Welcome back. Hope you all had a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving. I've been traveling a lot, and there are many mishaps on the road. Nevertheless, I'm thankful that I am alive. Maybe I'll share some of these crazy travel stories sometimes later.
Alright, back to gamification now. All the tenets we discussed so far are mostly concerned with the behaviors we want to encourage and the strategies to drive them effectively.
In this 7th tenet, we set out to understand our players. This is extremely important to the success of the gamification strategy. Unfortunately there are often too many aspects of the players to understand. So what should we focus on?
Know Your Players—Trigger, Simplify, and then Motivate (in This Order)
As far as gamification is concerned, there are 3 main aspects of the player that we need to understand. They actually correspond to the 3 factors in Fogg’s behavior model. So knowing your players means knowing if your players have the 3 underlying behavior factors:
The most important question of course, is whether your players have all 3 factors at the same moment in time? If not, is there a way to use a good trigger to align these 3 factors? Only when there is a temporal convergence of these 3 behavior factors will your players carry out the behavior you want reliably. Once you know your players’ motivation, ability, and trigger, then you are in a position to drive the action you want through effective design.
A common mistake that many gamification practitioners make is they focus too much on the motivation factor. When a gamification strategy fails, they immediately fixate on how to increase motivation. For example, they try to give more feedbacks and different kinds of feedbacks (i.e. points, badges, leaderboards, etc.) to get the players to focus on the rewards. They also give bigger rewards and more incentives to increase the motivation. However, motivation is often the most difficult to change, and as such, the most volatile among the 3 behavior factors.
In practice, when you are unable to drive a behavior, the easiest fix is usually a trigger. Because a trigger fires at a moment in time and they are easy to implement, deploy, measure, and iterate. Making sure you have a trigger and that it fires at the right time (i.e. when the players have high motivation and ability) is usually the fastest solution to fix your failed gamification attempts.
If you have done all you can with triggers, you should then focus on the ability factor. To increase your players’ ability, you can educate the player so they learn and acquire more ability. This is pretty straightforward once you’ve identified the limiting resources (see Tenet #6 on how to use missions and behavior coupling to guide your players up the leveling ladder). However it is important to note, this is more work for the players. It also takes more time, because learning takes time.
Alternatively, you can simplify the behavior by providing your players with all the necessary resources to carry out the behavior. In this case, you have to do more work to make the limiting resource accessible to the players, but it’s less work for the players and much faster. This approach has been experimentally demonstrated to be more effective at driving the desired behaviors. Simplicity is generally a stronger behavior driver than motivation.
You should only try to change people’s motivation as a last resort, because that is typically very challenging. In cases where that can be done, it’s usually only the extrinsic motivation that you are able to change. Intrinsic motivation takes a long time to develop. However, extrinsic motivations are often short lived, and they are easily influenced by many extrinsic factors that you have little control over. For example, even a change of the weather (e.g. a rainy day) is enough to kill someone’s motivation to workout.
My advice to you; if your gamification isn’t driving the behaviors you want, you need to check your players for 3 things—trigger, ability, and then motivation—in that specific order.
Michael Wu, Ph.D. is Lithium's Chief Scientist. His research includes: deriving insights from big data, understanding the behavioral economics of gamification, engaging + finding true social media influencers, developing predictive + actionable social analytics algorithms, social CRM, and using cyber anthropology + social network analysis to unravel the collective dynamics of communities + social networks.
Michael was voted a 2010 Influential Leader by CRM Magazine for his work on predictive social analytics + its application to Social CRM. He's a blogger on Lithosphere, and you can follow him @mich8elwu or Google+.
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