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Gamification

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The concept of badges and medals seems, in theory, very straight forward – reward users for completing specific benchmarks. So why are certain games titans of innovation adding incredible value through their rewards system while others leave their users confused and apathetic? I’m convinced it stems from the very basic human concept of achievement and our desire for it to be relevant. Relevancy will be divided into social and solitary categories.

Let’s start by understanding the broad objective of gamification. Ultimately as a marketer, community manager or designer you want to add value to your game. If done correctly you can also provide structure and direction for gamers (often something many games lack), but this is a tacit result of successful gamification design. The value added comes by attributing quantitative representation of qualitative accomplishment. It gives explicit validation for intrinsic accomplishment or simply put, you have something more tangible to look back on to herald your success and give you something to work to accomplish.

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Another very misunderstood yet over used metaphor from game design that we use in gamification, is Bartle's Player Types. What follows is an attempt to create something similar to Richard Bartle’s player types, but for gamified systems.

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 AlbumIn the business of selling stuff, there’s a lot of managing. Sales reps usually have a boss they check in with on the status of deals in the pipeline, maybe to get some advice on how to close a deal when there’s stiff competition from another company, or to go over how an important customer was reeled in, so that others can learn from it.

These check-ins are sometimes referred to as coaching, and there is data to show that coaching can boost sales performance. A study by the Sales Executive Council suggests that reps who received three or more hours of coaching per month outsold those who received two hours or less of coaching per month, by as much as 17 percent.

Getting that coaching done can be kind of a hassle. But it’s the sort of hassle that Salesforce.com has often sought to understand intimately, and then create products within its suite of cloud software tools.

Today is one of those days. The company is announcing a trial of a new feature that closely ties its traditional Sales Cloud with its Work.com product. The point is to do a few things: Speed up the review portion that has always tended to be a big consumer of time and attention in pretty much any organization, and also to make it easier for sales managers to find ways to motivate their teams to, you know, sell more stuff, which is basically the point of sales in the first place.

Through a combination of Salesforce services including the Sales Cloud, its social enterprise platform Chatter and Work.com, an HR software outfit that includes the Rypple acquisition it made last year, sales teams will see each other’s goals, will learn about big deals coming in, and know about each other’s expertise.

The new tools will also give managers a way to provide instant feedback and public recognition to those sales people who are doing well. Remember “gamification”? It’s not my favorite word, but apparently it works to some extent, especially with sales people who have monthly, quarterly and annual targets to make.

There is research to back up the assertion that when people leave sales jobs they do so in part because they don’t think they’re getting enough recognition from above. Now, on those occasions when a rep lands a big customer in a competitive deal, the manager can publicly pat them on the back with a “thanks in Chatter” feature, and give them a “sales Ninja” badge, or something like it, that everyone can see in their Chatter feeds.

Think it all sounds hokey? Maybe it is, but there’s a lot of evidence that these things have a way to making sales people happier on the job. And happy sales reps are sales reps who close deals, or least that’s the theory. We’ve come a long way since Alec Baldwin’s memorable (and profanity-laced) monologue in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

The new features are coming in early 2013, and are available for certain Salesforce customers on a pilot basis starting today.

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Jon Guerrera

Former Lot18 employee Jon Guerrera is big into gamification.  So when Google offered him the chance to interview for an Associate Account Strategist position, he decided to make the process more fun.

He motivated himself to study for his interview by using a combination of milestones and rewards. He threw in time tracking, streak bonuses (i.e. studying for ten days straight unlocks a shopping spree), a progress bar, and variable rewards, which included Sencha shots and energy drinks.

He explains each motivational method on his blog, Living for Improvement:

Milestones and reward combination: Guerrera set up a few studying milestones at the 1 hour, 5 hour, 10 hour and 16 hour marks. Upon hitting each milestone, Guerrera rewarded himself with a pre-planned prize. After the first hour, for example, he was allowed two Rockstar energy drinks. After ten hours, he unlocked a $200 shopping spree. The rewards were realistic; he happily gave them to himself as he reached each goal.

Tracking: Guerrera tracked his daily studying time with a stopwatch on his web browser. He jotted down the results on post-its so he could reward himself for total hours studied and streaks. For example, if he studied for ten days straight, he allowed himself to buy a ThinkGeek item, worth up to $100.

Variable rewards: Some of his rewards were based on chance; they weren't outcomes he could control. For instance, every hour he studied, Guerrera would flip a coin twice. If it landed on heads both times, he'd be allowed an energy drink.

Progress bar: As he grew weary, Guerrera pushed himself to continue by implementing a progress bar, like the ones LinkedIn uses on profile pages to encourage users to upload more items. His progress bar was completed after 16 hours of studying.

A workaround: When he was too tired to study new information, Guerrera came up with a method he dubbed, "low energy progress enabling." In other words, he came up with a satisfactory way to study without actively learning new material. He'd record himself reciting answers to hypothetical Google interview questions, then listen to it when he was on the go. The time spent listening to his recorded answers counted towards his total study time.

Here are the gamiifcation sticky notes Guerrera created to track his progress (click to enlarge):

Jon Guerrera post its

Gamifying interview prep time sounds intense, but for Guerrera, it paid off. He landed the job at Google.

"I arrived at the interview nervous as hell, but I was incredibly well prepared," says Guerrera. "And I never would’ve been so thoroughly prepared without the system I’ve described above – every spare moment of my days leading up to the interview were filled with preparation and practice, which paid off in spades. Eight weeks later, I’m sitting in my San Francisco apartment, currently employed by my dream company. I’m so glad I was able to use gamification to help me capitalize on this once in a lifetime opportunity that presented itself to me."

Now check out what happens when you don't prep for a Google interview enough: My Nightmare Interviews with Google. Then read: This is the Application that Got me a Job Interview with Google >

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