIRECTV has turned to sophisticated crowdsourcing, crowdsolving and gaming techniques to spur employee development and build better learning systems for its 1,000-plus IT professionals.

“We were at a point where we recognized that it was important to focus on innovation and adopt a fearless approach to failure,” recalls Russ Bacon, chief inspiration officer for the firm, which posted 2013 revenues of more than $31.7 billion. In the past, the company had endured its fair share of finger pointing and people playing the blame game when things went wrong within IT. “We wanted to get to the point where we could move beyond mistakes and fear, and raise the bar to a new level of performance,” he adds.

In 2012, Bacon began experimenting with sharing videos through an internal channel in order to foster learning and innovation. But he also wanted to build in a mechanism by which staff could complete learning modules and have fun in the process.

“The goals were to better imprint learning and reinforce knowledge by taking quizzes and earning points and badges as you master a topic,” Bacon explains. “We wanted to gamify the experience through points and rewards.”

DIRECTV introduced a robust platform to support gamification, and also built out a system to facilitate learning, knowledge transfer and business development. It switched on a Jive social business network in 2013 and then introduced cloud-based collaboration and crowdsourcing platform PoPin to elicit feedback and facilitate idea development among key members of its IT team.

Today, DIRECTV employees progress through levels of a learning game and receive points and rewards for various accomplishments. At the same time, IT staff can engage in robust conversations and use a feedback mechanism to further improve both the environment and IT in general.

According to Bacon, the use of gamification techniques and Jive has increased participation in this program by 300 percent while driving up engagement to 97 percent of the IT staff. More important: Gamification, along with the social enterprise framework, has ushered in an era of greater agility, flexibility and innovation.

However, with a marked uptick in participation came other challenges, including the volume of comments and ideas.

“We discovered that PoPin could generate the same volume of ideas from our employees via social, but the voting function allowed us to make those ideas immediately actionable,” Bacon explains. In fact, PoPin supported an underlying goal: “We made a promise to employees that we wouldn’t only solicit their opinions and ideas, we would put the best ideas into action. We are now able to adjust and adapt very quickly and effectively.”

For example, when the IT team recently asked for feedback about quizzes and learning modules, employees registered a common complaint: After completing a quiz, the system provided only a score. However, employees said they also wanted to know which questions they got wrong so they could study and earn a 100 percent, which advances them further in the game.

“We expected to receive feature requests, but instead we gained valuable insight into how make the system better and drive up participation,” Bacon says.

The capabilities have been truly transformative. “Any leader who uses these types of tools is investing in the idea that everyone is equal in terms of ideas and ways to improve processes,” Bacon explains. “You redefine your traditional power structure and unleash a greater power that involves the entire organization.”