What Makes Your Learners Tick? (The Secret to Gamification Design)

by Monica Cornetti
CEO, Sententia Gamification

Gamification is an effective tool to make training engaging and fun, because it uses the dynamics of games, such as collaboration, chance, and progress, to tap into learners’ intrinsic desires to master and complete tasks.

When done well, gamification makes training more engaging because it requires participants to complete a challenge, helps them see their progression, and gives them instant feedback and reinforcement.

However, it is important to recognize and address common obstacles that can crop up when using gamification in training. The obstacles include failing to identify why gamification is being used and not knowing whom you are designing for.

Because gamification relies on triggering an action in learners, the key to success is developing solid learner personas. We’ve found that most organizations don’t do assessments of who the players are and what motivates them. What makes your people tick?

Many...

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Lotteries as a Game Mechanic… Fun or Manipulation? (Part 2)

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

In a previous article, I wrote about the evolutionary psychological aspects of the game mechanic of lotteries. In this article, I want to share some of the cool uses of lotteries to change behaviors. While these examples are not about employee engagement and learning, I think you’ll find them interesting, and hopefully they’ll generate some creativity on how you can use lotteries as a game mechanic in your programs.

In my previous article, I noted that lotteries are enjoyed by most people except for those who place a high emphasis on Savings and Tranquility (the need to be safe). For them, the risk outweighs any pleasure gained from anticipating a large windfall. 

Lotteries are certainly popular, especially when the pots reach tens of millions of dollars, but when we discuss lotteries as a game mechanic, we find that lotteries are about more than simply rewarding with cash. The fun comes from...

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Lotteries as a Game Mechanic… Fun or Manipulation? (Part 1)

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

Recently I read some interesting research on the use of lotteries to change behaviors. While the results of these different programs are significant, people criticized the use of lotteries as manipulative, even when this game mechanic caused people to do helpful things such as save for their futures and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. 

I will discuss the successful use of lotteries as a game mechanic in a following article and encourage you to consider using lotteries to engage employees and learners, but I thought a pre-amble that hopefully sidesteps the “moral” associations of lotteries would be helpful. 

Elsewhere I’ve argued that what makes a game mechanic “fun” is its appeal to specific (intrinsic) motivators. For instance, Badges appeal to the motivator of Saving (the need to collect). The reason some people like Badges and others don’t care for...

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Level-up Learning: Five Levels of Gamification Design

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
CMO, Sententia Gamification

There is an oft-quoted and perhaps overused prediction by Gartner that 80 percent of gamification efforts are destined for failure. (At least that was the prediction in 2014.) Given the prevalence of the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule), we could say that, hypothetically, only 20 percent of gamification efforts in the Learning and Development space will be successful

Why will so many gamification efforts be unsuccessful if not outright failures? Could it be that designers and instructors simply slap some game mechanics on a program and declare it gamified? Instead of examining their programs and learners, and then strategically interweaving game mechanics, they settle for some points, badges, and leaderboards and wonder why they see very little changes. That’s like placing a cherry on top of a dish and declaring it a sundae. That one ingredient does not magically convert Brussel sprouts into a delectable dessert.

This is...

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4 Levels of Measurement for Your Next Gamification Project

Written by Monica Cornetti
CEO, Sententia Gamification

Let's talk Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. In its simplest form, a KPI is a type of performance measurement that helps you understand how your HR or L&D department is performing. If everything is important… nothing is important.

To be effective, a KPI must:

  • Be well-defined and quantifiable.
  • Be communicated to all stakeholders.
  • Be crucial to achieving your goal.
  • Be relevant to your program.

The trouble is, there are thousands of KPIs to choose from. If you choose the wrong one, then you are measuring something that doesn’t align with your goals. How, then, should you go about selecting the right KPIs for your program?

The best way to accomplish this is by researching and understanding the most important KPIs. This way, you’ll have a better understanding of which ones are specific to your program and which ones will be of no benefit or will not be impacted by your program.

Remember:  If everything...

