Yu-kai Chou is a Gamification Pioneer and Speaker/Lecturer (starting 2003). He is Rated 4th on the Top 40 Gamification Gurus List by Leaderboarded, and regularly Speaks at entities like Stanford University, Google, eBay, and more.
Last week Google hosted their annual conference the Google I/O and released a new version of Google Plus.
The new one is an improvement, but still a major frustration for the majority of the people in my network. Even though they claim to have massive user growth rates, most of my friends said they just got pushed into using Google+ while checking GMail or other products and it’s extremely confusing and annoying. Not a good mark.
Therefore, I created a slide deck documenting the design issues Google+ has and the frustrations it could bring to users, in hopes that it would get the attention of Google so it could start to improve and actually become a site that people would love.
The slide deck is 129 slides, but don’t let that intimate you, as most slides only have one sentence in them and it reads quickly and I’ve heard it brings out quite a few laughs. Enjoy.
Some Big Takeaways
Google+ has a lot of users, but very few people use it – just check out how many people +1ed the Google Blog compared to Facebook Likes
The reason why this happens is primarily because people on the Google team are too smart, and cannot empathize with the mainstream user (like my mom)
A great product makes mainstream users FEEL smart
If users spend more than 4 seconds trying to find something, they already start to feel dumb
Typing in Plus.Google.com to get to the site is already a big barrier for the mainstream user to use
Automatic push-downs of content while people are still reading
Google+ has a large amount of “navigation spaces,” which makes it incredibly confusing for the user (and 3 more dropdown lists!)
Semi-Spammy Suggestions look like content, and content looks like Ads
Editing background information is really hard
Can’t really “Find” friends based on any criteria
Getting to people’s profiles and photos is a huge pain (People -> Your Circle -> Search for Friend -> Double Click -> Profile)
Auto-notifications really intrude into the Email space and settings are confusing to adjust
“Trending Topics” show posts from last year!
Google Hangout asks users to crash into random stranger’s conversations – awkward
Local only gives an odd recommendation that is not needed.
Socializing with users is hard
When it comes to social, don’t focus on being smart. Focus on making your users feel smart
Empowerment of Creativity is the 3rd Core Drive in Octalysis.
It is the the ability to utilize your own creativity and immediately see the outcome, allowing you to try again and again to see the final outcome.
A basic example is Lego: you give people the basic blocks, and there are infinite ways to put together the pieces and can entertain people for an indefinite amount of time without the content getting old.
People are by nature creative beings. We like to imagination, invent, and create, and both the process and outcome of the process brings happiness.
Think about games like Minecraft and Second Life.
Games like that are engaging because it allows you to create your own world, your shelter, and even your own looks.
Other social games like Draw Something (at least in the early scaffolding phase) as well as plants vs zombie.
Draw Something was fun for a long time because it allowed both sides to utilize their creativity and see immediate results.
The reason why it eventually dropped out was because of lack of fresh content (or challenges) and how people could just start to game the system by writing in the correct word.
That’s another good lesson in Gamification: when a system is “gamable” it devalues the experience of those who are doing honest play and demoralizes the players.
Plants vs Zombies, like any other “tower-defense” game, is about utilizing current resources and “plants” to solve a puzzle of zombie attacks. This allows people to utilize their creativity to create different solutions to solve the same problem, making it fun for each player to engage in the longterm.
I mentioned that in Farmville, one of the best evergreen mechanics they have is the ability to allow users to make art with their farms.
Competitive gamification is certainly becoming a hot, new business theme in modern corporate development these days. It has been demonstrated to be effective in sales, where game mechanics based on competitive models are used to promote a “competitive interest” in engaging customers and closing deals. Now management is exploring other business functions which might benefit from competitive gamification mechanics and techniques.
But competition may not be effective, or even desirable in the enterprise setting. Why? Because it tends to create an unhealthy environment where employees put self interests above corporate and even customer interests. Instead of working towards a win for the company, a win for the customer, the individual just focuses on beating the internal competition – his colleagues and fellow employees. (To win the brass ring; that cash award or trip to Cancun.)
“a contest between individuals and entities for territory, a niche, or a location of resources, for resources and goods, for prestige, recognition, awards, mates, or group or social status, for leadership.”
