Friday Oct 25, 2013

Gamification = -10#/3mo

One of the purposes of gamification of anything is to see if you can modify the behavior of the user. In the enterprise, that might mean getting sales people to enter more information into a CRM system, encouraging employees to update their HR records, motivating people to participate in forums and discussions, or process invoices more quickly.  Wikipedia defines behavior modification as "the traditional term for the use of empirically demonstrated behavior change techniques to increase or decrease the frequency of behaviors, such as altering an individual's behaviors and reactions to stimuli through positive and negative reinforcement of adaptive behavior and/or the reduction of behavior through its extinction, punishment and/or satiation."  Gamification is just a way to modify someone's behavior using game mechanics. And the magic question is always whether it works.

So I thought I would present my own little experiment from the last few months.  This spring, I upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy 4.  It's a pretty sweet phone in many ways, but one of the little extras I discovered was a built in app called S Health. S Health is an app that you can use to track calories, weight, exercise and it has a built in pedometer. I looked at it when I got the phone, but assumed you had to turn it on to use it so I didn't look at it much.  But sometime in July, I realized that in fact, it just ran in the background and was quietly tracking my steps, with a goal of 10,000 per day.  10,000 steps per day is this magic number recommended by the Surgeon General and the American Heart Association.  Dr. Oz pushes it as the goal for daily exercise.  It's about 5 miles of walking.

I'm generally not the kind of person who always has my phone with me.  I leave it in my purse and pull it out when I need it.  But then I realized that meant I wasn't getting a good measure of my steps.  I decided to do a little experiment, and carry it with me as much as possible for a week.  That's when I discovered the gamification that changed my life over the last 3 months.  When I hit 10,000 steps, the app jingled out a little "success!" tune and I got a badge.  I was hooked. 

I started carrying my phone.  I started making sure I had shoes I could walk in with me.  I started walking at lunch time, because I realized how often I sat at my desk for 8-10 hours every day without moving.  I started pestering my husband to walk with me after work because I hadn't hit my 10,000 yet, leading him at one point to say "I'm not as much a slave to that badge as you are!"  I started looking at parking lots differently.  Can't get a space up close?  No worries, just that many steps toward my 10,000.  I even tried to see if there was a second power user level at 15,000 or 20,000 (*sadly, no).  If I was close at the end of the day, I have done laps around my house until I got my badge.  I have walked around the block one more time to get my badge.  I have mentally chastised myself when I forgot to put my phone in my pocket because I don't know how many steps I got.  The badge below I got when my boss and I were in New York City and we walked around the block of our hotel just to watch the badge pop up.

Walking Badge

There are a bunch of tools out on the market now that have similar ideas for helping you to track your exercise, make it social.  There are apps (my favorite is still Zombies, Run!).  You could buy a FitBit or UP by Jawbone.   Interactive fitness makes the Expresso stationary bike with built in video games.  All designed to help you be more aware of your activity and keep you engaged and motivated.  And the idea is to help you change your behavior. I know someone who would spend extra time and work hard on the Expresso because he had built up strategies for how to kill the most dragons while he was riding to get more points.  When the machine broke down, he didn't ride a different bike because it just wasn't that interesting.

But for me, just the simple jingle and badge have been all I needed.  I admit, I still giggle gleefully when I hear the tune sing out from my pocket. After a few weeks, I noticed I had dropped a few pounds.  Not a lot, just 2-3.  But then I was really hooked.  I started making a point both to eat a little less and hit 10,000 steps as much as I could.  I bemoaned that during the floods in Boulder, I wasn't hitting my 10,000 steps.  And now, a few months later, I'm almost 10 lbs lighter.

All for 1 badge a day.

So yes, simple gamification can increase motivation and engagement.  And that can lead to changes in behavior.  Now the job is to apply that to the enterprise space in a meaningful and engaging way. 

Tuesday Oct 01, 2013

Gamification of Disaster Recovery?