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What Makes Story So Powerful? (Part 2)

By Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

When we hear someone else telling a story or sharing a metaphor, our brain quickly searches for similar experiences we’ve already had.

You probably haven’t been to Kakadu National Park. You probably haven’t even been to Australia. And if you have been, you probably haven’t ever been in Northern Territories, Australia. And if you have, did you leave Darwin? Or were you way down south at Uluru Rock? So you literally can’t relate to my story.

But when you read that story, your brain scrambled around looking for similar experiences you’ve had. Have you been to a national park? Have you seen petroglyphs? If you’re in the US, that “40c” reference threw you, but you understand hot and humid. 

When our brains search for similar experiences, we activate a region called the insula, which is an emotion part of the brain. This allows us to associate the proper...

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What Makes Story So Powerful? (Part 1)

By Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

A few years ago, I was exploring petroglyphs and ancient dwelling sites in Kakadu National Park in Northern Territories, Australia. In my usual fashion, I didn’t follow a prescribed path, and I didn’t take the time to read any interpretive signs. I had a lot to see, and not much time. 

As I jogged around one interesting rock formation, I was confronted by a huge painting on the cliff face. Panting and sweating (it was 40c and humid), I glanced over the drawing and instantly understood the story, or at least the broad strokes of it: The big creature with the claws and teeth (and huge vagina) gave birth to a more comforting creature, who was the mother of all humans, or at least the tribe who owned this origins story.  

In other words, people from more than 20,000 years ago, who spoke a language I don’t speak (and probably no longer exists), told I story that I could understand. 

...

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A Long View of Gamification and Learning

Uncategorized Aug 27, 2018

When you mention your intention to gamify of learning program, have you ever run into resistance? Have you ever had a higher-up say, “We’re serious people doing serious work,” or “We don’t pay them to have fun”? (Have you asked to go to a gamification conference, say, GamiCon, and struggled to get it paid for?)

Their resistance is probably to the term “game.” It feels like play and frivolity. In fact, learning through play appears to core to human experience.

The route most people L&D professionals took to gamification went something like this: Over here, I have these disengaged learners in a boring training program; over there, people play video games for hours. What if I took some of the fun and engaging (if not addicting) elements of games and applied them to learning? 

Makes sense, right? 

Then, as we begin studying why games are so engaging, if not addicting, we understood that certain things are happening...

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Awards and Motivation

Uncategorized Aug 24, 2018

A lot has been written about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in popular books and articles, but scientists are not so sure such a differentiation exists. There is no part of the brain dedicated to extrinsic awards and another part that comes from within. Dopamine, for instance, is released, regardless of whether someone gives you a reward or if you are the only one aware of your accomplishment. 

Or to put it another way, the carrot and stick only work if you like carrots and fear sticks. 

If a company owner wants to “bribe” employees by incentivizing them with bonuses for performance, those bonuses are only motivating if the employee desires more money. And why would an employee want more money? Maybe to better care for their family—an intrinsic motivator; to be able to buy a nicer car—the desire for status, an intrinsic motivator; to save for retirement—the intrinsic motivation for feeling safe and secure. The extra money itself is not...

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The Reiss Motivation Profile and Gamification

Uncategorized Jun 13, 2018

Think of how much you played as a child. You exerted a tremendous amount of energy, and spent as much time as possible, playing games. Why such a commitment? Because it was fun!

Ultimately, we were motivated by "fun," though we differ in our definitions of fun. Our brains have receptors for different "pleasure" chemicals and hormones. When certain desires are satiated, we are rewarded with associated brain chemistry that signal that what we just did was enjoyable or fun. However, we each have different numbers of these receptors. For instance, a sociopath lacks receptors for oxytocin, and extreme sports are only attractive to those with ample adrenalin receptors.   

When it comes to gamification, and Learning and Development in general, we need to realize that what is fun for one person will not be fun for another person. This type of person might find this game mechanic, but that person over there will be repulsed by the same mechanic. Think of the variety of...

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