Do you think gamification only works in an environment where people don’t care about what they are doing?


Gamification does wonders for engagement around the world. It helps demotivated employees find the motivation that they need in a negative environment to help them be more productive. In a form of a positive feedback loop, employees are satisfied with their new found success and productivity that they continue to work happily ever after. What a delightful thing gamification is right? But, does it work for people that are already heavily motivated by an epic meaning and purpose?

We think so. It is far easier to add gamification where there is already meaning. Some of the best examples of gamification are in charities where there is already a deep important meaning, and gamification only adds fun to enrich these experiences. Furthermore, in some extreme cases, the barriers that demotivate may be too high to overrule the epic meaning.

Say that you are a doctor and want to use your knowledge to help fight diseases in Kenya. When you factor in the costs of two way plane tickets, living costs, food, injections, and consider the opportunity cost of free work with a purpose to getting a hefty pay check, it may be demotivating. You might still go, but may only consider a few weeks or months stay when you want to stay longer. Gamifying this situation may be the boost that you need to motivate you to stay longer. Let’s say there was a dashboard that had an overview of your stay, with statistics showing, for example:

  • How many patients you have cured
  • How many hours you have worked
  • Your success rate
  • How many injections or procedures you have done

And combine this with:

  • World, country and local hospital leader boards on total patients cured, visualising total impact
  • World, country and local hospital leader boards on total hours worked for every doctor
  • Average success rates
  • World, country and local hospital leader boards on number of injections or procedures.

You would certainly be more motivated to help others if you have a well-designed dashboard that helped visualise your your impact. Fostering co-operation and friendly competition is a key motivator. Combining this with daily feedback helps consolidate the epic meaning in your mind which will enrich the experience and allow the experience to be far more salient than a pay check.

In this example, gamification is pitted to be the main reason as to why the doctor would go and help. This is an extreme example used to try and clearly highlight how gamification can be used to motivate. However, it is important to consider that whilst gamification may be the sole reason that people continue to work in an example in which they do not enjoy their work, gamification will be one of many reasons, and not the sole reason, why people will continue to work in an industry that they DO enjoy their work. Work with a meaning can be enriched by gamification, and that is its purpose. It cannot be a replacement for a true epic meaning, it shouldn’t be.

About the author 

Shane Fumagall

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