For the last few weeks, I've had the title of this blog floating through my head, thinking about how I might work that into a blog post.  The reason stems from recent events where I live, Boulder CO.  For those of you who don't follow the news, Boulder was hit by what has been called a 1000 year rain and a 100 year flood.  We got more rain in about 2.5 days than we usually get in a full year.  We more than doubled the previous record for the most rain in a single month--more than 18".  And here's the thing, when that much water comes down in a short period of time, the creek floods.  A lot. The sewer system backs up.  You suddenly are forced to remember high school chemistry/biology lessons on osmosis, when the water pressure in the ground makes the concrete in your basement into a sieve and water starts forcing itself in.

There are a lot of photos in the article linked to above, but here are a few that I took.  The first shows the flood waters raging in the creek, and a park bench on which part of a tree came to rest.

Boulder Creek after the worst of the flooding

This next one shows some ripped out trees, but also the blue-green post in the background on the right is a flood monument.  The lowest bar is a 50 year flood, the next one up is the 100 year mark, which shows how high the water got at its peak.  Above that is the 500 year flood and above that even, the Big Thompson Flood.  In the case of the Big Thompson, the amount of rain we got in a few days hit in a few hours.

Boulder Creek by the Flood Monument

In my own neighborhood, which isn't in a flood plain and not near Boulder Creek, there was some pretty spectacular flooding.  This picture shows the effects on a fence and a car that got carried down a street and slammed into a fence.  Somewhat ironically, the car came to rest under a sign that says "cash 4 junk cars".

Boulder High Softball field Flood-carried car

After the flooding ends, there's the recovery period.  This was a common site in my neighborhood, huge piles of wet carpet, drywall and ruined furnishings.  My neighborhood got lucky, relatively speaking.  A neighborhood away had a sewage block and had raw sewage spewing into houses.  Other neighborhoods had mudslides.  Towns nearby were cut in half or have had their only road access cut off.  But the bummer is that a lot of people discovered that their insurance wasn't going to cover the damage because they didn't live in a flood plain, so they didn't have flood insurance.  Or they had damage caused by something other than flooding, but since flooding was the cause of the other events (rockslides and mudslides), it wasn't covered.

Flooded contents of a house

So what's this got to do with Gamification?  In an earlier post, I talked about gamification of blood donation.  And I keep thinking that I wonder how gamification could be applied to disaster recovery.  Not sure people would like getting badges for the most destroyed contents of their house or biggest FEMA check or numbers of trips to the dump (we rented a truck and made 6, hauling our stuff and helping friends and neighbors with theirs), but maybe you could gamify volunteer opportunities?  As is typical for flooding and other disasters, some folks get hit and others don't.  Those that don't often want to get out there to do something to help, but aren't sure what to do.

I was talking to a volunteer coordinator for Community Food Share and he was saying that he was getting tons of calls from people who wanted to help.  So many that he didn't have enough work lined up that he could bring volunteers in for--but that it was too bad not to be able to point them to something they could do.  Maybe a system could gamify connecting people to volunteer opportunities in their areas?  Could social networks help connect individuals to other individuals who needed something?  I keep thinking about how I would define the business objectives here, and how gamification could move people from the kind-of-thinking-about-helping to actually-helping.  One problem is knowing what you could do, the other is connecting you to the opportunity.  So it's sort of an onboarding task, you come into the system and it helps you navigate and participate.

Another possibility would be getting people signed up with FEMA.  I was trying to walk my reasonably tech-savvy 83-year old neighbor through signing up with FEMA's website,  and kept thinking that it could benefit from some game mechanics for feedback, progress and achievement (that aside, kudos to FEMA--they got out fast, the people were really heldful and cut checks really quickly).

These are only half-baked ideas, but when I was discussing the notion of gamification and blood donation with @benserviss, @daverage and @gamificationco, I could see a lot of potential there.  Maybe there's a way to create something meaningful for the next disaster and its community...

Any thoughts?


All things gamification, mostly focused on the Enterprise space but occasionally on other issues related to gamification. Thoughts are my own.


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