Game Mechanics!

Game Mechanics!

I recently came across some poor implementations of gamification.  In my day job at the David Consulting Group, we license a knowledge management tool that uses game mechanics as a training tool.  IFPUG uses a different knowledge management tool that uses challenges and badges. In both cases, no one pays attention to the game mechanics in the tool because they are not useful or engaging.  These are cases of poorly implemented game mechanics where someone paid a development team to create functionality that does not seem to add value and makes the product feel unplanned.

There are five general areas that impact whether gamification will help or hinder when implementing a process or an application. The five are:

  • Goals/objectives
  • Community
  • Motivation
  • Culture
  • Design

We will discuss the first four today, and design later in the week.

The first step to implementing gamification is to have an explicit set of goals and objectives for the game mechanics you are using.  For example, take a board game that you like (I like Monopoly, but my wife beats me every time), and find the rules. Usually you find the object of the game prominently printed so that the player knows objective before they start thinking about the game or the rules.  In Classic Monopoly: “the object of the game is to become the wealthiest player through buying, renting and selling property”.  In the Monopoly example, understanding the object of the game helps the player’s learn and absorb the rules and then create their own goals for playing.  In our overview of gamification in  The What and Why of Gamification, I used an example in which the process team implemented a set of challenge goals to support the implementation of peer reviews. The implementation of peer reviews was tied to a broader goal of improving quality and overall efficiency.  By understanding the broader goal, the development teams understood both how the process changes benefited the organization as well as how the challenges related.

Most of the game mechanics that are used when deploying IT applications or processes require either interaction (group challenges) or competition (leader boards).  Players that know each other or are connected as a community are more apt to work together to attain goals and to compete on a healthy basis. Therefore gamification will be more effective to improve adoption of the process or application.

If the users of the process or application do not have a reason to play, then they aren’t going to or, if they do, they will lose interest quickly.  People are motivated in the workplace for many reasons.  Rewards, team esprit de corps, and career advancement are just some.  Reward systems based on a publicly observed tracking mechanism hits the most buttons.  Rewards must be viewed as interesting and useful to players.  The example in The What and Why of Gamification used a trip to the company’s technology conference, company recognition for being selected and the inferred impact on an awardees career as a set of rewards for participation.  The use of leader boards showed how players were tracking toward completing challenges and attaining the reward created a competitive environment.  Sales people that compete to be the top sales person of the month are responding to game mechanics and a reward structure. We use gamification techniques to increase adoption and learning.  Without motivation to participate in the “game” the use of game mechanics is a waste and can derail implementations.

Daily Process Thoughts:  Gamification Theme

The What and Why of Gamification

How Can We Implement Gamification?

Gamification: Game Mechanics

What Does Gamification Look Like?

Gamification and the Bartle Test

3-31 2013 dependable painting

Pick up a copy of the Yellow Pages (paper . . . Yellow . . . Phone numbers . . .. Old school), and you will find all sorts of firms whose names that announce to the world that they advanced, fast, dependable or clean.  How many of the names really match how they deliver products or services?

You are your own brand.  Your name and the adjectives that are used to describe you are in essence your ad in the Yellow Pages (or LinkedIn for those in this decade).  Your brand is important to generate a first look, but if you want repeat business, you need to remember that how you deliver is how people see you in the long run.  Dependable can’t be just a name, rather it needs to be an attribute that describes how you deliver.

3-18 2013 painPain

When targeting process improvement opportunities where do you start? I would suggest start by finding solutions for problems that are causing the organization the most pain NOW. Pain is one of those things that we would rather not experience and will work diligently to escape when we are in it . . . usually. Usually? If a problem has been around a while and has not gotten any more severe more than likely you are not going to get a ground swell of support for spending the time and effort needed for the fix. As you build your backlog carry around a pain chart and then ask how long the problem has been around.  The higher the pain and newer the problem the greater the chance the fix will be important!

Spaceship Lights

Spaceship Lights

Design Matters

The best idea in the world without proper packaging will face an uphill struggle to be heard.  There is a reason schools turn out professional designers, artists, writers or architects to name a few.  IT change agents have very rarely had training in these disciplines.  While you might have good taste (or even taste good with Chianti and fava beans – I should not have re-watched Silence of the Lambs last night) it is not same thing as training and education.

Do not fall prey to hubris of thinking you can do everything yourself.  Give your ideas the best chance at being heard and remember that design matters.

2-15 2013 Happy Chef Giant

This photo is is from the trip my daughters call the “Idols and Graven Images” road-trip in South Dakota.  There will be others from this trip.

There is a fine line in marketing that is over the top and marketing that is effective. Change requires planned marketing whether formal communication plans or word-of-mouth campaigns. All too often software professionals that have been pressed into action as change agents overlook marketing or if they address marketing it is understated.

The owners of the Happy Chef did not understand the concept of understated. In the crowded world of middle tier restaurants understated will tend to be overlooked. The big audacious marketing move gets people in the door where the Happy Chef employee’s have a chance at satisfying customer needs and generating repeat customers. Change agents need to learn enough  about marketing techniques to generate interest or hope that a management edict or word-of-mouth drives the change virally.

The Happy Chef?  We went in the door and if I remember correctly would have gone back if we were not just passing through. The big audacious marketing move only works if you deliver.