Wednesday 21 May 2014

#GamifyHR - Gamification Design

Here are my notes on day 2 of last week's HR Gamification Summit.  Day 2 was a workshop day involving a mix of game playing and interactive group work, following different if similar processes for gamifying HR / work or other things (we spent quite a bit of time - a bit too much time for me - gamifying avoidable blindness.)

Importance of Gamification

We heard quite a bit about why gamification is so important for engagement and learning.  For example Martina Mangelsdorf introduced Nicole Lazzaro's four different kinds of fun:
  • Easy fun - casual, light, nice fun because it's easy
  • Hard fun - representing mastery, accomplishments, overcoming challenges
  • People fun - comes from social interaction
  • Serious fun - doing things that are meaningful to the individual.

Difficulty seriousness often seen as antipode of play - we need to get round this.

Again, I'm not totally convinced - I'd have preferred to have talked about enjoyment.  And I can definitely relate to serious enjoyment.  Serious fun - less so.

But Martina also linked game playing to emotional learning.  When something is rewarding valuable or surprising the human brain releases dopamine and we feel pleasure and have fun.  The same dopamine system is activated when learning happens.  Ie our brains are wired to learn.

I think there's a big focus on being social too.   Eg Willy Kriz suggested that cats play to engage in a simulation for when they have to fight.  I think (I haven't seen the feline neuroscience results) it's also, or mainly, that they're learning how to connect and engage with each other.

So one of the other concepts we looked at is self determination theory - that I'll be engaged by something if it's coming from me - which is often down to competence, autonomy and relatedness (see Dan Pink's Drive).

Ie the key is flow rather than fun.

One further benefit of games in particular is that they can be very useful to help explain complex systems.

Game Mechanics - PBL and Beyond

Games help us play, and have fun / enjoyment through their features and mechanics.  At the most basic level there is PBL - Points ,Badges and Leader Boards:
  • Points help keep score, provide feedback, display progress, connect to rewards, are fungabile (= they are all equal, providing a universal currency)
  • Badges represent achievement, signal importance, can be stylish, offer credentials, can be collected, display social status, offer flexibility (you can represent anything in a badge)
  • Leader boards provide ranking, and work well with ambitious players, plus can be personalised, but the risk is demotivation (people may choose to amandon the game because they don't find it fun or feel they can't win.   Whatever you do, don't break the feedback loop so that people want to keep on playing!

I can't say I'm a great fan of PB or L.  And I still don't believe that 'most of us want to earn points, gain badges, and move up levels' any more than I did before the conference.  In fact, even where they do work, it's only because they help us monitor our progress towards something else - PBL have little value on their own to most, or at least a lot of people.

I also thought it  interesting that even if this group of, or at least including, geeks and gamers, other than An Coppens I was the only person checking in to the hotel on Foursquare.  I use Foursquare quite a bit though until this conference I'd never shared any of my badges.  In fact I can't think of any badges which have been important to me since I left cub scouts.

I used to think the same about leader boards, however we had one of these to encourage tweeting at the conference.  And after tweeting that it meant absolutely no difference to my own twroductivity I noticed that as I started to fall out of the top six tweeters I did start to tweet a bit more to stay on the scoreboard.  That made sense for me - I don't get work by tweeting but all things being equal I'd rather be on a projector screen than not on there.  But it didn't really help the conference as most of my additional tweets were quick and easy actions to give me more points, not to engage in conversation, which is my normal purpose in tweeting.  So for example I tweeted a few links to other articles or previous tweets around gamification.  Ie I engaged in what we often call dsyfunctional behaviour (even though at an individual level it's totally functional, or gaming the system.

I think there's a lot of this with PBLs.  And even if it works, it works by encouraging competition.  And actually we've got far too much competition in most organisations already.  I liked the example of a leaderboard for cleaners at Disney - who were all trying to do a great job already but weren't slightly competitive - and referred to ait s the electronic whip instrument.

But I'm more convinced by some of the other mechanics which do foster collaboration.  These can include avatars, teams (social graphs), challenges (quests, missions), rewards, resource collection, feedback, progress and completion etc.

Having said that I wasn't that engaged by the various games we played during the conference eg gamification bingo.  I did quite enjoy Stephen Shapiro’s personality poker though.  And I loved Willy's use of thumb wrestling to show the benefit of collaborative vs competitive behaviour (people set goals to beat other player by one point rather than to co-operate and each make a higher number of points).

