Gamification concepts for organisations


Just to clarify Sebastians talk is about how Gamification aspects alone are not going to achieve your purpose of encouraging adoption; to persuade or influence desired behaviours; to perform boring activities.

Gamification is mostly refered to or applied in motivating behaviour by earning points, rewards, and competing with others…it appeals to our competitive nature, it appeals to the ego…at the same time I’m not doubting that it’s not playful, but for how long.

Gamification elements alone will not make an application or activity sustainable in the long run…it’s merely an ingredient, but not the main ingredient. The whole purpose or driving design (or motivation) of an application or activity will be weak in the long run if it’s based on elements of gamification at its core.

eg. Sebastian talks about was a site that tried to collect fan fiction throughout the net. They offered sweepstakes, competitions on who is the best fan fiction writer. It went under as they didn’t think about the meaning, purpose, and users. This type of activity is about collaboration, expression, and mutual help…rather than competition. They used the wrong game mechanic.

It also depends on the task and context, like Dan Pink shares in his TED talk (The surprising science of motivation), if the task is easy or a no brainer or doesn’t have that much personal meaning, then rewards work quite well eg. if I get dessert to take out the trash then that is no effort at all for what I get in return. But as soon as the task is meaninful, challenging, engaging, etc…then extrinsic rewards are less of a motivator.

And this is what Sebastian’s presentation is about; it’s the missing ingredients ie.the “Gameful” concepts that make an experience engaging.

Gamification is just part of the Gameful experience; and the main essence of this is the inspiration for his presentation, they are: Meaning, Mastery and Autonomy.

Do yourself a favour and check out these awesome and most insightful presentations by Sebastian Deterding on “gamification”. So much insight from the world of games that can be used for parenting, education, management, employee engagement, Communities of Practice, etc…

Here’s a video of Sebastian’s Google Tech Talk, Meaningful Play: Getting Gamification Right

Here are my four favourites:

Persuasive Design or The Fine Art of Separating People from Their Bad Behaviours - Online

Don’t Play Games With Me! Promises and Pitfalls of Gameful Design

Meaningful Play. Getting »Gamification« Right

Pawned. Gamification and Its Discontents

What I’m going to do now is curate my favourite slides below

Gamification - integrating game dynamics into your site, service, etc…in order to drive participation

Points (progress, tracking, feedback) 

Badges (goals, rewards)

Leaderboards (compare, competition)

Incentives (rewards)

Connect with something that is already meaningful with a person

NOTE - I have always educated facilitators of Communities of Practice on this when they workshop with their members. Besides are shared purpose and identity, the community also has to have personal appeal and relevancy eg. can I have my own blog, or can I help design the homepage as I want to gain those skills, or can I help facilitate group sessions as I want to gain those skills, or can I plan an event as I want to gain those skills, etc…

There has to be a genuine sound first -  a value, an interest, a motivation

Support the personal growths of people

Something worth bragging about better be a real achievement that I and people care about

NOTE - The Collaboration curve describes how the World of Warcraft community demonstrate embedded KM without even knowing it.

Greater purpose, doing good for society as well as personal meaning

The mastery ingredient - the experience of being competent, or achieving something

But most vendors paint a picture of rewards as fun

It’s about mastery. achievement, challenge and learning

For engagement and appeal it needs to be intrinsically motivating, not just extrinsically rewarded

Learning best happens when it’s applied in context.

NOTE - I remember reading somewhere about that typical scenario of children not liking maths and asking that question why do we have to learn this, when are we going to use it. As a result a few of them were not motivated and therefore lacked skills in maths. Yet these same few were indeed able to apply maths skills when playing a game of cricket where they added up scores and worked out batting averages, and how many runs are needed to win

Mastery is achievable with interesting challenges via goals, rules, challenges and feedback.

Take the game of golf as an example…

Make this obvious by making the goals visual, and clear way to achieve

Small goals, a step at a time…a good balance of short-term and long-term.

This relates to Tom Chatfield’s TED presentation (approx 9 minutes in); giving people short/long term, diverse, tasks that you can choose and do in parallel and with varied people…in order to optimise interest and engagement.


People feel best when they are neither underchallenged (boredom) or overchallenged (anxiety and frustration), but right at the level of their skills…challenges have to increase to keep up with growing skills

Experiment and fail, reflect and learn…these are conditions that make us think

Challenges need to be diverse, and varied…that slowly increase in complexity with users proficiency and investment

NOTE - this is another thing I educate facilitators of Community of Practice. People need a pat on the back, they need checkpoints or points in time of encouragement, and recognised for a job well done…a feeling of progress, acknowledgement, performance and growth…all this leads to more participation

Watch out for “Gaming the system”

You end up churning out high quantity at low quality. This is an old skool KM thing of the past. And the health industry has examples of meeting targets without achieving intended value.