Notice the emphasis on the individual (or entity), and the need to “contend” or “contest” for something; implying that there will be a winner, as well as a loser. Maybe many losers.
In the enterprise this implies that we will have people competing with other people within the company. OK, that seems reasonable. But Mario Herger points out that this is contrary to the essential meaning of the corporation; yes, the very nature of an enterprise. For corporations are formed to bring people together and pool their different strengths in a collaborative setting. The fundamental design of an effective corporation taps the talents of its constituents to build something greater than the component parts. And yes, even more competitive in the external environment – the marketplace, where it faces the challenges brought forth by the other companies.
So now, do we want to introduce an anti-collaborative element – competition among the internal players, and potentially reduce their effectiveness as corporate team members? Possibly for customer engagement, but only after thoughtful analysis indicates that the benefits outweigh the risks, and possible long term detriment to the employees and ultimately the enterprise.
In general, adding the additional stress of competition to the challenges that employees face on a daily basis, will only result in a deteriorating situation with increased probability of burnout and uneven performance. Employees will become more motivated – to look for new opportunities elsewhere.
The Different Types of Competition
One perspective that we can view competition from is that of whether it can be deemed as healthy versus unhealthy. Mario Herger distinguishes between a “good” adaptive competitiveness and a “bad” maladaptive competitiveness by a set of specific characteristics.
Adaptive competitiveness has the following characteristics:
Perseverance and determination to rise to the challenge, but bound by an abiding respect for the rules.
The ability to feel genuine satisfaction at having put in a worthy effort, even if you lose.
The fact that you don’t have to be best at everything, just in the domain you train for.
Being able to deter or discourage gratification.
Being marked by constant desire to strive for excellence, but not for the desperate concerns of rank.
Maladaptive competitiveness in contrast, is characterized by:
Psychological insecurity and displaced urges.
A person who cannot accept the losing part of competition.
One who competes when others around are not competing.
A person who has to be best at everything.
One who doesn’t stop when the whistle blows.
An individual who drags others into competition.
One who will resort to cheating when he/she can’t win.
How Winners and Losers React
Now that we see that competition can be thought of in terms of adaptive and maladaptive forms, how do we view the players in these competitions? What are the common reactions that “players” have? Herger cites two Hungarian researchers – Martá Fülöp and Mihaly Berkics. They found that there are four common reactions for winners and losers.
Winners typically can either show:
Joy, expressed through gleeful enthusiasm.
Satisfaction with ones own competence.
Denial of the win as way of social cautiousness. Those players would feel guilty and fearful of the losers’ reactions, like retaliation, so winners would mask their inner joy and not express it openly.
Narcissistic self-enhancement, where the winners would feel a malicious superiority over the losers.
This is a guest post by Steven Laird. Steven is currently a Systems Integration Consultant at Accenture and is interested in the intersection of technology and psychology. He believes a gamified culture may be the answer to a countless array of world problems afflicting the human condition.
Can Gamification really turn traditional drudgery into productive engagement within the enterprise?
In a world where creative and innovative tasks are becoming an increasingly greater part of the world economy, it seems the archaic carrot and stick tools of motivation used throughout the Industrial Revolution are un-evolved tactics that fail to truly engage the modern day individual. Perhaps one of the biggest indicators of a lagging workforce culture can be seen in how the U.S. loses nearly $370 BILLION annually due to disengaged employees according to a Gallop Poll.
With such staggering disengagement and worker dissatisfaction, I can’t help but wonder… what if I could harness that zen-like focus I get when I’m fully immersed in a video game for twelve hours straight onto my real-life work instead?
Well, it turns out a hoard of start-ups and large corporations have also caught a whiff of what’s cooking and have started to build gamification applications and programs which have turned into a $100 million industry overnight that is expected to grow to $2.8 billion by 2016. Although there are many successful gamification examples that have cleverly incorporated game mechanics such as leaderboards, badges, and progress bars to provide real-time feedback and increased engagement, you have to wonder how in the world could you possibly make the most mundane tasks intrinsically motivating.
Despite the huge risk that 80% of current gamified processes may fail by 2014 due to employers simply replacing one extrinsic reward (money) for another (badges), there are actually quite a few enterprise gamification successes that have spawned from carefully applying game mechanics to fit the unique needs of each organization. As you’ll soon see, even the most mundane tasks can be successfully gamified to increase engagement. It’s time to take back that $370 billion and make a dent in our national deficit.
