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Gamification in Technology Adoption — Move From Adoption to Engagement

By Becky Lyons

Adoption is the use of a new technology. Engagement is the amount of involvement with a technology. This small semantic difference is the key to unlocking the full potential of new applications.

Some applications will have inherently higher engagement than others. For example, a frontline healthcare worker will have a high level of engagement with an electronic medical record because it contains essential information for treating patients.

There are other technologies we introduce to make processes easier and faster, even if they are not required. For example, a data analyst may or may not choose to use a metadata management application to learn about the data they use every day. While using the application will make their work easier and faster, they can choose to do their work without it. Engagement is about utilization — increasing the likelihood that people will use the application.

Benefits of Gamification

Gamification drives engagement and utilization using game mechanics to create game dynamics. Game mechanics are the rules and rewards within an application. They enable ongoing gameplay by providing feedback on accomplishments and instructions for the next steps.

Game dynamics are the emotions, motivations and experiences driven by participating in the game. People have fundamental emotional needs that gamification can address, such as achievement, reward, status, competition, altruism and collaboration.

Game mechanics are the tools used to create an experience, or game dynamics, for users. Essentially, game mechanics are how to play the game, and game dynamics are why to play the game. Synergy between game mechanics and dynamics increases engagement, motivation and, ultimately, utilization.

Gamification Mechanics and Dynamics

Here are examples of game mechanics and game dynamics.

Points – Having a way to earn points within an application can be one of the simplest gamification approaches. The key is to attach points to a meaningful reward, like gift cards, shout-outs in internal corporate communications, thank you notes from leaders or swag.Achievement – People like to be recognized for their achievements. Gamification allows for smaller, incremental rewards in the form of points that build to larger rewards or prizes.
Badges – These are icons or other images that people collect for completing different activities, such as setting up an account, updating a profile or completing a learning session.Motivation – People are motivated to collect more badges in recognition of achievements. This, in turn, motivates them to use the new application more often and in different ways.
Progress Bars – Progress bars show incremental progress towards a goal, letting people know exactly how much they have completed and how much is left to complete. Persistence – Showing people how close they are to completing an activity or set of tasks encourages them to keep going. People are naturally more driven when they have goals — knowing how far away goals are can keep people coming back to achieve them.
Leaderboards – Leaderboards illustrate how each team member is performing, often by reporting points, badges, levels or other achievements.Competition – Competing against others is a major factor in gamification’s success. Leaderboards give people a reason to keep coming back to continue improving their space on the board and to see others’ progress.
Missions – Missions are team challenges where people must work with each other and cooperate to achieve a common goal. Collaboration – In any team, there will be people who learn applications faster than others. Missions are a great way to inspire people to teach and learn from each other.
Newsfeeds – Like leaderboards, newsfeeds can illustrate how people are doing. They can also provide ongoing information about the application, including tips and updates.Community – People want to know what is going on in their community. A newsfeed can help people feel connected as they see what’s happening with their peers and within the application.
Pop Quiz – A pop quiz where people earn points is a great way to provide intermittent reinforcement for using a new application. This can be as simple as a one-question survey that people are not expecting.Curiosity – The goal is to keep people coming back. If they are curious about what will happen next, they will be more interested in returning to the application.

Rewards of Gameplay

There are lots of complex theories and models about why gamification works to increase engagement and utilization, but it’s a simple fact: People enjoy playing games.

Gamification motivates people to engage in new behaviors (i.e., using a new application) because they are recognized for participation and rewarded for progress. It focuses on the positive affective component of behavior change, such as enjoyment, motivation and pride in accomplishment.

Adopting new behaviors is often accompanied by negative affective components, such as fear of the unknown, intimidation about how difficult the new behavior will be, and annoyance over using a new process. Encouraging a more positive experience with gamification can go a long way toward overcoming the negative emotional associations with behavior change.

Business Use of Gamification

Engagement is about utilization — a business result that can illustrate the return on the investment of a new application, system or platform. To realize value, people need to use the new application. Often utilization is a choice — and a key to increasing people’s choice is to make using the application a positive experience.

The business benefits of gamification are many, the applications to gamify almost limitless. Are you ready to play?