Archive for the ‘Gamification’ Category

Gamification boosts customer engagement at Insurance firm

What is more boring, but useful, than learning about your workplace RRSP plan? What is more fun, but useless, than playing games at work?

“We regularly look outside our industry for innovative ways to help our customers learn more about retirement savings,” says Nadia Darwish, vice president, Market Development at Sun Life Financial. “Gamification was a natural fit.”

Gamification is less convoluted than the word implies. Essentially, the idea is to combine the basic appeal of video games — purpose, competition and the desire for mastery — with behavioral psychology to increase revenue. This could mean improving productivity, enhancing engagement or increasing sales.

Ms. Darwish and her team released an online game called Money Up in late 2014. Money Up features “missions” exploring the basics of retirement planning, investment asset allocation and different financial products. Players are quizzed about what they’ve learned before they can proceed to the next level and, like a classic arcade game, there is a leaderboard so employees know how they stack up against their colleagues.

The business results exceeded management’s expectations, Ms. Darwish says, generating significant improvements in participation, contributions and product penetration. She attributes success to the game’s seamless integration with Sun Life’s broader “financial literacy” program and is particularly happy that Money Up reached “the unique Generation Y audience in a way that resonates with them.”

Making simple, functional games is easier today than ever before. With a modest investment, a behaviour-changing game can be designed, tested and released within six months. Here are five tips for developing a gamification strategy based on the experience of Ms. Darwish and her team:

Don’t treat gamification like a side project. Gamification must be considered a strategic initiative and should incorporate input from senior leaders.

  • Don’t gamify in a silo. Adopt a collaborative approach by soliciting feedback from both internal and external stakeholders at every stage of development.
  • Don’t lose sight of your goal. Work backwards from your desired result (e.g. educate customers) to ensure that your game is more than just fun.
  • Don’t lose sight of your audience. Put the needs of your potential players ahead of your messaging by developing a product for them, not you.
  • Don’t set it and forget it. Monitor performance and solicit customer feedback after launch in order to develop fixes and improvements on the fly.

When a gamification strategy fails, it’s rarely for lack of enthusiasm. Here are three common pitfalls:

  1. Uncertain ownership. It can be difficult to determine who should ‘own’ a project that necessarily spans multiple departments within an organization.
  2. Narrow thinking. It can be difficult to articulate a compelling business case for something with which an organization has no prior exposure.
  3. Lack of knowhow. It can be difficult to develop a successful gamification strategy without experience in game design and behavioural psychology.

But the potential benefits of gamification are too significant to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The trick is tempering ambitious vision with lean resource allocation and a willingness to pivot along the way to mitigate risk and keep the project within its intended scope.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site


Getting gamification to work

When a new product is over-hyped, the likelihood of a backlash is high. So it goes with Gamification, a strategy used to accelerate business and employee performance. Gamification programs combine game mechanics, intrinsic rewards and social technologies in a business context to influence employee or consumer behaviour. Some recent studies, however, have called into question the effectiveness of using games to drive business results in every application. The key lesson from the research is not that Gamification is ineffective, but rather that managers need to focus on designing good games and ensuring employee buy-in up front.

A hiccup?

In 2011, research firm Gartner described Gamification as a “highly significant trend” in the business world. It predicted that by 2014, more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations would have at least one “gamified” application. Yet, a year later, the same firm decried that Gamification was being driven by “novelty and hype,” and predicted that by 2014, 80% of deployed gamified applications would fail to meet business objectives due to poor game design. Gartner’s scepticism was shared by other web experts [sic]. A 2012 Pew Research Center/Elon University survey of more than 1,000 Internet pundits and users showed a split jury on Gamification’s future: 53% of respondents believed it would take off (with some limits), while 42% said it would not evolve into a larger trend except in specific situations. Other studies have explored why Gamification may not be as effective as first imagined. A Wharton School of Business review looked at Gamification’s impact on employee attitudes and job performance at a technology startup. The authors, Nancy Rothbard and Ethan Mollick, found that people who consented to or embraced the game had good feelings about their job. Importantly, many studies link high work satisfaction with improved productivity, creativity and loyalty. However, those employees who did not consent to participating in the game ended up having negative feelings about their job. They objected to their employers imposing “mandatory fun.” With regards to job performance, consenting gamers did not improve their performance. And, among non-consenters, job performance actually declined slightly.