Gamification Process

So after having reviewed game mechanics we can move onto the gamification process.  Martina suggested that in simple terms this is:
  • Strategy first, including measures (thought I thought Phaedra made a good point that if the game is good, you generally don't need to worry about proving it)
  • Design thinking - understanding people their behavioural profiles, actions, experiences eg in onboarding what journies happen in 1st hour, 1st day, 2nd day, 1st week etc - how will we make them feel

  • Use game mechanics before you build or buy the game
  • Understand intrinsic and extrinsic motivation - gamification is 75% psychology and 25% technology
  • Select a pilot - test it
  • Communicate

An Coppens took us through other processes include Kevin Werbach's 6Ds:
  • Design business objectives (vs games can be just for fun)
  • Delineate target behaviour (positive / more of)
  • Describe your players (who are they / what do they love / hate)
  • Devise activity loops (game mechanics)
  • Don't forget the fun (where does the buzz come from?)
  • Deploy the appropriate tools (no / low / complex tech)

Or there's Gabe Zicherman's players' journey to mastery:
  • Find what the target audience wants / needs - emotional triggers
  • Design challenges based on these triggers
  • Design rewards based on wants  / needs (not just badges)
  • Design communication for platforms where your target group spends time
  • Invite players to participate - implement communication plan and player registration

Rajiv Vaid Basalawmoit suggested using the Design Council's 4D / Double Diamond process:
  • Discover (divergent - what do we know)
  • Define (convergent - what's the problem)
  • Develop (divergent - potential solutions)
  • Deliver (convergent - what we're going to do)

Phaedra's Rule 1 is - if you aren't spending majority of your time understanding what motivates your audience you're doing it wrong - and will end up with 'chocolate covered broccoli' - something boring which doesn't stop being boring just because it's dressed up (eg World of Warcraft for database administration).  You should always be asking what is fun about what I'm trying to teach?  That also implies content gamification is going to work better than structural gamification:
  • Structural gamification no change to content but motivate to go though content and engage in learning process
  • Content gamification make the content itself more game like

Phaedra also introduced a further process for selecting games if this is needed to support the gamifcation process (it may not):
  • ROI
  • Learning / pain points
  • Puzzles  experience to teach and motivate
  • Technology genre
  • Platform

I thought this was useful to connect gamification and gaming - ie that even if all you're trying to do is to development a recruitment or learning game you'll still do well to follow the full gamification process, ensuring you don't end up with brown vegetables.

The challenge with games can be in translating engagement and learning back into the workplace.  However Phaedra suggested that IBM try to create a 'social wrapper' to help people apply their learnings from games into work.

So what about if you decide that a game isn't required?  My slight worry then about all the above processes is that, with the slight if important exception of the mechanics and activity loops, they end up looking like a fairly typical / traditional process design process (eg compare them to the Social Business POST process).  So how else is gamification different to more traditional working?

Several of the speakers suggested one common attribute of a gamified approach is that it provides a safe environment in which to fail.  Another might be that it's about creating a level playing field (Rajiv talked about cricket in his sessions on social entrepreneurship.)  I also liked Tom Chatfield's suggestion that we should  turn 'failed' into ' not yet succeeded'.

To me, it is about starting with a traditional process design approach.  But then injecting extra elements around funology and game mechanics.  It's why I don't think Tom's tweeted suggestion that gamification is just a marketing buzzword for people to find ti difficult to accept that humans are inherently playful is helpful.  Gamification has to be different from normal process design to make it worth talking about (as not everything can be or needs to be gamified - we may be inherently playful but we're lots of other things as well, and not everyone may want their fun at work), and if it's different then we need a different name for it, and to understand what it is.

So this is how I'm currently seeing things...

However I'm attending the Gamification World Congress in Barcelona on Friday so I may change my mind around this soon.

Conference Summary

I was really pleased to attend the conference and thank Fleming as having me there to blog on it.

It was certainly an interesting three days, and there are always opportunities for improvement in any conference.  For me the main opportunities are about closing the gap between gaming and gamification.

We talked about the gamification process, we used it to think about opportunities in areas like onboarding and performance management (I'm definitely going to look out for GE replacing forced ranking with doodling!) and more fully (much more fully!) for avoidable blindness.  Personally I'd rather have used this time to consider gamification in HR.  And to have had some case studies on this, rather than just ones on serious gaming (other than IBM which is many miles ahead of where most organisations are looking.)

But this may just be me.  Most attendees didn't seem to see the distinction between gaming and gamification as so important, and to the extent that there is a difference seemed most interested in the gaming.  Eg at the end of the first day I suggested the chair change some of the roundtable sessions to create more time for discussion on gamification.  They ignored me - correctly - as the group split quite nicely into seven groups where six were on gaming and only one on gamification, and this wasn't even one of the biggest, though I do think it was the best.

However, I do accept that, as Tom suggested, digital and non digital both provide opportunities but digital allows us to learn from play like never before.  So online games are likely to be an increasingly common end result of the gamification process.

I've certainly increased my interest in both gaming and gamification through the conference.  One of the things I think will stick with me is the scoreboard from Boehringer Ingelheim's Professor Syrum game, which Andy Stafford referred to as a dicombobulator (I'm still not sure why, but I do like the term).  Well I monitored my own personal gamification discombobulator through the conference, and definitely feel 'levelled up' in terms of my understanding but confidence in all of this as well.

Also see:


  • Consulting - Research - Speaking - Training - Writing
  • Strategy - Talent - Engagement - Change and OD 
  • Contact me to create more value for your business
  • jon [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com


Post a Comment

Please add your comment here (email me your comments if you have trouble and I will put them up for you)