I was chuffed to get a long comment from Kathy Sierra on my last blog post, about how gamification of enterprise applications aligns with Dan Pink’s “Motivation 3.0” as he describes it in his book Drive. I’ve been a big fan of Kathy’s for many years, since I first discovered her “Creating Passionate Users” blog, and then listened to her many talks that are available via IT Conversations and other places on the web. (An annotated bibliography of Kathy’s good stuff is below.)
Kathy took some exception to my admittedly simplified descriptions of the components of Motivation 3.0 – mastery, autonomy, and purpose. And some of her points were welcome clarifications to what I sketched in my post.
Any attempt to use external regulation for anything that might EVER be intrinsically motivating is a dark path, and one I would strongly reconsider if I were looking into enterprise gamification. Gamification claims to be taking “what is good about games”, but it is actually doing the opposite. What is good about games does NOT lie in the mechanics (look at the oldest game — one still extremely popular throughout much of the world — the game of Go. It has all the essential ingredients for Motivation 3.0, and almost none of the surface mechanics), but rather in the core experience which IS intrinsic motivation: it feels good to do it for its own sake.
First of all, I completely agree with her that the fundamental challenge we have in gamification of enterprise applications is that adding extrinsic rewards to a knowledge-based activity can have the extremely counter-intuitive effect of reducing the intrinsic motivation to do that activity. As I’ve said over and over in this series of posts about gamifying enterprise applications, I’m assuming that the users are already well motivated, intrinsically, to use the apps and to do a good job. So gamifying them is not about increasing their motivation, but rather about achieving other important goals that enterprise applications (indeed, most other applications) do not do well, but which gamification can do a good job of.
So let’s rephrase what our goals for enterprise gamification are. There are three problems:
Which summarize to one big goal, in Kathy’s own terms:
As Kathy notes in her comment:
Games often make excellent use of feedback, but it is the feedback in games, not that they are games, that makes them so good at creating higher skills. Feedback is an absolutely essential element for developing competence (and ultimately mastery), as virtually all learning and improvement happens as a result of high-quality, low-latency feedback.
And that’s the key component of what I’m suggesting we learn from good games in our gamification of enterprise applications.
Again, I’m not trying to motivate people to do a good job (they are already motivated to do that, and I don’t want to mess with that intrinsic motivation), but I’m trying to:
Work is always hard, or it should be, but it should be just as hard as you can actually accomplish, and not easier, and not harder, in order to make maximum progress.
As I’ve pondered this conversation with Kathy, and what I’ve learned in Kevin Werbach’s (@kwerb) Coursera course on gamification, I’ve realized there really are two threads or rivers of gamification. I’m calling them, for now “coercive” and “encouraging” – I’m sure there are better words, especially for the latter type. Specifically, I’m partitioning these as follows:
It’s very possible that this distinction has been made already, and I’m just rediscovering an already well-known map, that even has correct place names. If so, I’m sure I’ll hear about it in Werbach’s course in the next few weeks!
In any case, I expect to spend a lot more words on these concepts in future posts.
Also, I just found another recent post from Kathy on a very similar topic, responding to a post by Larry Ferlazzo on gamification in education. Similar concerns, and very apropos of this discussion.
Now, as I mentioned, I’ve been a big Kathy Sierra fan for a long time, and I’m always happy to have a chance to share her awesomeness with the rest of the world. Here are some of my favorites from her:
Of course, there’s her blog, Creating Passionate Users, which is an archive at this point, but I highly useful archive. Some of my favorite posts are:
Her talks (most of these are audio only, but some videos) – all worth the time spent watching/listening and learning:
OK, I’m looking forward to hearing about how far off base I am – let ‘er rip! (In the comments.)
Your host and author, Nils Davis, is a long-time product manager, consultant, trainer, and coach. He is the author of The Secret Product Manager Handbook, many blog posts, a series of video trainings on product management, and the occasional grilled pizza.
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