How a game was designed and implemented — in this case, securing the employee’s consent — had a major role in determining whether a program worked. Still, an aspersion of Gamification should be taken within certain context. Clearly, benefits and adoption rates were over-hyped a few years ago, even though more than 350 companies across multiple sectors have implemented these programs. Yes, there have been failures like at Google Reader and online retailer, Zappos. However, the criticism must be balanced against the many examples — Whole Foods, Nike, SAP, Omnicare, Autodesk, Target, Pearson, Microsoft etc — where these strategies are significantly driving customer behaviour, operational productivity and employee engagement. Many experienced practitioners (including your author) see these missteps as part of a natural evolution towards a maturation of tools, best practices and techniques.

Gamification 2.0

As with other business strategies, firms will maximize returns with better program design and implementation. To do this, we recommend managers follow a “measure twice, cut once approach” based on these five principles:

1. Choose your application wisely

Just because Gamification has many potential applications, it does not means that it should be deployed everywhere. Not every activity can or should be gamified. Good applications are found in controlled environments with well-defined workflows, are measurable and are willingly embraced by all employees.

2. Be careful with game design

Good game design, mechanics and rules are essential to drive quick employee acceptance, rules compliance and ongoing participation. Designing games that are too easy will quickly bore the player or incite them to cheat. Deploying overly difficult games can lead to poor worker adoption and rapid attrition.

3. Intrinsic not extrinsic rewards

The power of Gamification is its ability to leverage strong intrinsic motivators like competition, mastery and recognition. However, many companies mistakenly apply extrinsic rewards like cash bonuses. Like a caffeine hit, these rewards lead to short term activity but longer term burn out. Also, some players may learn how to manipulate the game potentially driving up costs.

4. Adopt a ‘learning by doing’ approach

Given the complexity of some organizations and tasks, the sensible and low risk approach is to begin with a pilot project. Managers can then glean important lessons around game design, incentives, feedback loops and technology before rolling out across the enterprise.

5. Technology has its place

The choice of technology platform is important. However, it’s value will be highly dependent on the game that is running on it. Managers should first prioritize getting the game fundamentals right before choosing which technology to use. One of the most successful games we ever designed did not run on any Gamification platform at all.

For more information on our services or work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

Play games, learn more

A revolution is quietly impacting the way organizations educate students and workers. Gamification is increasingly being integrated into curriculums and courses. Incorporating game play produces a better educational experience by adding realism, fostering competition and delivering quicker progress feedback.   The value for the organization and worker is compelling:  improved problem solving and collaboration skills, higher learner engagement and greater knowledge retention.  Organizations should consider how best to leverage Gamification methods into their most important training regimes.

Gamification programs blend the principles of video game play, social networking, data analytics and behavioural psychology into a formidable platform for inciting change and engagement. Organizational training and education is a natural place to include gaming.  The teaching/learning process is often dull, data starved and overly mechanical, which depresses student engagement and makes the linking of training results to business value difficult.   Gamification accelerates learning by  leveraging the power of digital technology and intrinsic motivators such as: providing instantaneous feedback (mastery), egging on the competition (social interaction), and rewarding even tiny steps of progress (recognition).

“The basic structure of video games — having to master one level before moving to another, repeating an action numerous times, and receiving feedback in the form of results about what works and what doesn’t — mirrors how skills are developed in real life,” says David Maddocks, president of WorkSmart Education.  “The added benefit for the workplace of using games is that employees practice in a safe situation and not on live customers.”

Incorporating gaming principles has helped companies like Microsoft, Cisco, Nike and Samsung foster richer consumer-brand interactions, improve operational productivity and drive higher levels of employee engagement over the past few years. Corporate training is not far behind on the curve  Few companies have done more to incorporate Gamification into learning than SAP, one of the world’s largest software firms.

