Badges Swarm the Internet (and soon Intranet)

Over the last year we’ve observed the “gamification” of various web-based systems.  Social learning systems now have “leaderboards” to show who uploaded the most highly ranked content.  Sales training applications in pharmaceutical companies give employees “virtual money” for making the sale.  Feedback and social recognition systems like Rypple and ILuvRewards encourage employees to give each other “virtual pats on the back” and public recognition, which is then stored in your personal piggybank for various uses.

The new trend is the explosion in Badges…. yes, just like Boy Scout and Girl Scout Badges.

Today Google introduced a Badging system for those who use Google News.  A few weeks ago we blogged about BeKnown and BranchOut, two hot new Facebook apps for professional networking – both of which use badges.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if we see airlines, credit card companies,, and even eBay start to give out Badges for heavy users.  (Frequent flyers for example.)

Badges are simply a way of publically recognizing someone’s achievements.

Websters defines a Badge as “A distinctive emblem worn as a mark of office, membership, achievement, licensed employment, etc.”

In web-based systems and social applications (including in training and human resources), badges can be very useful tools.  BeKnown and BranchOut use badges to encourage people to create more friends (you receive more badges are your network grows).  Reward and recognition companies award badges to people who receive a high number of accolades from their peers.  Expert networks like Quora and Forum award badges for highly rated experts who actively answer lots of questions.  And LinkedIn prominently displays your network, which is a form of social recognition, gaming, and badge.

While we may think this is kind of a childish thing, it really represents a well known form of gaming.  People really like to collect rewards for what they do.  It’s human nature – this is the underlying drive for the gaming industry that use Paypal sites (gambling, online, video games, and computer games).  In fact, this human desire is so strong that people often take hours of their day trying to build up points in Zynga games like Cityville and Farmville, just to achieve greater “badges” of recognition in their virtual world.

In the business world badges are a wonderful way to reward people for behaving the way organizations succeed.  Just as people receive badges for certifications and training completion in the real world, in the online business world people receive badges for sharing information, rewarding customers, solving problems, and helping other employees.  Such internal recognition systems are now becoming commonplace – and the concept of badges and rewards is now being used in employee performance management, social learning, customer service, and leadership development.

From the Google Badges announcement:  “The more you read, the higher level badge you’ll receive, starting with Bronze, then moving up the ladder to Silver, Gold, Platinum and finally, Ultimate….

“Your badges are private by default, but if you want, you can share your badges with your friends. Tell them about your news interests, display your expertise, start a conversation or just plain brag about how well-read you are. You can also add custom sections by hovering on a badge and clicking “add section” to read more about your favorite topics.”

We will see an explosion of new badges, rewards, and other forms of gaming all over the internet (and our internal applications).  Life is getting more fun by the minute.