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As I sit here at my favorite coffee shop to write this short piece on gamification, I couldn’t help but relate the experience to gamification.

What made me come here today, spur of the moment? If I’m honest, it’s not a day I felt like leaving my home office… but I came anyway because, drum roll, I had a free beverage waiting for me.

I frequently buy their caffeinated drinks regardless of whether they are free or not. But them being gratis gives me an extra (extrinsic) motivation to show up, sit back in one of their comfy chairs, get some work done on their free Wi-Fi, and perhaps, buy another item at the store before I leave.

What did I do to get that free beverage? I had completed previous purchases, perhaps answered a couple of surveys.


Defining Gamification

Now, about gamification… There is a lot of confusion on the differences between games per se and gamification.

I’ll use some oversimplification here to get explain what gamification is in essence. The most-used definition of gamification is the application of game mechanics to non-game situations. What are common game mechanics? The lowest hanging fruit are points, badges, missions, and levels of achievement.


Applying the Principles

So, back to my coffee outing this morning:

I already am intrinsically motivated to buy their coffee regularly. Yet, the store provided me an extra extrinsic motivation of stars, levels, and points with every purchase and other sorts of engagement I have with them such as answering surveys. Their loyalty system isn’t a game per se. There is no story, no end state, and I wouldn’t call it exactly “fun”. They didn’t create a new multi-level digital game with characters or create game boards with player pieces and dice. They simply added the idea of points and status (levels) with some clear rewards (free beverages) to something the customers already did anyway (buy their products).


Using Gamification in Your Curricula

The same can happen to your curricula, whether on a traditional LMS, enterprise social media portal, and elsewhere: you can add game mechanics to existing assets in order to give your learners and extra motivating factor to access your learning content that otherwise isn’t exactly a game.

Here are some recommendations for delving into gamification for your organization’s learning experiences:

  • Don’t gamify everything in your LMS and other portals. Consider a thorough approach that curates the best content you already have and use game mechanics to support different roles in your organization. For instance, if you have different experience three levels for coaches (junior coach, experienced coach, senior coach) make your “game” levels reflect those levels. That is, use gamification to add engagement and value around programs, competency models, and other HR data.
  • Reward proper behaviors– that is reward competence, not the mere completion of menial tasks. Instead of rewarding the players for only clicking links, reward them for clicking the links then performing a task with what they learn. For instance, if you ask them to go to your LMS and complete a course about delivering powerful presentations, make it so their next step is to create a presentation based on what they learned and post on your internal social network for other players to provide feedback.
  • Use gamification to help create context around existing content, as well as tighten interest in completing meaningful tasks.
  • Relating the experience to real-life awards such as ebooks, prizes, limited experiences that add perceived value to your target population. For example, offer new employees a chance to meet executives in a smaller, more personal setting, plan a local scavenger hunt, etc.


In conclusion…

There are many vendors and many approaches to gamifying your content. However  no matter how you implement gamification, treat it like any other instructional design project: start small and start from your business needs, audience, and learning objectives.

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Icons made by Freepik  – Creative Commons BY 3.0

Join us for an interactive section to discuss social, game-based talent development at SAP SAPPHIRE NOW ASUG Annual Conference 2016 (May 7th, 2016 at 3PM): https://sessioncatalog.sapevents.com/go/agendabuilder.sessions/?l=130&sid=33927_458203

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