Review: Gamification Revolution by Gabe Zichermann and Joselin Linder

Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics To Crush the Competition by Gabe Zichermann and Joselin Linder helps explain how games are changing the world of business.

When it comes to playing games, most people think of video console games or tablet/phone apps that help distract the player from the drudgery of work. But the gaming field also includes sports, card games, and board games and the old paradigm that games only serve as fun and recreation is radically changing. In Gamification Revolution, we explore this shift in culture and see how business leaders are now using games to their advantage.

The authors start us off by presenting a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that captures the old paradigm, “When you play, play hard: when you work, don’t play at all.” This has been the conventional attitude that has defined what it means to have a sound work ethic.

As games evolved and entered the corporate arena, the lines between work and play are increasingly becoming blurred. The emergence of technology, greater market competition and the need for organizations to grow and adapt has created the need for better mechanisms to accelerate learning and performance within companies. At the same time, these factors have also required that organization’s relate with their customers more consistently and authentically in order to gain quality insight on developing winning products and services. Games now serve as an “invaluable change agent” for corporations to meet these demands.


Gabe Zichermann on the Gamification Revolution (GSummit SF 2013)

The book cites a few interesting stats which illustrate the phenomenon of gamification as an actual revolution.

  • The Gartner Group, which is an IT research and advisory company, predicts that by the year 2015, 70% of the biggest enterprises in the world will be relying on gamification. And 50% of of all innovation will be the result of playing games.
  • M2 research has projected that $3 billion will be the annual spend devoted to gamification services and technology before 2020.
  • The amount of time consumers spend playing video games has doubled from the years 2002-2012. Average Facebook users spend $50 per year playing games on the site.  Research has also noted that people are now spending less time on traditional forms of leisure and entertainment.

People have a natural proclivity towards playing games. The progress of technology and gamification applications has made it possible to develop an even greater number of highly enjoyable games which has generated the increased amount of time that individuals spend on them. Therefore, the investments that companies are making on integrating game mechanics within their own company strategies are aptly aligned with this trend.

Companies Who Are Using Games

Gamification Revolution lists several common company objectives that games can help address and achieve.

  • Improving performance of team members
  • Training and the acquisition of new information and skills
  • Energizing employees through wellness and health initiatives
  • Harnessing and leveraging the insight of consumers
  • Engaging customers as part of a long term relationship development strategy
  • Innovating through the collective insights of crowd sourcing

Examples of  actual companies mentioned in the book who use games for such purposes include: Nike, SAP, Pearson, Salesforce, McDonalds, Cisco, United Airlines, Microsoft, Spotify, Target, Siemens, GE, IBM and United Airlines.

Engagement As the Pivotal Factor of Business Success

Gamification Revolution identifies engagement between management, employees and business strategies as a critical but overlooked element for the success of organizations. Enterprise software development is given as an example. According to the 2011 CHAOS report of the Standish Group, 21% of these project initiatives fail due to poor levels of engagement.

Effective communication in today’s business landscape is no longer from a top down approach. According to Gamification Revolution, “old models of engagement will not scale.”

Employees need to be proactively involved in their learning and skills development. Sitting passively while trying to absorb information through lectures does very little to enhance their actual performance.

And by dictating marketing messages to customers, there is no way to really know what they think and feel about a brand’s offerings. This insight is important for understanding how to grow, involve and improve in order to boost revenue.

Secondly, while upper management may be keenly aware of the need to communicate effectively with employees and customers, it can be challenging to capture and sustain the attention of both groups.

The average person is constantly bombarded with many distractions. And even if their attention is caught for a brief moment, it is difficult to sustain it.  According to Chao Liu, a Microsoft Research Fellow, it only takes a new website visitor to decide within ten seconds or less whether or not they want to stay and keep browsing. And even if they stay longer than 30 seconds, the site may only capture two minutes of their attention (kudos for getting this far in the post).

With regards to mobile apps, Localytics found that 69% of users will only access an app ten times or less. And according to Flurry Analytics, only 25% of users will return to an app within a three month time period.

Well designed games offer strong and positive reinforcement that can be sustainably felt. The experience of increasing levels of achievement and awesomeness is what drives desired behavior on an ongoing basis (think Octalysis Core Drives). Although there are many options for encouraging engagement, this type of dynamic is why the integration of games in external and internal efforts is a smart choice for organizations.

Rewards As a Driver of Player Engagement

In order to motivate a particular behavior, it needs to be rewarded. Within the context of gamification, there are different models which explain the relationship between game mechanics and the rewards. Effective decisions in design should result in highly motivated players who want to keep playing. Readers of this blog, would know of course, that Octalysis is one such model, which is based on eight intrinsic core drives of game players.

Gamification Revolution describes the ability to earn status as a key drive. They cite the Whitehall Study to support this.  According to this research on 10,000 employees of the British Civil Service, individuals who had higher status actually lived longer than those of lower status. This was a stronger predictor of health compared to diet, smoking and fitness.

Therefore, rewards such as points, leaderboards, rewards, badges and levels can be powerful motivators that promote, what the book refers to as Eustress (positive stress), which motivates players to achieve more.

Corporations who intend to implement game mechanics internally or in engaging with their customers may choose to use points and earned status as part of their strategy. Or they can also choose to provide a more immersive experience based on a comprehensive combination of core drive mechanics. Therefore, thoughtful decisions should be made when choosing which route to take. Games are not a quick fix to instantly boost company performance. The success of a game initiative is ultimately contingent on how motivated the participants are to keep playing.

Therefore, appropriate decisions should be based on prioritizing the needs of the players instead of making hasty irreverent decisions on game design.

In summary, check out Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics To Crush the Competition by Gabe Zichermann and Joselin Linder to better understand how games are revolutionizing business thinking and practices.

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