Here’s another example of the health system and also on parenting…

Delivered on target, but hurt the intention…

Toilet training - a Skittle for each time you go to the toilet. She perverted this by going to the toilet every twenty minutes…the whole experience and life lesson got lost in this economic game.

Autonomy in the freedom to have control of what you do…feel co-ownership in what happens…play without being observed…experiment, fail and learn

Autonomy is damaged if extrinsic awards are put on an activity eg. cash, punishment, evaluation…it curbs the autonomy as you no longer are in control, or it’s conditional

NOTE - Clay Shirky’s book “Cognitive Surplus” (p131) describes Deci’s study on personal motivations of autonomy and competence, as well as Gneezy’s study on social motivations. I found the later quite interesting; the concept of a reverse reward. ie. to curb people picking up their children late from day care they introduced a fine…but this backfired as even more people were late. Clay says "the fine turned the day care from a shared enterprise into a simple fee-for-service transaction, allowing the parents to regard the workers’ time as a commodity." This indeed is a peril or danger of an extrinsic motivation.

I wonder how this weighs up with sites that give a member status based on contributions. eg. citizen journalism sites that have types of members based on contribution like cadet, lead editor, etc…this also relates to gaming the system

Feeling controlled and pressured via competing for rewards. I wonder how peer to peer recommendation/kudos talent performance systems like Rypple (similar to LinkedIn recommendations feature) weigh up here in relation to gaming, and autonomy.

NOTE - This is a classic parenting tip in that the child will no longer feel empowered and zen with the activity…it’s no longer about internal satisfaction…the activity loses it’s purpose as a vehicle for experience, understanding, learning and growth…and instead becomes a way to achieve an shallow outcome “a reward” eg. pocket money. This “gaming the system” concept was pretty much covered on previous slides with the skittles and toilet training debarkle.

Here’s the strategy or goal you are given or that we co-created, and now you have the autonomy to come up with the tactics and ways to achieve it

NOTE - I like how the Ritz-Carlton went from a very prescriptive best practice customer service checklist, which left no room for autonomy or resilience, to a more loosely based one that allowed for personal judgement and improvisation…these are conditions for engagement and meaningful work. Also see my post, “I am knowledge worker”, says the Janitor.

Here’s more on that from a supermarket check-out person’s perspective

NOTE - Offer feedback rather than control, so the person is empowered to self improve.

Here’s my snippet of the ultimate presentation on this concept of feedback loops

"Translate desired patterns of behaviour into data that can be passively tracked and measured…Attach points to these behaviours

Display score in a fun way:Ford and Honda’s next -gen instrument clusters feature trees that grows more lush as drivers learn to hypermile - the fine art of maximising fuel economy

You don’t feel controlled by this because there is not a direct or causal relationship between the activity and the reward.

This relates to Tom Chatfield’s TED presentation (approx 10:30 minutes in)

NOTE - I was recognised by a vendor community for my participation…they made me a co-facilitator and rewarded me with a gift at christmas time. This was unexpected, and made me feel good. It wouldn’t of mattered if I didn’t get the unexpected reward as my participation is based on intrinsic motivation, but the fact that I did get it brought us closer, more respect, more of a feeling to look out for each other, and go that extra mile (you know when you do it not because you are intrinsically motivated, but for love).

Three strategies to influence behaviour - contraints, facilitation, motivation

Another take is by Dr BJ Fogg - motivation, ability, trigger

The design excludes deviation from the desired path of behaviour

Each time they unconsciously start to bite their nails again, the bitter taste interrupts the habit

How many of us would turn off appliances on stand-by…if their cables would signal through bright light that they are indeed using lots of electricity right now?

The next series of slides take us back to feedback loops which I linked to a presentation in a previous slide

How to translate the impulse of “aw yes I should” into action

NOTE - This is the "Nudge" school of behavioural econonmics…that old picture of a fly in the toilet bowl so you aim right and don’t wet the room (all without being told, instead the design messed with you to behave civil)

How about being "nudged" into cooperation:

"…what would make hordes of previously inactive citizens leap to their feet to volunteer to fish trolleys from canals or look after elderly neighbours?

…residents would get a loyalty card similar to those available in shops”

And let’s not forget to mention Descriptive norms in promoting desired social behaviour

"…messages that described the participation in the conservation program by hotel guests were most effective when describing group behavior that occurred in the setting that most closely matched individuals’ immediate situational circumstances (i.e. “the majority of guests in this room reuse their towels”).

When trying to influence others, don’t ignore the power of the situation

…people take their cues from those who have shared an immediate setting, situation, or circumstance”

NOTE - The existence of babies sustain a compassionate world…no really! (links about CoPs and belonging and ownership)


Games and self-interest

I’m going to go read Larry Iron’s posts on gamification and do a follow-up post:

Don’t Gamify Wild Bill

Social Flow in Gameful Design

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