It is not easy for a sales rep to keep up to date on the ever-changing mobile offerings and technical considerations of a large, dynamic company like SAP (and then effectively leverage this knowledge in front of clients). That’s where the Roadwarrior game comes in. This game instructs sales reps through a simulated customer meeting on how to respond to the buyer’s question and what information to provide. Providing information on the customer and their needs helps the sales rep design a unique technical and business solution. By properly preparing for meetings and correctly answering clients’ questions, sales reps can move up a ladder, unlocking levels and earning points and badges on a leaderboard.

Once all customer meetings in one level have been completed, the user proceeds to the next level with new customers and requirements. This allows sales reps to gather cross-technology knowledge and to practice multi-level selling. Players can also challenge other players to uncover the best answers for difficult question. Training engagement is enhanced by the use of intrinsic motivators such as team and peer-based competition, regular socializing that foster an esprit de corps and the growing confidence that comes from handling increasingly difficult client questions and situations.

New hire orientation

Rocketeer is an ingenious idea tool to convey important corporate information.  Developed in 2011, this little flash game  welcomes SAP employees when they visit their corporate landing page.  By controlling the speed and angle of the rocket, users can navigate the rocket past obstacles, which are nothing more than signs showing key SAP factoids and news. The further you can fly the rocket without hitting any of the signs, the more you learn about SAP. Rocketeer generates more engagement and information retention than merely reading off a long list of facts.

Closer to home

Some Canadian organizations are already using gamification techniques to improve their educational experience and learning outcomes.  The York School, a leading independent school in Toronto (disclosure:  my child attends the school), is integrating game playing in the teaching of Math and Science.  According to Justin Medved, head of Learning, Innovation & Technology, “These tools give teachers unprecedented insight into the learning process while at the same time engaging students in a fun and familiar way.  The data collected through game playing is allowing us to tailor our teaching to respond to individual student needs in a way previously not possible.”   At the other end of the learning spectrum is the Canadian Military. The National Post reported that they are using popular video games like Call of Duty and specialized video simulations to enhance ordinary training. In addition to creating customizable, ‘real world’ environments, games have the important benefit of being able to train more soldiers at lower cost — and much lower risk of accidents.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.


Curbing avoidable employee absences

Avoidable employee absences are a hidden killer of corporate profitability. Many leaders don’t realize that short-term, unplanned absences can cost the average medium-sized company millions of dollars in payroll expenses not to mention lost productivity and business disruption. To get this financial sinkhole under control, HR leaders must get a handle on the problem and consider some innovative technological and business fixes.

Many types of worker absences are inevitable.  However, the unplanned and avoidable ones may be the most harmful.  Unmanaged or misunderstood, they can quickly lead to operational disruptions and cultural toxicity.  A variety of studies have estimated the aggregate costs of unplanned absences such as sick days and casual non-attendance.  A recent Conference Board of Canada study of 401 medium- to large-sized public and private firms found Canadian workers miss an average of 9.3 work days per year.  This costs employers 2.4% of their gross annual payroll (a $16.6B hit to the economy).  This number is likely understated as it does not include indirect costs like finding replacement worker costs, project delays or missed deadlines.   The absentee problem may be even bigger in the U.S.  A 2010 online survey of employees from 276 organizations conducted by Kronos/Mercer Consulting  found employee absenteeism produced 5.8% of extra payroll costs not including indirect costs.

Blind spot

Surprisingly, only 46% of employers admitted to tracking absences and exploring their causes, according to the Conference Board.  There are understandable reasons for this neglect.  Firstly, many firms cannot quantify the problem or understand its root causes because they do not have the right tracking systems, or because the data is siloed.  Bill Shapiro, CEO of Workplace Medical Corporation, says “If absence costs showed up as an expense line on the divisional P&L statement, it would it would get a lot more attention. The problem is that it is has been too difficult to get a hard number for that cost.”  Secondly, when it comes to reducing labour costs, unplanned absences play second fiddle to other priorities like headcount rationalization since these direct costs are easier to calculate.

