S.M.A.R.T Gamification – Goal Setting

In one of those “D’oh” moments, it occurred to me that management types have been promoting one of the core components of gamification since at least the 80’s!

We all agree that one of the main aspects that forms good gamification is good goal setting (at least I hope we all do by now). Well The Management have been told to do this for about 30 years now – ever since a concept called “SMART” was first given air. SMART is an acronym (of course, we all love one of them), that generally stands for;

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound


It is important in gamification to make goals clear.  “I want to lose weight”, is not a specific goal! “I want to lose 10lbs” is specific. This is where you ask the “Who, What, Why, Where” type questions.


If you can’t measure progress, how do you know you are heading towards your goal? Set sub markers to your goal. You also have to have a win state – in this case “I have lost 10lbs”


This is probably the most important for me. I could set a goal to lose 50lbs – but is that realistic and achievable? Can I even set up a way to measure the goal over the time I may have to do it in? As I have said before, humans tend to be bad at handling things that are going to happen too far in the future or that are too big for us to fully and clearly grasp. Also, if you only have 20 minutes a night to work out, is the goal to lose 50lbs in a set time period actually possible?


Does the goal have a meaning that is relevant to you. If you set yourself the goal of running the London Marathon, but hate running – how will you motivate yourself to do it? In a work setting, this may be a little harder to manage. You may not like documenting a project, but it has to be done. Instead set your self mini challenges that result in doing something you do like!


Having a clear idea of when a goal needs to be achieved really helps. “I want to lose 10lbs” is great, but by when? “I want to lose 10lbs before my holiday” gives you a fixed period that you need to be working in. I have spoken about the effect time has on decision making. Goals that are closer are much easier for you to visualise and get working on!


All of these things should be familiar to the gamification designer. It is just nice to know that there is a way to put some of it into words that management should be able to understand!

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