7 Themes of #DF12Gamification

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With JP Rangaswami, SalesForce Chief Scientist

Before the themes, we should discuss what Gamification is and isn’t

Salesforce regards Gamification as an engagement tool and defines it as:

“The use of game design techniques, game thinking, and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts.”

This type of gaming convention is familiar to the new generation of workers, most of which are digital natives who, even if they’re not gamers, have dealt with game mechanics in social media and other aspects of their lives.”

– JP Rangaswami

 Gamification is not:

  • A cure for a bad product anymore, like adding lipstick to a pig to make it beautiful. Gamification will only work to enhance a product or service—it will not fix it.
  • Making games! This is important to understand: You are not making a game. Zenga Facebook Apps are not considered gamification; they are social games.

1. Rethink Gamification as Engagement

In many places of work, staff will generally do the minimum necessary to get by the have-to productivity line. These people do not want to do or to achieve anything from their work; if they were, you would find their performance at a want-to level. The difference is where we find discretionary performance—the difference between Have To and Want To. When used correctly, gamification can bridge this gap effectively for all staff members.

By making your staff more engaged with their work, you could move their productivity from Have To to Want To. Gamification is an effective, scalable, and relatively cheap method to increase engagement and achieve these desired results.

2. Drive Behaviors, Not Just Results

For example, the speed camera lottery, which does not just punish speeders like the vast majority of speeding laws, will photograph drivers who are obeying the speed limit and will enter them into a lottery to win the proceeds from those who do speed. This lottery has shown the most significant reduction ever in speeding, with a 20 percent decrease. It’s classic carrot and stick, and yet, working better than anything else because it is a changing behavior of drivers and not just driving outcomes like traditional speeding laws.

If what you seek is only a measure of change in outcome, what you’re not going to get is a sustained change. Because a change in outcome is not a reliable modification with a clearly defined reason that the behavior altered and then a visible proof that the behavior has changed. The outcome alone is not going to be enough.

Many failed implementations of gamification are those that are so keen on focusing on the outcome that they haven’t thought through the design implications of which behaviors are intended for change, and guess what, when you don’t think about it, it is not going to change.

People get bored because you were seeking to reward an outcome rather than a change in behavior. Pure outcome which is based on targeting these tools will not necessarily create a sustainable increase in engagement. However, you will probably get a short-term peak.

Because you’ve got something where there is no deep understanding of the influences, and the behavior has not been modified, you run the risk that the new level of performance when the novelty fades away is actually lower than before gamification was implemented.

3. Win the Majority, Not Just Top 10%

This section discusses how you should design your system to consider and reward everyone fairly. Why?

  • If you only reward the top 10 percent, then only the top 10 percent (maybe 15 percent), will show an actual increase in performance in competing for those rewards.
    • Additionally, the remaining 85 percent are likely to feel demotivated and may even show a drop in performance.
  • Whereas rewarding everyone will increase the performance of everyone. Not to mention that the lower 85 percent have a larger margin of room for potential improvement.

When you want to really make a change, it quickly becomes apparent that making a change with a small group, playing with the numbers, and being a spreadsheet junkie, isn’t really worth it. The real value comes when you start thinking instead of just influencing the performance of a particular group. If you can actually make it affect the entire organization, why wouldn’t you? And that’s not really possible unless you design it.

Who can explain to me why we should only focus on a small subset? Like the top 10 percent instead of everyone?

4. Motivate with Non-financial Rewards

JP starts the discussion of motivation by referencing Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink and their Four Drive Theory that every human being has a drive to acquire, defend, learn, and bond. JP discusses how money is only part of that motivation; therefore, you should understand what makes people think. Being able to get those non-financial rewards built into your gamification reward structure is essential to increase engagement and therefore productivity.

Essentially, the key is being able to understand what matters to your staff, what is important to them, and then showing them how to acquire it by structuring the way those rewards are earned and rewarded. Cash alone is no way to primally motivate your staff to do their best performance.

5. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

The difference between moving someone from the ‘have to’ to the ‘want to’:

Get out with what you know how to do, watch how it works, listen to people on how it works, and reflect those learnings in what you’ve implemented in the first place.

If you want to get involved in gamification and see the real pay offs of long-term sustained change, your system needs to be agile, iterative, with inbuilt learning, and feedback loops.

Remember, this isn’t a quick fix—a deeply written business plan or a one-size fits all solution. The key is to get out there and try and adapt. You don’t have to get things right the first time. There is failure in not trying, but the bigger failure is in not listening after you’ve tried.

6. Use Social to Increase Engagement

(This section closely ties in with non-financial motivation. In fact, everything discussed could be considered a non-financial motivator.)