1. CRM: Salesforce Motivation integrated with Nitro/Bunchball
If you have ever worked in any sales related role ranging from door to door soliciting or the dreaded cold call, you know firsthand how demotivating a multitude of rejections can be. Although thick skin and a narrowed focus on the prize can get you through the day, in the end it’s team competitions, leaderboards, and rewards that have typically had the most success in motivating sales forces.
While I’m not particularly excited about these extrinsic rewards and believe that there’s a lot more intrinsic tactics that we have not fully tapped into yet, I do agree that providing real-time feedback and visibility into tasks is a first step. Remember how in the Disney animation Monsters Inc., Sullivan and Randall had a competitive rivalry to be on the top of the leaderboard? It was apparent that the tracking and real-time feedback significantly affected the monsters’ behavior in speed and focus on the job.
Salesforce Motivation uses these same proven techniques to replace manual processes with a user-friendly sales application that displays a team leaderboard, a progress bar, and a featured challenge that can be customized. Team standings display which teams are leading in points and progress bar while the rewards tab offers either real life or virtual goods selected by employees. Moreover, Salesforce Chatter allows for teams to easily exchange info and keep each other updated in a collaborative manner. While many sales jobs have not typically screamed of intrinsic motivation, let’s face it, we all have to sell every day in some shape or form. Now with this tool, sales teams can get a steady diet of real-time feedback to keep them gunning on achieving their short and long-term sales goals.
2. General Business Application: Badgeville with Yammer
What do you get when you combine one of the largest gamification companies with one of the leading social media plug-ins? Yammerville… I made that up but in all seriousness, Badgeville has become a dominant force in enterprise gamification with over 150 major deployments with major companies such as Deloitte, Samsung, Dell, and my own company Accenture. Similar to Salesforce Motivation, Badgeville provides an out of the box SaaS service that has many customizable options for companies to configure any type of goal ranging from task related goals such as completing expense reports to learning goals such as leveling up a key industry skill. With the integration of Yammer, companies are able to leverage gamification and social reputation so that when badges are achieved from a goal, these achievements can be published through social media to provide visibility throughout the entire company.
While I personally have never cared too much for posting an accomplishment through social media, I have found myself twiddling on my own Accenture profile and seeing how I can complete certification trainings or volunteer events in order to get the added bonus of a virtual badge. Although badges run the risk of sapping intrinsic motivation and creating gaming/manipulation of the system behavior, I have found that these badges can actually enhance intrinsic motivation, serve as a pseudo resume, and expose me to other skills/interests that I already have a liking towards.
When extrinsic rewards such as badges are paired carefully with a goal that you already have intrinsic motivation for, the effect can be positive. If extrinsic rewards such as prizes or money are large enough that they supersede intrinsic motivation, then all the unintended behaviors I mentioned are likely to occur and the benefits of gamification are lost. Because of this fine line and need for customization, Badgeville has created a gamification framework that can apply to a myriad of companies. Whether this is just a scheme to boost revenues or an effective methodology to improve productivity in enterprise remains to be seen.
Social Pressure & Envy is the fifth core drive within my Gamification Framework Octalysis that is primarily driven by the nature of competition and companionship. It is a right-brained core drive that bases its success off the common, and sometimes inevitable human desire to connect and compare with one another. When utilized properly, it can serve as one of the strongest motivations for people to become motivated and engaged.
Almost every social media network urges you to “Invite Your Friends” upon joining their website. Once you invite your friends to Facebook, everyone is able to see who is doing what and where they’re doing it and creates more social bonds within a site. However, there are many pitfalls as Social Pressure & Envy is a double-edged sword and needs to be done carefully.
For example, it is actually a mistake to ask users to invite everyone they know to your product during the Onboarding process. Why would they invite all their friends before they even know what your app is about? This should only be done during the scaffolding period of a game. Of course, in a 2-Player game it is appropriate to allow the user to invite one other friend to explore with her at the beginning, but not with a spammy email list.
In this post, I will go over many types of game techniques that are related to social pressure, including mentorship, group quests, flaunting, bragging, and gifting.