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by David Mastronardi & Tom Cummings , originally posted here.

In our previous post, my colleague Tom and I recapped Seth Priebatsch’s SXSWi keynote address and introduced the concept of enterprise gamification.

That's engagement

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

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.

Extrinsic Rewards

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.

Game Mechanics

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)

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After trying different ways of taking notes during the panels here, I’ve found that pen and notebook work best for me.  Putting them in digital real-time isn’t my cup of tea, unless you count taking pictures of your notebook.

Day 1

Panel:  My Boss Doesn’t Get It: Championing Social Media to the Man

Didn’t get to see this panel b/c the registration line was so long.  Here’s a source for various recaps.

Panel:  Ooh, That’s Clever.  (Unnatural Experiments in Web Design) – Paul Annett
  • Loved this panel – really inspired thought
  • People love to stumble on hidden things (easter eggs) / discover the secret to a magic trick.  Incorporate these elements into your site design.
  • Kano Model of Satisfaction – you need to take into consideration different levels of needs & expectations when designing sites…or anything.
  • There are simple, creative ways to endear people to your site
  • When thinking about incorporating these types of elements into your site it is better to ask forgiveness later than ask permission up front.  Your customer might not approve your request, but if you show them the finished product they’ll appreciate it.
  • Here are the sites that Paul used in his presentation:
    Here is Paul’s presentation in full w/ audio:
Panel:  Try Making Yourself More Interesting

would people care if your ‘product/idea/service’ went away?  If the answer is ‘no,’ then you’re doing something wrong.

  • I was really looking forward to this panel, like for 32 years.
  • The underlying message in this panel:  there are no shortcuts, so do what you love and what you’re passionate about.
  • The panel had some very strong players, such as the founders of PhotoJoJo & Get Satisfaction, however the content didn’t live up to what you would expect.
  • From a business standpoint, they didn’t have much to offer.  In fact, I heard the founder of Get Satisfaction say that they deliberately don’t measure anything.  It’s cute and counter but misguided.  In the long-run it will be a mistake.
  • The panel got good when Kristina Halvorson of Braintraffic jumped in and pointed out that ‘measuring nothing’ won’t fly with her customers.  Same here.  That’s the reality 99% of us have to deal with; our customers want metrics.  They won’t be our customers for long if we don’t provide numbers.
  • Halvorson continued to add value:
    • People have great ideas.  They get them out & they’re great.  Time goes buy.  The ideas sit and grow stagnant.  More time.  The ideas now suck.
    • We need to govern our ideas: care and feed for our epic shit.
    • Process = Plan.  Create.  Publish.  Govern
    • As our awesomeness grows we hit a tipping point and we realize that we’re out there.  We need to have courage, stick to our principles and stay focused.