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. 


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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