Help is on the way

New methodologies and technologies are now available to better diagnose the problem and reverse its negative effects:

Big Data

Anecdotally, we all know that days preceding or following a long weekend or important game will tend to spike absences.  Big Data strategies — understanding what is really going on with attendance and staffing data across the organization and how it correlates to other variables like weather or sporting events — can give firms the insights and predictive tools to fix the problem and optimize practices.   To wit, theFinancial Times relayed a story about a British retailer who submitted the staffing records for thousands of its employees for an independent Big Data analysis.  This analysis discovered the retailer was paying more than 150 employees who had called in sick years earlier and had simply disappeared from the workplace.  Moreover, Big Data learnings can also help managers refine workflow design to minimize physical stress on employees.

Dedicated solutions

Traditionally, unplanned absences are handled manually or within a larger HR information management system. This approach is too primitive to address the issue in real-time, objectively, and proactively.  New, specialized systems address the problem head on by monitoring absences, aggregating the data and tracking the case, from day one.   In Workplace Medical’s solution, an absent employee would first contact a call centre. A service representative would log the absence in specialized software, provide the employee next steps and immediately notify his or her supervisor and HR department.  The rules-based software automates the management of the case including facilitating early intervention, tracking the length and cause of absence and identifying employee patterns.


Integrating gamification strategies — a combination of game principles, behavioral psychology and enabling technologies — into attendance practices and processes could minimize the number unplanned absences.   Many firms like SAP and Microsoft have used game playing to promote long-term behavioural change around the adoption of new initiatives and the alteration of long-established practices. They have also used it to increase productivity for mundane or repetitive tasks. Gamification programs work by providing each employee or team significant intrinsic rewards — through enhanced status, feedback or recognition — when they play the game (i.e. comply with attendance policies).  Considerable research has shown  incorporating intrinsic rewards into workflows and practices is more effective than using extrinsic rewards (e.g., pay) or punishment.


Dealing with this problem should be a corporate priority.  However, the fix should be designed and implemented with care.  The strategies mentioned above could breed mistrust and resentment; some employees may perceive management as Big Brother watching over them or manipulating them. Moreover, the HR group may be resistant to giving up control of the process to a third party that could expose HR’s dirty laundry, as was the case with the British retailer.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

Gamification for Retailers

Gamfication — the use of gaming principles and technologies to drive customer engagement — is the most unique business development to emerge in the past couple of years.  Gamification is a triple-threat strategy.  Properly executed it can drive higher customer loyalty, increase marketing efficiencies and boost brand differentiation.   Of the many industries it is being implemented, retailing has produced some of the most interesting case studies. Below are two of the most noteworthy examples, as overviewed in Retail TouchPoints magazine:

Duane Reade

Duane Reade is a leading pharmacy chain with over 250 stores in the New York City metropolitan area.  Duane Reade has used Gamification in conjunction with a variety of social media platforms over the past 18 months to build sales, brand awareness, and customer engagement.  Its Gamification initiative features a location-based game using smartphones and a variety of social media sites like Facebook and Foursquare.   Users first have to download an app that contains a storyline.  This story features two factions, each battling to control a recently discovered resource called Exotic Matter. Players choose a faction to join and compete against one another in teams to “control” territory.  A sprinkling of logos found in 250 Duane Reade stores marks this territory.  Customers would go to one of the stores, scan the logos and download promotional offers, collect virtual resources or collaboratively solve puzzles.

The marketing results have been impressive. Duane Reade has seen a sharp increase in web and in-store presence as well as higher brand awareness and deeper customer engagement. As of March 2013, Duane Reade has been mentioned and/or shared more than 1,500 times.  The Company recognizes that getting their customers to play fun games is an effective and efficient way to drive business results and collect user data. According to Duane Reade spokesperson Calvin Peters: “Strategically engaging gamification experiences that utilize location-based gaming platforms, are becoming increasingly relevant as mobile concentration within the retail space continues to expand. It is important for us to be where our consumers are, including the virtual world.”

Whole Foods

This upscale grocery chain uses Gamification in a different way.  Instead of a stand-alone marketing program like Duane Reade, Whole Foods leverages game mechanics to enhance the social media and mobile components of existing marketing campaigns. In a recent promotion, Whole Foods rolled out the “14-Day Blast Off” campaign, which challenged consumers with a set of tasks that focus on making healthy life choices such as getting daily exercise or eating better. Throughout the course of two weeks, badges were given after participants completed one mission of healthy living per day. The missions were designed to ease the players into healthy living with small but important gains. Whole Foods understands that its consumers want to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle.  Instead of pushing out information, this campaign used fun and engaging missions (i.e. games) that promoted the desired behavioral change.  Interestingly, Whole Foods also uses Gamification to promote positive behavioral change among employees.  If the employee can achieve company goals like losing weight, they can get a discount on products.

