Gamification Blueprint Anyone Can Use

Gamification has become more than a buzzword, especially in business applications. The massive open online course (MOOC) on the topic offered byCoursera through Wharton Business School reported over fifty thousand students enrolled, making it one of the most popular courses on the site. There is aconference and many upstarts offering solutions to gamify all kinds of enterprise software applications, including learning management systems, customer relationship management, marketing solutions, and employee performance management systems. There have been TED talks on the topic regarding personal and social good, and numerous books being published by leading experts in this explosive area. So how can gamification really transform your organization?

The tenets of a good gamification strategy are important even if you’re not designing a game:

  • Taking the time to identify and define the key objectives. How will you know what success looks like? I come from a background in industrial psychology, and there is always a very heavy emphasis on understanding what it is that you want to measure before just putting your employees through the gamut of pre-employment tests and assessments. This step is a great way to describe what the goals and outcomes of your program are, and gamification frameworks are built on this starting-off point.
  • Understanding the behaviors you’re looking to promote that are directly related to these objectives. Now that you’ve identified the goals of your program, think through the human element of how this will be achieved. For example, if one component of success involves increasing a database of user profiles, then a target behavior is having more visitors register on your site with fully completed profiles.
  • Getting to know your audience. This could be one of the more difficult steps for any human-design framework implementation, however this is the most important. The key to adoption, participation, and engagement is motivation. Although gamification is strongly aligned with self-determination theory, or the intrinsic motivators that are universal across culture, age, socioeconomic status, and gender- you still need to know the key qualities that differentiate your audience uniquely in order to fully motivate them.
  • Bringing it all together! Develop a strategy for onboarding, scaffolding, driving progression, and allowing meaningful choices for your audience. All while providing immediate performance feedback via rewards. People like to see progression and immediate feedback on their performance – this is why so many gamification applications gain traction right away. However, this is also how so many gamified apps fall by the wayside from an over-reliance on game mechanics without the real magic…the fun!

These practices can be applied to all types of systems and processes that are not necessarily gamified- the list reads like a guide for any solid program/project management initiative. The difference is that gamification purposefully adds an element of fun. So how do you make something fun? This is the big creative question for anyone looking to successfully bring gamification to life. Fun can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, and there are several different kinds of fun too so you need to make sure you’re choosing the right fun!

This is a very exciting time for gameful and motivational design, as technological advances have made data so easily available to capture, collect, analyze, and be redistributed. Games tap into an inherent human need to play and be free, and the topic or discipline of gamification is most likely here to stay. For those who are naysayers, I’ll end on this- more likely than not, you are engaged in some gamified system and probably not aware. If you really contemplate it, these gamification elements are ubiquitous and mostly embedded into a lot of our daily activities.


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