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Are You a Lounger or a Leaper?

adult learning behavioral science motivation Jan 03, 2023

Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer

Perhaps the bigger question is why would 10 lords be leaping? Is it because of the lizard in the living room? Or a lusty look from a lover? Perhaps they’re competing to be on the leaderboard in a leaping league.  

In learning and development and, to a larger extent, the workplace we often attempt to get people to do something that they might not be motivated on their own to do. For instance, left to ourselves, few of us would choose to take a compliance course. And yes, many of us seek out information and skillsets that will improve our marketability, but just as many employees are satisfied with putting in just enough effort to avoid being fired. 

So how do we get lords to leap? In the case of the lizard in the living room, we often act out of fear. The problem is we have different fears and different intensity of fears. Yes, we naturally startle when we see a scurrying lizard, but some of us may like lizards, others might be indifferent to them, and still others might leap onto a chair and screech for someone to remove the offending reptile.  

So, appealing to fears does not have predictable responses.  

Similarly, appeal to a desire has unpredictable responses. While it is true that most people would like to make more money than they currently have, the reasons we want more money differs. Some want more money to purchase something, while others want security from saving the extra sum. Still others will use the money for their children, while others will use it to hire a babysitter so they can enjoy a night out.  

Worse, if we value something, we assume everyone else values it equally. We then judge people who have a different motivation profile as us as wrong. For instance, if you’re motivated to save that $500 bonus, you will look badly upon me who took that $500 and applied it to the purchase of a stand-up paddle board (putting the remainder on a credit card).  

The point is if we attempt to motivate via desires, we’ll probably only appeal to people who are motivated as we are, and tick-off the rest.  

While it is true that we are motivated by avoiding pain or pursuing pleasure, our true motivations are much more complicated and individualized. For instance, there probably is a segment of lords who find leaping not only fun, but so fun that they create leagues that compete to see who the leading leaping lord is.  

Gamification taps into human motivation without appealing to fears or desires. Play, in and of itself, is enjoyable without carrots or sticks. But just like fears and desires, each of us has our own version of fun. Leaping might be fun for those lords over there, but these lords here would rather lounge while laughing at the leapers. 

This is why it is vital to create learner personas for our programs. You need to discover what is fun for them, so that you know exactly which game mechanics to apply to your learning program, and which ones to avoid.  

Which still leaves the question, Why are the lords a leaping?  

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Know how, when, and why they like to learn, be able to speak directly to them, and know exactly which game mechanics they enjoy.

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