We’ve written about gamification and gamers. The term “gamification” turns a lot of traditional associations and companies off as they envision young members sitting around playing video games but “gamifying” your company is not about bringing in Guitar Hero or World of Warcraft to your next event or meeting. It’s a way of captivating an audience, giving them an incentive to return to your site or participate in your events. It has little to do with video games. (Video games do use game theory. They reward certain actions and mastery with leveling up. However, when we talk about gamification it is independent of gaming.)
Grades and advancing levels in school are very primitive forms of gamification. You master a level, you move up. We’ll save the education and gamification talk for another time but I mention it to point out that harnessing the power behind and desire to achieve is not a new concept. Gamification should not turn off the older contingent of your organization. It focuses on rewarding behavior and expertise, concepts that have multi-generational appeal.
Gamifiying your organization is not about technology. It’s embracing a theory and changing practices and offerings to inspire action. Providing staff (or members, for that matter) with rapid, timely feedback is essential to growth and incentives. Telling someone (as the action occurs) that it is brilliant or less than optimal encourages conversation and directs them on a path to success. Knowing you will provide them with this feedback encourages future action by appealing to our competitive nature and desire to please.
Plucking another positive from gamification, encourage risk and experimentation. Reward the courageous; those who try something new, at a faster rate than those who plug away doing it the same way each time. This is not to say you reward everyone for trying something new. Remember gamification focuses on mastery and end goal. Reward those who step off the path, try something new and attain the goal at a quicker rate than those who plot along. Know also that some will fail.
Failure is essential to game theory. Accepting this is difficult for some organizations who see failure as an end, not a beginning. If you are not ready to fully embrace the idea of failing, you can embrace a non-advancement idea. In order to incentivize action, there have to be some courses of action that do not attain reward. If you are trying to drive physical attendance at events, for example, don’t allow the experience of attending to be garnered elsewhere/through other means. Create an environment that supports and nurtures experimentation.
Gamification, or game thinking, can be a powerful way to inspire others to become more closely involved with your organization. It’s enjoyable for them and creates a highly addictive environment.
How have you embraced game theory? If you haven’t what’s holding you back?