I was interviewed by Marc Kramer for Best Business Minds: Business Book Authors in a zoom call with his audience last week. A video of the call is below. I also attach below some of my pre-meeting notes for interest.
- What is gamification?
Game like feedback on real world activities
- What is the difference between finite and infinite gaming?
Finite ends with a win - a completed course for example. Infinite continues forever.
- What industries and jobs benefit the most from using gamification?
Professional work where productivity is hard to measure
- Why is adoption and performance important?
It’s one thing to learn something, quite another to actually do it or excel at it. For example I can lean how to create a podcast but it’s only when I actually start making them and then making them well that it provides any real benefit.
- You give examples of infinite gamification can you tell the audience a few?
Something like employee of the month is classic infinite gamification - each month one employee receives the recognition, this can carry on for as long as the team is there. More specific examples are sales jobs where sales professionals see a score, and often a rank, associated with their sales performance against target for the previous quarter.
- How do companies currently use gamification and can they use it to improve performance?
Crucially gamification helps companies signpost the metrics that matter for employees. For example PWC gamifies Twitter usage with a it’s power 100 leaderboard - there is no prize for winning, other than the recognition of colleagues, however it does encourage employees to create their own social presence and use it to talk about their work. This helps by extending the marketing performance of the overall business as the combined reach of their staff spreads messages about PWC much further than from its own channel.
- How can government leaders use it for positive change?
Governments need to recognise the difference between a good infinite gamification program and a bad program, a good score and a bad score. When they publish a well designed score and ranking - this drives the right behaviour among government departments and citizens. A bad score drives the wrong behaviour such as schools focusing only on the education that improves their ranking in performance tables at the expense of a broader curriculum.
- Is developing metrics for almost everything considered gamification?
When we consider that any metric shared with the participant intended for them to optimise as a result then yes that’s gamification.
- What are most gamification based on?
It’s almost all based on quantitative data - and there’s one of the key issues - not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts, as Einstein said.
- How do we use gamification every day?
When I check the number of emails I’ve received to see how important I am, that’s gamification. When I count my retweets of a post on Twitter or the number of friends I have on facebook. More regularly I might look at my day and say it was a good day or a bad day. If I make a note of that and compare progress week to week - I’m gamifying my happiness (aka subjective wellbeing!)
- When can gamification be dangerous?
When behaviour alters to succeed in the game but that can be catastrophic if it goes too far - someone who injures themselves trying to hit their FitBit step count for the day, or a free diver who stays underwater too long trying to break the record for holding their breath. A classic example is the Wells Fargo scandal recently where millions of accounts were opened fraudulently for consumers just so sales staff could hit their internal targets.
- What is the process for developing a meaningful gamification program?
Analysis, Design, Evolution
- What is meant by a prime directive?
It’s the main objective of this particular infinite gamification program. Why does the program exist at all? Many companies try to combine business objectives into a single program which is very hard to do - it’s usually easier just to run two programs side by side.
- What is a formal score?
This is one which is written into your terms of work - for example a sales rep will have a sales target they must hit to achieve commission or face termination. The very real stick and carrot makes it a formal score when compared to more informal scores such as the number of new prospects they added to the sales database that month.
- What is the best way to use gamification and to improve performance?
I think keeping it simple and evolving the program in response to how people use it. Players will tell you the metrics they need to help themselves improve.
- When designing a program what are the five potential roles?
Manger, Coach,Commentator, Referee, Player-Coach
- What is player needs analysis and how can businesses use it?
Lots of metric systems are organisation centred design - what does the organisation need to happen for it to succeed. Player entered design looks at the needs of the player - the participant in the system. Taking our sales reps as an example, while the organisation really only cares about sales revenue (it doesn’t mind how that comes about) a sales manager might design a program that signposts to reps the behaviours that lead to good sales revenue (making a prospect list, making calls and so on)
- How can gamification change behavior?
A player looks at their score for the period, sees how they have done in comparison with peers and decides either to continue with the same behaviour or to change behaviour to try to improve their score in the next period. For example a sales rep might see that they are doing worse than other reps on making calls so resolves to make more calls next month.
- I was surprised to read your mention of focus groups. How are they used?
Sometimes we introduce gamification into groups of players whose needs may diverge slightly or not be clear. Focus groups help gamification designers find the areas of common ground where a score will be helpful. For example to create a beauty index of top beauty bloggers we created a focus group with different bloggers - some old hands, some just starting out. It helped us find the metrics (engagement in this case) that were common to all.
- Please talk about player personas and how that figures into developing the right games for performance improvement?
People respond to any sort of scoring program in different ways. Player personas help designers get inside the head of their players and so can see whether a particular format will work for them. For example when a client created a program for electrical faults engineers a key design question was what was the right level of comparison to show - was it none at all or was it more fun for everyone to see themselves.
- What is and are the best incentives?
Best incentives are intrinsic - things people want to do themselves. Get fit, lose weight, have more friends, do well at their job. A program that
- What is wrong with mandatory programs?
Any gamification program signposts behaviours that the designers believe will help players be more successful. If someone feels that the program has been pushed onto them they will be less likely to buy in to the optimisation drive of the program. Opt in gets buy in and that helps the program in two ways - players continue to optimise and they are more likely to challenge metrics and help the program evolve.
- Talk about the value of leagues.
Leagues have their place. In most communities top performers (say top 10%) always enjoy jostling for position. The bragging rights are what keep them going. for new comers they show them quickly how much work they need to do to perform
However for mid tier and lower performers leagues themselves present less value - knowing you are still 160th each month isn’t much of a motivator. To make leagues more effective its worth splitting them down by region or function for example. Most people are more motivated being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a big pond. Many designers do this but then make the mistake of still showing the main leaderboard - if you split leaderboards by geo, then keep reporting at that level.
-What are lag and lead metrics and how do they effect decisions?
A lag metric really happens after the fact - number of twitter followers is a lag metric - you can’t affect it directly, if you post good content, it gets high engagement (all lead metrics) then you can look forward to getting more followers.
- What are reciprocity metrics?
What someone does in response to something you’ve done.
- What are positive metrics and how can the affect performance?
This is crucial - we are all hardwired to try and increase numbers. If you position any number - rather than publish the number of yearly accidents on a building site, instead publish the number of accident free days.
- How often should you reset scores?
Resetting scores allows newcomers to join in. The reset period will depend on context - for some it might be daily, others quarelty.
- What are the most common pitfalls and mistakes made?
Common pitfalls - starting too complex, incentivising too much too early and not evolving
- What are considered unwanted behaviors?
Gaming the system, moral drift (doing bad things to win at the game), Channelling (narrowing focus on tracked behaveiours)
- How do you stop people from gaming the system?
Main way is to make them the ones that lose if they game the system - for example Fitbit - I can wave my arm in the air to add steps but the only person I’m cheating really is myself. Additionally I think gaming happens when one activity is too cheap - it is easy to do but gets a lot of points, spotting this and changing the score system is a good way to keep ahead of the gamers.
- What is the future of gamification and how do you see it changing?
A skill taught in business school. Maturity around scores will increase the conversation so we all have better scores in our lives.