Feedback loops and recognition capabilities are essential motivators in any gamification system. These can be achieved efficiently through social. Engage through social by bringing peer feedback loops into your system. This can allow people to conquer barriers that they originally couldn’t, even in areas where you had previously failed like fitness, dieting, etc. JP shows us four attributes of the Gamification process:

Autonomy: This gives you ‘the kick’ (the satisfaction). Every one of JP’s three children while growing up would one day push their dad aside and proclaim “by myself!” Autonomy is something humans strive for, the ability to do something independently, without external influences.

Mastery: “What allows you to say I can increase that level again, until you conquer what it is you set out to accomplish you don’t even know there is next stage.”

Purpose: This is where a purpose of values, a higher calling, non-financial attributes all come together. This is why non-profits and charities get such motivated volunteers, the knowledge that their work has immediate purpose and helping someone is hugely motivating.

Social:“Without social, I’m not sure gamification in enterprise is even worth talking about.” Social allows your friends to quickly and unintrusively discover your achievements so they can later recognize you without the need for you to brag about them.

7. Understand Examples Within the Social Enterprise

These examples were provided throughout the Gamification track at Dreamforce, as some were mentioned above. I choose to discuss BlueWolf below as their example is most relevant to SEJ.

You may have heard of BlueWolf’s #GoingSocial campaign, but if you have not here is a quick summary.

BlueWolf decided to train its staff in social media and make them active on their social networks. They started by providing resources to give their staff a head start. They decided beyond the training they needed to encourage them to be active and they decided to gamify the entire system.

Now, they have their system setup to track everything a staff member does, from a tweet to a blog post, and to give points based on their activity. They also provide what are essentially quests/missions that suggest ways to be active. These points can then be spent on a variety of rewards like “lunch with the CEO.” BlueWolf aims for rewards with low monetary value but high social value, and believing the “what’s in it for me?” consideration is key to gamifying their staff.

Some of you may be hesitant to put their staff out there like this because you are worried about poachers, but the fact is, your staff is already out there on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I agree with BlueWolf when they say they want their staff to stay out of loyalty and love for the company and not because you gave them no other option.

So SEJ readers, what’s your take on gamification?

Justin Stein
Justin Stein is one of the first, Second Generation Online Marketers. His father Jonah Stein is a literal giant within the SEO industry. Justin began... Read Full Bio
Justin Stein
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  • Nicki Powers

    Gamification won’t move your employees from “have to” to “want to” if they don’t experience some level of affinity for your company in the first place. This blog suggests that gamification alone will solve your employee engagement problems. As an experienced gamification practitioner and strong proponent of gamification, I strongly caution against this thinking.
    If you had actually read Daniel H. Pink’s book, “Drive” you would know that the drive to bond trumps the drive to acquire when it comes to an employee / employer relationship. In other words, setting up a reward structure won’t engage anyone if your employees don’t trust you or align with your values. The only way to motivate employees with rewards is to offer more than anyone else, and you’ll lose them the minute someone else offers more.
    The carrot and stick approach is manipulative and likens people to animals. Viewing your employees as human beings first should frame your approach to designing an engagement strategy. Gamification is a tactic which supports the human quest for meaning, but it is not a strategy on it’s own.

  • Justin Stein

    Nicki, it was not my intent to suggest that gamification alone would solve employee engagement problems. I should have expanded on the fact that your employees need to like your company in some way, just as gamification will not fix a broken product it will not fix a broken workforce. The intent was to show the possibilities of gamification.

    I admit I have not had the pleasure to read Daniel’s book yet, however I am covering a session of a man far more experienced than myself who certainly had. I apologize if my interpretation of the message conveyed in the book was not up to par. However, you will note the article makes several mentions to finding out exactly what motivates your employees and building a system based on that. It does not suggest to just throw up a reward structure, it is meant to be designed specifically. Additionally, I disagree with your notion that the only way to motive your employees with rewards is to offer more than anyone else, the gamification model is a way of not just rewarding your staff but also building loyalty between them. It would take something substantial to make a loyal employee leave their firm.

    If you want to call carrot and stick manipulative, you might as well call sales manipulative, 50% off, buy one get one free, what isn’t trying to ‘manipulate’ you to do something. I’m a little insulted that you would consider the example provided a likening to animals, but the fact is Human’s are animals, we have just evolved better brains but still respond to base urges. You need only watch Laurie Santos’s TED talk on “A monkey economy as irrational as ours”: ted.com/talks/laurie_santos.html to see that we still think primally. The carrot and stick is simply showing an effective way to encourage a change in behavior, we want to stop speeding, why just punish those who speed, why not reward those who don’t?

    Again, I do not feel that this article in any way suggested that you shouldn’t view your employees as human being, it says to discuss what your employees want, it says to customize it for their personal goals and it says to listen to feedback after the system has been implemented.