Feature Article - November/December 2016

Game On!

How Gamification Techniques Can Strengthen Incentive Programs

By Rick Dandes

The Creative Process

Don't think of gamification as that final coat of paint on your incentive program. Gamification is really a process, and it has to be creative. Try something out and see how people respond. Use feedback to make it more interesting, because if it is not interesting, it is not a game.

With gamification, you have to create excitement. The game can't be predictable, in terms of who is going to be the winner, or in terms of what is going to happen. "But it also has to be fair," Greunke emphasized. "It has to be surprising. If it is boring, it is not fun. The same person can't win all the time. Or you can't cheat in order to make that person win, otherwise it is no fun. And, most importantly, it has to be repeatable. Think of a game, a baseball or football game. The World Series happens every year; all the games that lead up to it happen every year, so you reset every year. It is interesting because there are different winners. You can't predict who is going to be the champion. That is what makes gamification fun."

A successful gamification strategy requires a clear understanding of your business objectives and the motivations of your audience. If your audience isn't intrinsically motivated by the topic you want to gamify, Baer noted, then you are better off trying something else.

"Take my employees as an example," he said. "They are all gamers and all competitive by nature. Some of them don't want to fill in their time-sheets, no matter how many points, badges or prizes I offer them. Solving this business problem requires more than a cookie-cutter gamification solution. On the flip side, these same employees are fitness enthusiasts and actively use Fitbit, a gamified fitness device, because it enhances something they already love to do. They can't get enough of the competition, socialization, regular feedback and rewards."