Three elements made these programs successful.  Each integrates Gamification as part of its existing online and offline marketing campaigns and business strategies; the retailers linked game mechanics to their deep understanding of a user’s habits and practices; and; their executions were fun and engaging, tapping into a consumer’s intrinsic desires like competition and achievement.  As well, there are now enough successful Gamification examples across multiple sectors to generate best practices around program design and implementation.

For more information on our services and work, please visit us at Quanta Consulting Inc.

Gamification 101

Over the past year, our firm has received more calls on Gamification than any other new business topic.  Two client questions stand out: What is Gamification? And, what problems does it solve? When answering, I begin with a tale of two employees, Mary and Greg.

Mary is one of thousands of disengaged employees working in a typical call centre.  Her year-old job is lonely and repetitive with little autonomy or creativity. Mary’s daily tasks have become so routine and measured that she vacillates between boredom and fear. Although she is supposed to receive quarterly performance reviews, her boss spends most of his time recruiting and fighting fires. Senior management regularly mandates her department to implement process redesign and change initiatives, many of which are divorced from what really goes on in her job. Most likely, Mary is monitoring online job postings, a prudent strategy given that the COO regularly muses openly about outsourcing her function.  The chances of Mary staying another 12 months are only 50%.

Ten months ago, Greg was fortunate to get a call centre job call in a firm employing gamification principles and technologies. Greg can’t wait to start his day by logging into his firm’s “gamified” workflow management system.  The first thing he sees is an Avatar — a virtual and personalized representation of himself.  His Avatar acts on his behalf, taking customer calls, going to meetings with other Avatars and updating his skills. Information about his team’s progress is fed to Greg in real time, including critical customer issues and company social outings.  Instead of the usual call centre metrics, Greg competes with his colleagues for badges and ranks.  Moreover, he accumulates a virtual currency (that can be exchanged for special perks) when he distributes best practices and assists co-workers with problem solving.  A combination of game-enabled fun, friendly competition and subtle peer pressure has helped Greg become a fully engaged employee.  Not surprisingly, he has developed new leadership, communication and collaboration skills that put him on track for a promotion.

The first story is illustrative of many companies.  The second tale is fictitious but will soon be commonplace. Firms as diverse as Adobe, Whole Foods, Nike, Microsoft and Duane Reade are using games to transform routine and mundane tasks into more useful, fun and financially rewarding activities. The business outcomes are compelling: improved consumer loyalty, increased employee engagement and higher levels of collaboration & information flows.

Gamification is hot.  According to a 2011 Gartner Report, more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application by 2014. Even if you square root these numbers, Gamification is destined to be the next big thing.

Gamification defined
The most common definition is the use of on and offline game principles, techniques and technologies in an organizational context to improve business results. At their core, Gamification programs use stories, missions, incentives, and real-time feedback to change a person’s behavior over the long term. Stories can be anything that captivates and catalyzes a person’s interest over an extended period. Incentives can range from simple leaderboards, ranks and badges to the creation of virtual currencies that can be traded.

Problems solved
Gamification has been used in a variety of applications, including:

  • Improving operational productivity – Microsoft uses team-based competition and leaderboards to more quickly and thoroughly find software bugs.
  • Driving consumer awareness and engagement – Duane Reade uses location-based, competitive gaming to build awareness of their stores and merchandise selection.
  • Deepening product usage – Adobe has gamified their Photoshop tutorial to improve a trial user’s knowledge of core functionality.
  • Facilitating employee learning and participation – Deloitte uses Gamification to better address employee concerns and manage performance in areas like training, document creation and community engagement.
  • Increasing employee engagement – One of our pharma clients used a game to better align around corporate goals, teach workflows and promote cross department collaboration.
  • Triggering lifestyle changes – The Nike+ game promotes exercise by allowing people to track their results and compete against their friends and others.

