I got into discussions today about gamification:
Gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications (also known as “funware”), particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, or reading web sites.
While making some pun statements about feeding dogs biscuits to make them obey, and rewarding them for doing a trick, along with some serious ones, Alan Berkson made a great statement:
I think yes. What do we have to give? Time and opinions. Opinions can turn out to be obscene comment, useless, chatter, information, knowledge or even wisdom: all that is in the eye of the beholder (although that can be influenced a lot by the sender). Time – that is something so precious that whatever amount we hand out, no one on the face of this earth is ever going to be able to give back.
So I do not think lightly about “encouraging people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring”.
The thing is, each of us values our own time differently. Some people just love to work 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, some like to hang out and do nothing – and all the usual shades of grey in between. Some people have enormous amounts of knowledge to share, others just love to hear themselves talking (bis). What’s in it for them? Truth is, it depends – per person.
We have the salary system, where we try to reward equally and measure employee input, and compensate that with employer input: money. Does that work? After a while, the system ends up keeping employees just not dissatisfied enough. Doing your best during a recession hardly ever is rewarded, or is it? And somehow the money “they owe you then” never returns into your pocket – the great benefits of ever-changing management and collective enterprise Korsakov.
What do people do that feel disappointed with the traditional reward system? They try to take back some of their investment – time. Show up late, leave early, have long lunches, meetings, or toilet visits, whatever: they take what they think is rightfully theirs.
So people have a feel for need to keep being rewarded – the funny thing is, if you ask people what they think the top-three intrinsic rewards are, they’ll usually speak for themselves (give it a try, it will teach you a lot about them). But it is exactly like Scott says: you invest time, which you value at something. You expect something back, a result, that will give you some level of satisfaction. Of course your satisfaction will increase and diminish over time, so the result should change along with it. If you look at reasons why employees leave the company, you get a nice view:
Young employees (in their twenties) don’t like to spend much time on travel or company events. They want it fast and find it hard enough as it is to discipline themselves into an 8-hour working day. After a few years, personal and work development, daily work and reward come into the picture. After 5 years, reward and personal development have become the main reason for exit.
If you look at a company “exit-graph”, you’ll notice that it just drops dead after a few years: people stop leaving and apparently “settle” – but are they still motivated or did they just give up?
All these demographics, all these different ideas about the result people want in return for their precious Time investment – can you guide that with a few simple generic gaming rules? Really – I don’t think so. Look at yourself: what motivates you know, what did 5 years ago, and what did 10 years ago?
The secret to gamification, and reward in general? Differentiation. Getting a headache of the mere idea of having to assume all answers for everyone? You should. Why not just ask?