I was honored to speak at TEDx Suzhou on 25 March 2012, at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. My talk is titled Addicted to Greatness: How Gamification Unleash Total Engagement. This talk is an extension of my earlier talk at Barcamp Shanghai on 3 March 2012.
I change the main title because I wanted to focus more on the gamification part, instead of the engagement part. Here is the video of my TEDx talk and the presentation slides. (If you are in China, please click here to view the video of my TEDx talk).
You can find the minutes of my talk below.
The Coming War of Engagement
Studies have shown that since 1987, the job satisfaction rate has been steadily decreasing. Among the younger workers (aged 25 and younger), the job satisfaction rate is only about 40%. So more people are disengaged at the workplace.
Disengagement can hurt organisational performance in 3 ways: (1) Higher absenteeism; (2) Lower productivity; (3) Lower creativity. This can lead to massive loss in productivity. It was estimated that nations like Singapore, Germany, and United States lose billions of dollars in lost productivity.
Far and away the best prize life has to offer is, the chance to work hard at work worth doing. Theodore Roosevelt
More importantly, we need to engage because engagement cultivates talent. When people are engaged in their work, they have the energy to put in 10,000 hours of deliberate effort that can transform them to be talented people. However, once people become talented people, they can be disengaged. So engaging people must take priority over bringing talented people in.
This means the war for talent is over. To be successful, organisations have to win the war of engagement. Organisations have to figure out ways to maximise the motivation and creativity level of their people, so that they can have Steve Jobs and Jeremy Lins among their rank.
To win the war of engagement, organisations have to do one thing right: making work meaningful. Organisations have to blur the line between work and play.
Gamification and How It Can Be Used to Unleash Total Engagement
According to Malcolm Gladwell, there are three ways to make work meaningful: (1) Autonomy; (2) Complexity; (3) A link between effort and reward. The third way, a clear link between effort and reward, also means making progress visible – something that Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer Advocates in their book: The Progress Principle.
Autonomy, Complexity, A link between effort and reward, and Progress visibility are the elements of fun and the keys to total engagement.
One way to bring out all the elements of fun, is through gamification. Gamification is the use of game design techniques and game mechanics to solve problems and to engage people.
When we play games, we are totally engaged to the point of obsession. Games are so addictive because the game designers embed game mechanics in the game.
The game mechanics are none other than the elements of fun that we talked about earlier. In games, we have: (1) Autonomy, i.e. we can defeat the enemy in any way; (2) Complexity, i.e. we develop skills just-in-time to defeat the enemy; (3) A clear link between effort and reward, i.e. we get points, artifact, and other virtual goods once we defeat the enemy; and (4) sense of progress, i.e. we know how far we are in the game.
Underlying these game mechanics is the build up of confidence / self-belief. Games build confidence. In games, there is always someone / something who guides us and believes that we can fulfill our destiny – despite the adversity that we face.
Gamification isn’t a fantasy. It is enabled by web 2.0, cloud technology, and mobile platforms (e.g. iPad, iPhone). With these things, for the first time in history, we are able to collect and analyse big data – which is the lifeblood of gamification.
And our world is increasingly gamified. More organisations like Amazon.com, Linkedin, Salesforce.com, Nike plus, are gamifying their business so that they can engage their people and their customers.
Allow me to use Salesforce as an epitome of gamification. In Salesforce, you can find:
- Goals – a function that triggers two elements of fun: autonomy and complexity.
- Points and achievements – function that trigger another element of fun: a clear link between effort and reward
- Progress bar – a function that gives sense of progress.
To make gamification work, all elements of fun have to be used. Tencent weibo (qq weibo) is the poster boy for gamification gone wrong. Despite its fantastic point system, i.e. badges, levels, and points – qq weibo fails to inject meaning into their point system because they don’t have goals. A fact that is made worse by the ranking model (it is based on the number of followers – not on points).
Nike Plus is one of the best examples on injecting meaning into the point system. Nike plus did so well because they understand what the community of runners needs. Nike plus know what the people want, i.e. setting personal goals, improving your performance, training smarter, etc.
Point system isn’t the essence of gamification. The build up of confidence is.
Gamification can unleash engagement because it offers an array of tools like goals, points, badges, achievements – to build confidence so that people can focus and achieve their personal goals.
Smart organisations use gamification to engage their people and to maximise the motivation and creativity level of their people. With an engaged workforce, organisations can increase innovation and improve productivity by leaps and bounds.