Four pillars
Winning Gamification strategies artfully combine four elements:

  1. Business strategy – Powerful Gamification programs are tightly coupled to core business strategies and metrics
  2. Motivational science – Successful games leverage key precepts of behavioral and social psychology such as the importance of continuous feedback, competition and public recognition.
  3. Video game learnings – Popular video games have been shown to increase brain endorphins, which lead to higher levels of blissful happiness.
  4. Collaborative technology – A variety of companies like Bunchball and have deployed enterprise-level Gamification platforms that can run different games

Both consumers and employees just want to have fun. Indulging them is becoming a sure path to business results (when the Gamification program is properly designed).  Ensuring this happens will be the subject of the next Gamification column.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

Gamification success stories

Many North American companies are in a funk.  It has become difficult to wring more cost savings out of operations and incremental revenues from customers. In a globalized world, just being efficient and having a good product is no longer a winning formula. In some mature sectors like financial services, telecom and IT, the only remaining differentiator may be higher worker productivity and brand loyalty, manifested through the engagement and enthusiasm of customers and employees. This is where Gamification comes in. This approach leverages game design principles and techniques in a business environment to affect behaviour.  Many dynamic companies like Microsoft, Commonwealth Bank, Nike and SAP are already using the principles of game playing to improve business and financial performance.

Fundamentally, Gamification looks to turn disengaged individuals into active and productive participants using fun and social competition, instead of binary rewards and punishment.  It is about using games within an organizational environment to get a person to experience a brand or change behaviorally, rather than simply hearing a one-off message in a passive way.  Regularly living this experience, whether in an on- or off-line environment, can indelibly imprint a memory of the brand promise or the desired change on the person. Gamification works because it gets to the essence of human behaviour, blending behavioural economics, motivational science, and the alignment of individual drives and rewards with corporate goals.

The roots of Gamification can be found in the 40-year-old, $70B-billion video game industry, a sector that knows something about hooking and keeping an individual’s interest and getting him or her to do things he or she may be reluctant to do. Playing games is a natural human activity that traces its roots back to prehistoric times. Hundreds of millions of people regularly play on and offline games around the world including 42% of Americans, 52% of UK residents and 66% of Germans (source: 2011 National Gaming survey).   Game playing has been successfully used globally to boost customer acquisition rates, spark internal innovation, improve call centre performance, foster increased collaboration and catalyze long term change.

Below are two examples of how simple Gamification programs has been used effectively:

The company faced a testing challenge releasing Windows 7 in multiple countries and languages.  It had to make sure the dialogue boxes worked well in every language. This manual process required motivated and conscientious testers who could consistently perform a mundane but important task without getting bored. Recognizing the potential of using games to improve their quality-assurance performance, management established a simple competition for employee teams across different geographies.  The objective of the game was to find as many errors as possible in the localized dialogue boxes. Interestingly, testers were given no financial rewards. They were motivated by the excitement of finding the most coding errors, being good corporate citizens and being the most successful office on the published leaderboard.

The results were impressive. The employees reviewed approximately 500,000 dialogue boxes, and found hundreds of bugs and errors in the localization that hadn’t been discovered in the original translation.  Microsoft is committed to Gamification.  According to Ross Smith, director of test, Windows Core Security at Microsoft, “Productivity games and virtual worlds are 21st century business processes, not gimmicks, something we’ve seen for years at Microsoft.”

Commonwealth Bank
In 2011, Australia’s Commonwealth Bank developed Investorville, a property-investing game that looked to improve the real estate literacy of potential home buyers. The game featured an online simulator allowing players to dabble in real estate investing without risking their equity. Working with a company that maintains residential property information and economists, the bank created a financial snapshot of every suburban housing market in Australia. By choosing an investor-profile (first time investor, more experienced, etc.), players learn about investment strategies, rental returns, and interest rates.

“Making the leap from owning your own property to buying an investment property can seem quite daunting to a lot of people,” claimed Mark Murray, general manager of Commonwealth Bank Consumer Marketing. “Investorville helps to break down common misconceptions and show the practicalities of property investment. The really beneficial part of Investorville is that users can, in the true sense of the term, try before they buy.” According to a September 2012 report from InvestorDaily, the Investorville game generated about 600 loans within one year of launch, behind an investment of around $400,000.

