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9 reasons why gamification works (Part 1)

70% of business transformation projects fail due to lack of engagement. Gamification is the process of using game-based elements with business processes to enable higher levels of engagement. Gamification advocates the use of the same techniques game designers use to increase engagement levels, boost productivity and lift operational performance.



During the last couple of years gamification has been promoted as a means of increasing user activity and social interaction as well as enhancing the quality of required actions. According to research done by Markets & Markets, the Global Gamification market will reach $5,5billion in 2018. More than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application, driving 50% of all innovation (Markets & Markets).

In order to be considered a game there are a few basic components that a process needs to adhere to.  Games are mostly activities undertaken for the sake of enjoyment or education. Games need to have rules, challenges and interaction.

For example, if we go outside to kick balls for no apparent reason or goal, it cannot be classified as a game. But if we get a few people together, agree on the rules and decide on the goal of the game (eg to see which person can kick the ball the furthest), then we can start to classify the activity as a game.

Most of us naturally engage in play from an early age and use these game-based experiences to develop our own social and problem-solving skills. Modern gamification uses many of these simple game design principles as the building blocks to activate various motivators in real-world business contexts. In part 1 of this series we explore the 4 reasons why gamification works and how it shapes the way employees behave and engage in the workplace. In Part 2 we will explore the other 5 reasons that reinforce the positive impact of gamification.

1. The biochemical reinforcement loop

Gamification works by eliciting a biochemical response where the reward and pleasure centers of the brain are stimulated. Our brains then secrete a “happy hormone” called dopamine as we have these pleasurable experiences. The brain is motivated to have more of these experiences so that more dopamine can be released, and so a motivational loop is created.  Because gamification triggers a dopamine rush, employees will be motivated to keep on engaging in the process as long as pleasurable experiences are created. Sometimes dopamine is released because of intrinsic triggers such as the actual act of playing the game whereas other times we are triggered by extrinsic triggers such as rewards or leader boards.

2. The need for control and autonomy

Self-determination theory (SDT) describes social-contextual conditions that facilitate the prediction of motivational forces. SDT focuses on three main psychological needs namely competence, autonomy and social relatedness. When these three factors are present, motivation increases exponentially.

So, when employees are requested to take control of a process, they are more motivated to engage in it. Gamified processes allow employees to take control. A good example of this is the online learning platform: Udemy.  Udemy puts the user in control at all times. The user can choose when, what and how often they would like to engage in the learning process.

3. Achievement and rewards

Achievement is one of the most powerful psychological driving factors of human behavior. Gamification is able to tap into this motivational force as it encourages employees to progress through increasingly difficult tasks and/ or to increase their participation in the process. The basic premise: when people are able to achieve a goal or something special, they become motivated to engage in similar or more difficult activities in future.

The use of virtual or real rewards has been shown to increase adoption of new initiatives. Achievement based rewards could also strengthen the relationships between employees and create a stronger sense of loyalty towards the organisation, if employees perceive the rewards as contributing to overall wellbeing. A good example of the use of gamification rewards is Discovery Vitality who offer rewards to customers when they engage in more healthy behavior.

4. Collaboration, connection and shared experiences

When we are required to engage in gamification together with others, the psychological need for relatedness and belonging is satisfied. Maslow postulated that our drive for affiliation is more important than our drive for achievement or meaning. When gamified processes make employees feel part of a team or community, employees are more likely to maintain high levels of engagement. Gamification can also help create a nurturing workplace community where employees support and encourage each other during the process because of the shared meaning that is created.

Hive Learning is a good example of a gamified process that encourage collaboration and connection. Hive is an online learning platform that encourages learners to collaborate, share their goals and share their learning journeys with others through the Hive platform.

About Yellowseed Consulting

Our purpose is simple: we help our clients to up their people game.  We use relevant and innovative approaches to help our clients i) get the right people into their business, ii) develop and grow their people in an efficient and effective way and iii) maintain high levels of engagement, innovation and collaboration throughout their business.  

Learn more at: www.yellowseed.co.za

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