What exactly is Gamification?

Allan Steinmetz, CEO of Inward Strategic Consulting
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Allan Steinmetz, CEO of Inward Strategic Consulting

Allan Steinmetz, CEO of Inward Strategic Consulting

Gamification it is taking over the learning and development industry, training, customer engagement, loyalty and marketing programming and internal communications. But what exactly is gamification? A lot of people think they know what gamification is, but this is a lot of misconception and mystery around this topic. Gamification is a relatively “new” topic that’s been getting a lot of attention over the past few years. While the practices of what we now know as “gamification” have been around for a long time – there was never a name associated with it until the early 2000s and even then, it didn’t become popular until 2010. After a couple years Oxford finally added it to their dictionary in 2012. Back in 2015 Gartner Inc. estimated that more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify these processes.No doubt, that number has risen since then.

What is Gamification?Oxford defines gamification as: “the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity”. So, in other words, it’s the idea of using game-design thinking in non-game applications  to motivate and engage users and solve problems.

Gamification is basically the use of game mechanic and game dynamics in non-game contexts. The main element of gamification, according to its proponents, is that it makes learning and engagement more appealing by providing more immersive content.

So if you’ve ever used the app, foursquare – you know you are awarded badges for checking in to various locations around town.And what about your LinkedIn page – have you noticed that progress bar that encourages you to fill out your profile so you can achieve a 100% completion?Most frequent flier miles and Hotel loyalty programs… track your flights/stays and level you up to the next tier once you’ve achieved a certain number of trips, right

These are all examples of gamification programs. You aren’t really playing a game, but rather experiencing game mechanics – like Badges, Challenges, Levels, Leader boards,&points —to keep you engaged with the programs.

 Gamification is the application of typical elements of game play  to other areas of activity 

You can think about gamification in 2 pieces: Implicit and Explicit

Implicit:  Gameful design that serves a purpose but there isn’t any game play. In this case, there is a defined purpose but game design elements are invisible to the user. (Example: LinkedIn progress bar – the defined purpose is to get you to complete your profile so you show up in more searches and get have more opportunities for moving up in your career.)

Explicit: Games – with actual game play – that users opt in to. (Example: McD’s Monopoly – people know they are playing a game but the goal is to get people to come buy more food). Explicit games include all the elements of gamification and a real game. It will look and feel like a real game, but has some defined purpose, outcome or message the creators want to get across to users.

Both implicit or explicit gamification are great solutions for engaging employees, customers, students, you name it! One isn’t better than the other. The key is knowing your audience, understanding what motivates them and designing your gamification program to best suit their needs.

In gamification, the game mechanics are used to fulfill a human’s fundamental needs and desires. So the mechanics are chosen based on the needs and desires of the target audience. If your culture isn’t a competitive culture, it may not make sense to use points and a leaderboard. In fact, if that truly goes against the company’s culture, using a leaderboard may discourage people from participating in your gamification program.

How to get started?

First, you need to start by identifying your objectives. …What are you trying to accomplish? What are your business goals? Think about how you are going to get there- What actions and thoughts do you need users to have to meet these goals? How can you use gamification to alter their behavior to help meet these goals? What are your KPI’s going to be? How are you going to prove ROI?

Second, Then, spend some time analyzing your target audience. Who are they? Employees? – Are they corporate employees or located in field locations? Is this a global initiative or U.S. employees only? Will it need to be translated in multiple languages? Are employees hourly or salary-based? Or both?

Third,is technology platforms. One of the most important pieces of the strategy is to understand your limitations in terms of technology. With some of our clients, that has been a big struggle- how to initiate a new-aged methodology with stone-aged equipment and platforms. What Kind of Technology are you going to use? Will your game live on its own site or will it be built into an existing program? (Intranet, etc)What kind of mobile experience are you working towards?  Is your game mobile friendly?

Is there a security clearance we will need to work through with your legal and IT teams? What kind of process (we have learned it can be long) is there to get white-listed?

If global, find out the legal/IT limitations do we need to keep in mind for connecting in other countries.

Forth, are incentives. Incentives are a big part of any gamification program. How do you plan to incentivize? Will you use tangible or monetary incentives –it depends on the company culture. Will you offer Prizes, gift cards, etc? Do you have a budget for incentives? Fulfillment, shipping, etc..

Fifth, measuring success - How are you going to measure success?User Feedback (built-in surveys, qualitative focus groups). Usage and visits- we’ve found in the work we have done in retail that this was our most powerful metric. It’s not enough to just capture data-you need meaningful analysis of the results. As a team you must decide how you will measure ROI by deciding what your KPIs will be and draw clear expectations from the get-go. From a dashboard perspective, think through what information you need available first hand. Through trial and error- we learned that this is an important piece of the reporting puzzle.

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