Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The 4 Mistakes Every First-Timer Makes with Gamification Design

As a gamification strategist and designer, I am excited that there is a lot of buzz around gamification in corporate learning and talent management. And at the same time I see a lot of confusion about what it really means to gamify a learning program. One thing I try to make clear is that gamification is NOT about designing a game, nor is it simply adding a way to earn points or handing out badges to your learners. It’s about finding the right motivators for your audience that promote the desired actions to achieve the desired outcomes.
So as you start your gamification strategy design, be sure to conduct a self-audit of the four common mistakes listed below – rather than just jumping in to a solution that may not be appropriate for you.

Mistake #1:  Failing to answer, “Why are we playing?”Instead of asking, “How can we leverage gamification in our organization?” begin with clearly defined objectives, then ask if gamification is a suitable avenue to achieve those objectives.
Many people confuse goals and objectives. A goal is a general guideline that explains what you want to achieve. Such as, “We want to increase our sales in each division this year, thus increasing our overall percentage of market share.”
Objectives, on the other hand, typically define strategies or implementation steps to attain the identified goals. Unlike goals, objectives are specific, measurable, and have a defined completion date. They are more specific and outline the “who, what, when, where, and how” of reaching the goal.
 Be crystal clear when stating your project’s objectives. The more specific your project objectives are, the greater your chances are of achieving them.
Mistake #2:  Failing to identify, “Who is the game for?”Why do some people engage in a gamified process, while others disengage in frustration? Why do some game elements appeal to some people, but have no effect on others?
 The problem is based in our personal motivation profile is core to who we are, our personalities, and how we make decisions. We have trouble understanding the perspective of those whose profile is significantly different from ours. And this is where the breakdown often happens between game designer and player.
 Dr. Reiss, of The Reiss Profile, identifies this problem as “self-hugging.” He says, not only do we believe everyone should be like us, but that they are like us.
 In gamification design, it is important to realize that you, as a developer, have different motivations for playing than most of the people you encounter. Don’t assume your players want things your way. Talk with potential players to find out what really makes them tick.
 Mistake #3:  Attempting to fix a broken product or service with gamification.A common misuse of gamification is attempting to fix something that is already broken. It’s like the time my youngest son baked a cake for us. The icing looked deliciously creamy and sweet. He had even added some colorful sprinkles and swirly designs. We thought, “Yum, this is going to be good!” But on the first bite we were puzzled, because although the icing tasted as good as it looked, it was apparent that something was amuck with the cake. With a second bite, this fear was confirmed.
 We inquired as nicely as we could, “The icing is great, but what’s wrong with the cake?” He confessed that he misread the recipe and put in 3 tablespoons instead of 3 teaspoons of baking powder, which caused the caked to be flat and bitter.
 He was hoping the sweetness of the icing would compensate for the bitterness of the cake. Instead, it left me wondering, “Why would you take the time and energy to put this delicious icing on such a terrible cake?”
 The same is true for your gamification design. If done right, it’s colorful, fun, and inviting. It will draw in your users, and they’ll want to taste it to see if it is as good as it looks. When they find out that your product quality doesn’t match your marketing language, or that your customer service department should really be called the Customer Torture Department, they will wonder why you bothered gamifying the process. It will appear that you were simply trying to disguise a broken system.
 You have to solve the problem of a bad product or bad service before you can truly leverage the power of gamification.
 Mistake #4:  Believing that PBLs are GamificationWhen colleagues ask my advice about choosing a gamification platform, I typically start with a few words of caution, “If the sales person or consultant starts their discussion enthusiastically describing how their gamification platform is designed around point, badges, and leaderboards (PBLs)… run out of the room as fast as you can.” And, people are always surprised to hear such advice and respond with, “What do you mean? I thought that is what gamification is!” Of course you did.
You did, because most gamification platforms and apps on the market (notice I said most, not all) begin and end with oversimplified, non-engaging mechanics because it’s easy. Sure PBLs are part of gamification, but if all you focus on are those mechanics, then say hello to your colleagues as you join them in the 80% Failure Group.
 Leaderboards can be a great activity driver when used correctly. But they can actually drive users away if used inappropriately. Imagine that you oversee a help-desk, and in an attempt to improve efficiency through gamification, you award points, add a leaderboard, and issue cash rewards to employees with the fastest times in resolving Tier 1 issues. Chances are very good that you will actually see wait times increase and a spike in employee turnover. Why? Because the help desk employees won’t view your gamification efforts as positive feedback, but rather as management watching over and controlling them.
A gamification design done properly will provide your learners with a sense of accomplishment. Rather than feeling like they are simply running on the hamster wheel as fast as they can every day, they’ll experience mastery, skill building, achievement, and purpose.
To be sure, you cannot simply add a cookie-cutter gamification overlay to a system and expect success. You have to take a closer look. Does a process need fixed before you begin? Who are your players? What is their motivation? How does that align with your objectives and the success of your organization?
About the Author:  A gamification speaker and designer, Monica Cornetti is rated as a #1 Gamification Guru in the World by UK-Based Leaderboarded. She is the Founder and CEO of the Sententia Gamification Consortium and the author of the book Totally Awesome Training Activity Guide: Put Gamification to Work for You. Monica is hired for her skill as a gamification speaker and is considered at the top of her field in gamification design for corporate learning.
Connect with Monica on Twitter @monicacornetti or the company or

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