Gamification, especially as it applies to enterprise applications, is all about engagement, and quality, and helping people achieve their goals. Or, to put it another way, it’s about motivation. There’s another approach to thinking about motivation, especially of knowledge workers (i.e., those who work with enterprise applications), and that’s as exemplified in Daniel Pink‘s awesome book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. For the purposes of this discussion, we can summarize Pink’s main point briefly as follows:
We are in the age of “Motivation 3.0,” and motivation primarily is driven by three key dimensions – mastery, autonomy, and purpose. That is, if you want people to be motivated to do their work, they have to have or be working toward a sense of mastery. They have to feel they have some amount of control (or autonomy) over what they do. And the work they do has to be aligned with a higher purpose, it can’t just be “because.”
How does this idea of Motivation 3.0 apply to or intersect with gamification? Gamification is the solution to a lot of problems that especially enterprise software faces. In particular, gamification is intimately related to surfacing the components of Motivation 3.0 – mastery, autonomy, and purpose.
- Mastery: Games are the best examples we have of reporting on a person’s mastery of something. Nothing else is as good. PhD dissertations are not that good, as we all know. High stakes testing is terrible. And so on. Games have this all over the place, with their points, levels, leaderboards, badges, etc.
- Autonomy: One of the key components of autonomy is the “ability to get into a flow state.” And games, again, are among the best examples of this, and they certainly are the example of getting people into flow state more easily than any other activity. Even musicians have a harder time getting into flow than gamers do. Millions of gamers every day have to be dragged from their game consoles or computers after hours of playing because of the appeal of the flow that’s generated.
- Purpose: One hopes in general that most peoples’ jobs provide them with a certain modicum of purpose, and that’s a fundamental assumption I make about gamification of enterprise apps – we’re not trying to solve the “purpose” part of the equation. But the work itself typically doesn’t help a person understand if what they’re doing is helping drive toward achieving the purpose. So, there’s a high level purpose, and we often have that in our job. But our day to day work may or may not be helping us achieve it. Games, again, are amongst the best tools we have for understanding if we are achieving our purposes. In games, of course, the purpose is much less compelling than a real life purpose (“Save The Princess!”) but because the linkage to making progress on the purpose is so strong, it’s enough to keep people engaged. Just think of the power we could have if the day to day, hour to hour work of a person could be seen, by the person, and in a legitimate, non-condescending way, to be aligned with and furthering the high level purpose. That could be ultimately compelling.
So, that’s my take on how the ideas in Drive align with gamification. What do you think about this? I’d love to start a conversation about this below in the comments section!