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How big a difference does gamification have to make to be of value to an organisation?
When I first started, I used to see some staggering statistics of how gamification had improved a process. 200% increase in productivity, 300% more users registered and so on. The issue was, when you asked who to see the real data, it was much less impressive. Sample groups would be 7 0r 8 people. The 300% increase could just have been 3 people registering compared to 0 people the week before!
However, many did not ask those questions, they just saw the big numbers and had unrealistic expectations of what gamification could deliver – expectations that some companies were happy to perpetuate to their own gain. The issue with this was obvious to the rest, if the expectation was that high and we honest few knew full well it could not realistically be delivered upon, people would lose faith in gamification – which is what happened.
What expectations should we be setting? Well, realistic ones. Small percentage increase that is backed by data is much more valuable than large made up ones! Small, incremental changes are easier to sustain and all add up. If you have 10,000 employees and you can create a system that engages 10% of them, that is still 1000 employees who are more engaged than before and improving your company. If you create multiple programs that all have 10% increases, you start to engage more and more and in a way that can be replicated and sustained for longer than single-use adrenaline shots that engage everyone for 10 minutes.
One of the things I tell people now when talking about gamification is that often our mission is just to make something “Less Bad” than it was before. Not to promise a system that is so engaging it will have your employees jumping for joy every 5 minutes fist-pumping. It is more realistic to offer a system that will have employees saying “Oh, that was easier than before” or “That was less horrible than I expected” or maybe, just maybe “I enjoyed that, thanks”.
So, the next time you are looking at a problem that needs solving and you feel a games-based solution is the way forward, look at it through the “Less Bad” lense to get a realistic view on what may be achievable.
Also published on Medium.