The success mantra of gamification is Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze
Gamification has made a significant impact on some of the businesses to attract more customers or buyers and increase the repeated sales. However, more than that it seems to be working better for the organizations who are applying it internally. Several organizations are either trying, or planning to use game mechanics for better employee engagement, to drive behaviors and to achieve some business objectives.
While we try to fight with the engagement crisis or to drive human behaviors by applying game thinking in a non-gaming context, we end up giving too much attention to the game. In a way it is good but the problem starts when everyone gets carried away with the game and focus gets shifted from achieving the business objective to win the game. I agree, we all play games to win, so what is wrong about it? Actually that is the key; we play “games” to win but “Gamification” is not just to win but to “win-win”!
Before I explain more about it, let me go back to the fundamentals of Gamification for a minute.
Gamification is a science!
It is the Engagement Mechanics which consists three important parts:
- Game Mechanics
- Reputation Mechanics
- Social Mechanics
A good Gamification Strategy is actually a right blend of these three. The ratio may differ based on the situation, audience (participants), problem statement, geography etc.
Ignoring the latter two may have some consequences and the interesting (or rather scary) part is you would not even know that during the game! Once you conclude or probably do retrospective, you realize that the main cause of applying Gamification is missing. The business objectives are either partially or not met at all. Yes, you may see some good signs too, like the engagement level of participants has boosted but no guarantee of human behavior change which you have intended. Moreover, this Gamification Strategy is not even sustainable for a longer period.
For any change to sustain, first we need to unfreeze the current state, make the desired change and freeze the state again.
Boosting the engagement through Gamification seems to achieve this. The current state definitely gets melted and even we see the change in behaviors, however, it is too early to conclude if the desired behaviors will remain as expected. Freezing the state again is also essential in order to make sure we don’t tune out once the game is over, rather imbibe those learning / behaviors as a part of our lives.
In multiple scenarios of applying Gamification within organizations, I have experienced a phase which comes during the execution (of your Gamification Strategy), when participants are fully engaged and they start enjoying the game. (BTW, that’s a great news, kudos to you and your Gamification Strategy!) This phase is driving the engagement level of your participants or unfreezing the current state.
The second phase comes, when they start looking for the ways to get ahead on the ladder, gain more coins or earn those cool badges. The fact is, gaining or not gaining has a strong emotional connection with human beings and that is the time when participants can do whatever (literally whatever!). This is the time when your Gamification is driving the human behaviors towards the desired behaviors aka making the desired change.
Typically, by the time you reach this phase, you start seeing Gamification as a success and probably start celebrating with your team!
The next phase is around the conclusion. People have earned all those flashy coins and badges but now what? This is the time you connect them with the right people, information and let them redeem what they have earned against something useful, what they have always wanted. This is the time for showcasing and let them feel pride. It is essential to refreeze the state else people will gradually fall back to where they have started.
To freeze the changed state, you need to keep driving forward and continue to focus on the business objectives. Let people enjoy the game and you should monitor the engagement level, behavioral and mind-set changes and achievement of desired results.
The final state seems overwhelming at times but let the Gamification drive things, believe in your strategy and give some time for conversion.