Welcome to the New SAP: Gamification at Work with Janaki Kumar and Q&A with Don Norman

SAP AppHaus BUILDING 8

Thursday, May 8, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (PDT)

Palo Alto, CA

The new SAP

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SAP is known for its enterprise solutions but is only starting to be known also for its User Experience (UX) design services. “Welcome to the new SAP” was part of the message behind “Gamification at Work with Janaki Kumar and Q&A with Don Norman”, the first ever meet-up at the new SAP Design Co-Innovation Center in Palo Alto, USA. Pazit Kagel, organizer of the event and part of the SAP Design & Co-Innovation Center team, says “By holding this event, we wanted to emphasize the importance of User Experience (UX) as a new focus for SAP. The event was just one of many ways we plan to show who we are, what we do, and to show our space and how we operate. Many people don’t know yet that we have a design & co-innovation center here at SAP.”

Why gamification?

Gamification is the use of game-design principles in a non-game scenario and has become of interest in product design only recently. There are reasons why the idea has become popular, and why SAP is helping companies to apply gamification strategies in the workplace, all of which explained later in this article.

About the speakers

Janaki Mythily Kumar

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Her interest in gamification began a few years ago when working on sustainability applications at SAP. Kumar views gamification as a fun way for organizations to motivate and encourage employees and engage with customers. She is a co-author of a book on Gamification, entitled “Gamification at work – Designing engaging business software.

Janaki has a Masters in Information Systems from Boston University. She has authored 20 intellectual property patent applications of innovative user experiences.

Don Norman

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Don Norman was named by Business Week as “one of the world’s most influential designers.” His studies and books on design theory coupled with his extensive academic and industry experience help companies produce enjoyable and effective products and services. Norman brings a systems approach to design, arguing that great design must touch every aspect of a company.

He is well known for his books, including “The Design of Everyday Things”, “Emotional Design”, and “Living with Complexity”. Says Norman, “The well-rounded product will enhance the heart as well as the mind, being a joy to behold as well as to use.” He is the co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, an IDEO fellow, a Trustee of IIT’s Institute of Design in Chicago, professor emeritus at Northwestern University and the University of California, San Diego. He has been a Vice President of Apple and an executive at Hewlett Packard. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is one of the founders of CHI and received their Lifetime Achievement award. His book. “Living with Complexity,” argues that the quest for simplicity is misguided because complexity is both good and necessary: our lives are complex, and our tools must match the tasks we do. What we need are things we can understand and master. Once mastered, even complex-looking things are simple. His latest book is an expanded and revised edition of “Design of Everyday Things”.

Impressions of the event

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It was originally supposed to be a small meeting with local designers. But over a hundred people signed up, a combination of mostly UX professionals, visual designers, and students.

“On the day of the event, there was a lot of excitement among the team.  Everybody played a role”, says Pazit. Attendees were signed in and then given a tour of the center with its design thinking spaces and large open collaborative spaces.

The talks started with opening remarks by Sam Yen, Head of Design and User Experience at SAP. Sam told the audience that whatever impression they’ve had of SAP in the past can be replaced by a new SAP that’s design-focused and customer-centric.

After Sam’s introduction, Janaki spoke about gamification. The Q&A session with Don Norman followed after that.

Games as design in the workplace

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Games have been around forever. So why has gamification been in discussion only since 2011? Janaki explains: “We are moving from an information age to a conceptual age, where productivity is gaged by the number of ideas you have. So people need to be engaged in their work to be productive. People who have grown up with technology, and have a different concept of risk and reward, are entering the workplace. And, finally, with big data we are now able to do something interesting to provide digital incentives. That’s why gamification is of interest. It’s about creating an engaging experience that motivates people to do the task, thereby making applications that people want to use.”

Janaki adds: “The way we work at the Design & Co-Innovation Center is by involving our customers. Some customers are asking for gamification principles to be incorporated into their design. For example, a trucking company looking to reduce fuel consumption might ask “how can we incentivize truckers to select fuel efficient routes?”

For more information about gamification, check out http://badgeville.com/wiki/.

Don Norman Q & A

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Don Norman drew a good part of the crowd. Pazit says, “Don Norman’s Q&A was certainly a highlight. He talked specifically about design thinking, which is central to what we do here. His answers to questions were deep, very thoughtful. There are not many chances to hear Don Norman speak, so it was really nice that he agreed to participate.” Adds Janaki: “Don Norman is a star in UX circles. His participation in the event generated some interest in the community, so people signed up.”

Don Norman approaches design from the perspective of a cognitive scientist as well as a usability engineer. It’s no wonder he offers such tremendous insight.

During the Q&A, he spoke about many aspects of design, including the considerable design challenges involved with simplifying complex business software. But, as he has said before, “Forget the complaints against complexity; instead, complain about confusion.” When asked for his thoughts on gamification, he shared that gamification can be a valuable part of design, provided it isn’t used as an end in itself. Janaki couldn’t agree more.

  1. Norman generously donated 20 minutes of his time, which ended up being 30 minutes and could have gone all evening.

Connecting with the design community

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“There’s a big UX community and many technology companies in the Bay area, and we want to establish ourselves as key players in this community”, says Pazit.  Janaki adds: “Sharing ideas with a common vision is powerful.  We want our calls to the UX community to echo ideas for innovation and creativity. We wanted to show a space with exactly that energy, and let this event be the start of a beautiful tradition of having engaging conversations with the community. Here is an example of a space that inspires people to do awesome work. As much as design work has its challenges, we want to inspire people to think big and feel connected to a community of like-minded, enthusiastic, and idealistic individuals, and feel a sense of support that can leapfrog them to create the next awesome thing.”

You can get there from here

The SAP Design & Co-Innovation Center helps companies design engaging applications that people will want to use. SAP’s UX design experts work with customers in a design-thinking environment that fosters creativity and produces great ideas. As Janaki says: “We are no longer trying to do business same old way. The space represents that we celebrate creativity, innovation. We feel that the space affects the way we work and the results we get.”

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