The subject of long-term sustainable behavior change has been the center of my work for quite some time. In fact, my recent book—the science of social 2—is entirely devoted to sustainable (long-term) social strategies. But my interest for this subject began when I was studying enterprises’ effort to engage employees internally and customers externally. Despite the abundance of technologies and strategies that drive engagement, many companies’ efforts to motivate employee engagement (or customer engagement) seem at best transient. They either don’t work, or if they did work, their effect didn’t last long. Meaning the “change” was not sustainable. So companies have to constantly repeat their engagement program with their employees (or engagement campaign with their customers). And when they do repeat, the result is usually a diminishing return.
A common question I get when talking about gamification is “how can you tell if people are intrinsically motivated?” Since we can’t really measure people’s motivation, it’s not easy to tell if someone is truly motivated, let alone intrinsically motivated. Yet, understanding people’s intrinsic motivation is crucially important, whether you are trying to motivate your customers or employees to do something great. This is because extrinsic motivation is not only unsustainable in the long-term; it often leads to a backlash due to overjustification.
For this blog, I am going to use some real life examples to make this abstract concept of intrinsic motivation more vivid and realistic.
Last time I discussed motivation and the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Now we can go one step further to talk about rewards and the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Although motivation and rewards are both very critical to the design and implementation of gamification strategies, few gamification practitioners can articulate the subtle differences between intrinsic motivations vs. intrinsic rewards. Some even treat these distinctive concepts synonymously, which is ridiculously wrong.
Since this post builds on the concepts introduced in my last post, if you haven’t read it yet, please take a few minutes to do so. It is critical to understand the fundamental concepts around motivation before jumping into today’s discussion. Review it here: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation.
Despite the fact that good gamification must drive the temporal convergence of motivation, ability, and trigger, most gamification applications focus solely on motivation. Some even proposed renaming “gamification” to “motivational design.”
But many people are still very confused about what is motivation, and how it differs from rewards. What precisely is the difference between intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation? And how is that different from intrinsic vs. extrinsic rewards?
Game mechanics and game dynamics are able to positively influence human behavior because they are designed to drive the players above the activation threshold (i.e. the upper right of the ability-motivation axis), and then trigger them into specific actions. In other words, successful gamification is all about making these three factors occur at the same time. As I mentioned last time, the temporal convergence is the key.
Today, I will talk about the first factor in FBM: the science of motivation.
When I kicked off this short-series on gaming last week I explained the various game related terminologies. Hopefully we are all on the same page now with the basics. If you are still unclear about the difference between game mechanics, game dynamics, and game theory, please take a minute to review Gamification from a Company of Pro Gamers.
Now we are ready to talk about the cool and interesting stuff. Despite the ever growing list of game mechanics (and dynamics), there are actually some basic design principles behind all of them. And these principles are surprisingly simple. Once you have mastered these fundamental principles, you would be able to analyze the game dynamics and understand why and how they drive actions. You will also be able to understand why certain game dynamics work better than others in certain situations. Moreover, you can even use these fundamental principles to design your new game dynamics.