Gamification is the application of game-design elements in non-game contexts. Based on our experience of supporting large change programmes with ambitious leaders, we have identified six critical gaming mechanics.
: Leaders must specify goals with extreme clarity. This forces discussion on strategic choices; and wherever necessary, trade-offs need to be made. Leaders must choose, and be upfront about these choices.
: Change champions must clarify boundary conditions, roles for the individual/team and how one wins the “game”. It is common for companies
to create complex rules. Rules that require long memos don’t work. People will interpret rules in their own way; change leaders are then surprised that rules were not well understood despite sending “organisation-wide memos”.
Well defined progression
: A sense of accomplishment and associated mastery is the secret sauce of engagement. Reducing the effort for first level accomplishment is a gateway drug to pull people into the programme. Olympic coaches have to set the bar high as there are only three medal winners. Successful change leaders need to find the “hero” in everyone. A smart progression map balances effort needed with due recognition.
Incentives and recognition
: Smart incentive models avoid common pitfalls such as lack of linkage to strategic goals and undue focus on short-term goals. Gamification opens up a new spectrum for leaders to rethink incentive design and bring in elements of “progressing every week or month” and “competing with self or comparable peers”.
: Organisations can sometimes confuse annual performance scorecard with feedback. High achievers in every walk of society need feedback. It needs to be individual-focused, actionable and real-time.
: Creating social networks can meaningfully amplify the impact of other mechanics. Public recognition in achievements, whether big or small, keeps people engaged.
A well-designed change programme embeds many of these elements together to create a significant ongoing, bottom-up rather than a top-down, momentum that is needed for the change to succeed. Organisations often succeed with small gamification pilots but fail when scaling up the programme.
Embedding gamification in a digital platform can help overcome this challenge of scale-up. Digital tools allow real-time visualisation of entire game-goals, rules, progression and recognition. Change managers can use data analytics to drive specific behaviours and most importantly help create habits. Nudges implemented through app notifications, SMSes and alerts can be built on existing “social media habits”. This allows change leaders to guide desirable behaviours and set new habits for the organisation.
The power of gamification lies in its ability to change behaviours. It puts people at the centre of the change programme, and only people deliver change. As we strategise for the year ahead, change leaders should consider using gamification in achieving their transformation goals.