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Gamifying Motivation: How to Use Gamification to Drive Performance

We have all heard the term "gamification," but what is it really all about? At its core, gamification is about finding ways to motivate behavior. It is a powerful tool and, when used appropriately, it is highly effective.

What Is Gamification?

Gartner Inc. defines gamification as "the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals". A common simplified definition is "using game elements in non-game contexts." But the "digitally engaged" part of Gartner's definition is important because technology is one of the key reasons this concept has been so successful. With gam- as the term's prefix, many people simply associate gamification as games designed for the workforce. However, gamification serves a much deeper purpose.

Motivation in Today's World

Since gamification is really all about motivation, let's explore why motivation in today's modern workforce has evolved. For many years, scientists have defined two main types of motivation—extrinsic and intrinsic — and each works better in different circumstances.

Extrinsic motivation is refers to "performing an action or behavior in order to receive an external reward or outcome." Traditional bonuses, commissions and rewards fall into this category. Conversely, intrinsic motivation is defined as "performing an action or behavior because you enjoy the activity itself." 

Traditionally, the work we do in the U.S. has been driven by extrinsic rewards (i.e. build 100 widgets, receive $100 bonus; Cut my hair and I will give you $30.) And these types of incentives have driven performance in the workforce for more than a century. However, many, like the author of Drive, Daniel Pink, argue that "extrinsic motivators work really well…where there is a simple set of rules and a clear destination." When the work we do no longer fits this construct, these types of motivators are found to be far less effective, and even detrimental to performance. Pink gives a great TED Talk on this very topic.

Think about the way we sell today versus fifty years ago. Selling is not as straightforward as it used to be. Across industries, the focus has shifted from a "sales cycle" to a "buying cycle". Buyers are more informed than ever before. Selling now requires a more heuristic, creative, analytical skill set. So how do we keep salespeople motivated in this complex, buyer-driven world? The key is uncovering people's intrinsic motivators and leveraging gamification as a tool to drive behavior.

Not everyone has the same intrinsic motivators. You may love autonomy and independence in your job while your coworker loves to feel recognized and appreciated. Find out what motivates people and utilize game mechanics that apply appropriately. For example, top performing sales reps often love a feeling of autonomy. They will find mechanics like a progression bar showing their quota attainment and a reward for making Club eligibility motivating. Conversely, a new hire who may not be as likely to blow out his/her number, may find more motivation from badges for completing things like training and mentorship programs that will ultimately lead to better performance.

Successful Gamification

Gamification has existed for years and is prevalent in a variety of different contexts from personal wellness (i.e. Fitbit, Nike+, WeightWatchers, etc.) to education (Minecraft, Knewton Math Readiness, Mozilla Open Badges Project, etc.). And, it is seeing more recent adoption in the workforce. With its widespread adoption, there has been varying degrees of success. As a great example, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto developed a clever app with gamification techniques to better track the pain and medication success of cancer patients. They are now selling this app to hospitals across North America. When it comes to motivating your workforce, here are the best tips I can offer for success:

  1. Understand your People: know what motivates your people; understand there are individual differences
  2. Define Goals: compare individual goals with your organizational goals; where you find overlap is where you have the best opportunity for gamification
  3. Design the Experience: use game mechanics that are relevant and motivating for your team
  4. Drive Engagement: with an individualized, relevant contest, you set yourself up for the best chances for success. However, keep in mind gamification needs to evolve as your organizational goals change and as individuals' goals change. Adapt your techniques accordingly.


Learn more about Oracle's Modern Best Practices for sales performance management



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