In our previous post, my colleague Tom and I recapped Seth Priebatsch’s SXSWi keynote address and introduced the concept of enterprise gamification.
Taking tacit game mechanics already at play and providing deliberate structure and reward schedules gives companies a potentially powerful social business design tool. Enterprise gamification’s power lies in its ability to influence individual behavior and create hivemind, an often elusive enterprise dynamic. While the right game makes this dynamic more achievable, the complexity of influencing human behavior necessitates planning and design. Taking time to understand game mechanics and the psychology of rewards will lead to more effective games, engaged employees and better business results.
The Email Game
To explore these concepts let’s outline a simple game that helps Company X promote its low cost provider strategy. The goal of the game is to lower network storage costs by reducing the amount of email employees store in their inbox. Company X decides to reward employees with one point whenever they delete an email.
A well designed game aligns individual rewards with the strategic objectives of the business. Properly incentivized employees will then repeat behavior beneficial to company goals. Two types of rewards exist:
Intrinsic rewards come from the enjoyment of the activity itself, reducing email storage in Company X’s case. The best games, often the most addicting, create enjoyment by fulfilling basic human needs:
Autonomy is the feeling that your activities are self-chosen. Company X can incorporate this feeling into their game by giving employees additional ways to earn points. Besides deleting emails, archiving emails locally can also result in a point. Now employees have choice.
Competence is the feeling of confidence and effectiveness in one’s activities. The accumulation of points gives employees direct and frequent feedback. The Email Game can provide additional feedback by creating dashboards that track saved space and individual contribution to company cost savings.
Connectedness comes from a sense of closeness to others. The Email Game can create connectedness by allowing org-chart based groups to compete. Individuals will be rewarded for working together to reduce their organization’s email footprint.
These rewards come from outside the individual: the Email Game’s points. While not as personally meaningful as intrinsic rewards, extrinsic rewards set the basis for competition, standard measures by which players compare performance. To increase their value Company X can tie their extrinsic rewards (points) achievement to real world benefits, e.g. paid-time-off, gift certificates to the company store, a meeting with the CIO.
Rewards explain why people participate, Game Mechanics dictate the who, what, when and where. A well designed game’s incentives harmonize with its mechanics. SCVNGR, Priebatsch’s company, defines 47 game mechanics. Let’s review four in the context of the Email Game:
Appointment is a mechanic that involves returning at a predefined time to perform a predetermined action. Company X might make the lunch hour more productive by offering a double-point bonus.
Influence & Status uses social pressure to modify behavior. By implementing leader-boards across geographical, organizational and individual levels Company X can create a sense of status and competition. This mechanic also feeds an employee’s sense of Competence.
Progression is a mechanic by which progress is displayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks. A simple daily progression in the Email Game could include two steps: clicking through all mailbox folders to check for deletion candidates and archiving your entire inbox to a local directory. Successful completion of these activities results in a point.
Communal Discovery is when a community must come together to complete a challenge. The previously suggested idea of group based incentives is an example of Communal Discovery. This mechanic also directly ties in to an individual sense of Connectedness.
By no means an exhaustive guide, this post introduces fundamental concepts to Game Layer creation. Turning work into a game involves more than bribing employees with points. Developing effective games for your company will be an evolutionary process. Even the simplest games engage complex behavioral dynamics. Be sure to plan, measure your progress and iterate as new behaviors emerge.
Game on. (Game on)