As the above cases illustrate, game playing has the potential to change the nature of work and customer engagement. Exploring this brave new world, however, is not for the impatient or unprepared.  Introducing game playing into a company’s fabric obliges senior managers to first align around their core business objectives & metrics and then study how other organizations have successfully (and unsuccessfully) implemented Gamification.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

Implement through Gamification

I rarely reference the work of other consultants, except when it is produced by Bridges Business Consultancy, an implementation-focused firm based in Singapore. An example of their excellent global industry research is attached.

My two key takeaways from their study are:

  1. Despite high awareness of the problem, managers remain challenged implementing their strategies and changing
  2. Employee communication, engagement and sustained management focus remain barriers

Our North American experience finds similar results.  To close this strategy-performance gap, we are increasingly using Gamification strategies to kickstart transformation and sustain change. Please contact me if you would like to discuss your change management needs at, Thank you.


Gamification: games businesses play

Game playing is moving out of the animated world of video games and into mainstream business. Gamification – the use of games to address business problems or opportunities – is an innovative form of consumer and employee engagement  that translates online game design elements into non-game settings.  A recent phenomena, gamification is being used by innovative organizations to: 1) increase consumer participation with a brand; 2) drive faster adoption of a new application or tool and;  3) foster process alignment. The premise is that games can help change and sustain new behaviours among your target audience, thereby generating real business value.   Games are particularly helpful with tasks people find a hassle, boring or psychologically challenging, such as following routines, shopping, completing surveys or reading websites.

Gamification improves engagement by leveraging a person’s psychological nature to play games, interact with others, and seek extrinsic rewards.  The more entertaining, competitive and rewarding the game is, the more likely people will participate in a desired behaviour and for longer periods of time.  Numerous studies have shown that extrinsic motivators (e.g., leader boards, badges  and virtual currencies) are effective drivers of participation, at least in the short term.  To be fair, it has yet to be proven whether extrinsic motivators (versus intrinsic motivators like personal will and desire) are sufficient to trigger long term behavioural change.

Game playing is common to every demographic and socio-economic group as it addresses fundamental human desires for things like rewards, status, achievement, competition, self expression, and altruism. Not surprisingly, Gamification can produce benefits across the  entire organization.  Marketers look to games to increase consumer participation with their brand or social media presence;  players are more likely to return to a site and engage in desirous online behaviour like completing tasks, visiting different web pages or shopping.  Other functional groups can use games as a means to catalyze employee action in areas like improving project execution, completing corporate education programs and maintaining employee health regimes

Gamification in action

Knowledge@Wharton, a publication of Wharton Business School, has noted some well-known examples of innovative gamification programs:

A Nike program, Nike Plus, allows runners to keep track of their runs using a small accelerometer in their sneakers.  The runner can plug the device into their computer and track results against their friends via leader boards.

The USA cable network uses a rewards system to fuel an ardent fan base for some of their shows like “Psych.”   Viewers on the channel’s special “Club Psych” website are awarded points for their active engagement with the site.

In an effort to cut its high fuel expenses, software firm SAP uses point-based games to incentivize employees to carpool.

Given the newness of gamification strategies and the inevitable customization needed for each company, published best practices and ROI numbers are not always accessible.  However, we have discovered some learnings that would benefit organizations looking to dip their toe into game-playing:

Great games are more than the sum of their parts

Just because something has an interesting game element doesn’t make it a good, complete game. Truly successful games are designed around a business need, are compelling to play and really focus on something fundamental that people genuinely want to do. Because game design is often based on widely held but sometimes faulty assumptions – for example, money motivates people the most –  managers must be careful not to introduce bias.

Start small and test

Like any other tool or methodology, games can be misused and manipulated (i.e. people cheat), producing unintended consequences or results.  The best approach is to do little experiments,  test different variables and measure the right metrics, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Get the right business owners

For optimal strategic focus and game design, games should be “owned” by the business unit or department that has the pressing business issue.  Regardless of the of the game being run, it is well advised in the planning stage to engage a team or outside firm with solid functional expertise, experience in human psychology,  and expert game design skills.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.