Sate the Player: The Gaming of your Crew

Posted on 7th May 2016 Under Inspiration

If you have been paying attention, you’ll be aware of two things: 1) that – as mentioned in my previous post – this week is all about gamification and 2) that gamification has been something of a big deal for a while now. Indeed, it was near the peak of Gartner’s hype cycle as far back as 2013, and has been used by organisations to promote customer engagement, employee performance, training and education, innovation management, personal development, sustainability, health and wellness, and probably a lot more besides. But what is it? Should you be using it? And how?

Gartner defined Gamification then as: the use of game mechanics in nonentertainment environments to motivate a change in user behavior. It is a way of encouraging your employees or your customers; a method of inciting interest, engagement, whilst also maximising the impact on your business. But its not easy, as Gabe Zichermann, author and gamification expert, cautions, “Gamification technology has become very accessible and helps you scale, but the fundamentals of good design techniques that mirror the voice of your organization and its values need to be carefully considered. Good gamification design seeks to understand and align an organization’s objectives with employees’ intrinsic motivators.”

At the same time as Gartner was banging the hype drum for Gamification, publications such as Forbes were already making stern warnings, predicting that “80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives”, and that “Careful examination shows that many of the leading edge companies leveraging gamification today are willing to describe the solutions they are implementing but are less willing to describe the business results they have achieved.” Amidst all the confusion; the warnings and the hype, it seems perfectly reasonable that even 18 months, many business leaders are still trying to understand if gamification is right for them.

The thing to remember, is that gamification does not necessarily mean ‘fun’: the problem that seems to occur within a lot of businesses is the thought that simply adding points, or levels, or badges to an activity will be enough to make it fun; enough to engage their target audience. The problem is, these elements alone do not turn any activity – such as filing a report – into a game. Gamification is also not simply a reward process. Gartner analysis suggests the only way that gamification can be implemented as a motivational tool is when it focuses on helping a player to achieve their goal. A player’s goal could align with their company’s goal – it might not – but in order to motivate someone to change their behaviour or develop a skill or drive innovation, it has to centre around something they want to achieve. That, is of course easier said than done, and means that gamifying processes should only be done with careful thought and planning.

So, should you be doing it? Well, the evidence is decidedly mixed. Many gamification experts are quick to cite successful examples: the likes of Nike+, Khan Academy, and Quirky, but all of these come with the caveat that they required considerable investment, planning, and time in order to reach their objectives. Smaller businesses that are not world conquering behemoths like Nike may find it harder to integrate gamified models. Gamification is not yet broadly accessible for businesses of all sizes. Yet as Gartner helpfully points out:  “Gamification actually shares more characteristics with the motivational tools used by organizations such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, Weight Watchers, and military organizations” – the key difference between those methods and the much hyped methods of gamification, is that those elements are not digital.

For now, though, it is clear that there are still other, simpler methods that can be implemented to try and engage your work force or customers, to motivate them in ways that do not require points or badges. Leverage your own capabilities against what you are looking to achieve, and only then can you start to determine the shared goals between you and those you are looking to motivate.