Family, Fireworks, and Fun

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

Visualize this:  It’s the Fourth of July in the United States. You are at a park awaiting the setting sun and the fireworks. You are sitting on a blanket and have a picnic next to you waiting to be consumed. And let’s assume the weather is delightful (not the heat-wave most experience in reality).    

Are you there alone? If not, who is with you?    

For many people, this celebration involves the family—specifically, their children. They can’t understand why you would be at a park, watching fireworks, without your children running around.    

And then there are those for whom the bands of brats, roaming around the park, making noise and messes is a distraction from a perfectly good evening and a celebration of independence.    

In his landmark study, Steven Reiss, PhD, noted, among other things, that people have different...

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Power as a Key Motivator for Play

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

In the first-ever empirically-based taxonomy of human needs and desires (how’s that for an opening line), Steven Reiss, PhD identified 16 Core Desires that we all have. These Core Desires motivate us to do certain things in life to satisfy them. What makes us different from each other is the emphasis we place on each one of the Core Desires.    

For instance, Power (the desire to exert one’s will) is an important motivator because the more power we have, the more resources we have, and by extension, the more likely our children will survive and pass along our genes to future generations.    

So while we all have a desire for Power, some of us want more power than others (think politicians vs. your company’s receptionist of 24 years).    

From an evolutionary perspective, whether packs or tribes, animals tend to self-organize in a hierarchy....

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Every Profession that Designs Experiences For Others Uses Personas... Except Learning and Development

Pretty much every profession that designs experiences for other people uses personas… except the learning and development community. Game designers, app designers, web page designers all rely on personas to determine what will appeal to their target audiences and what things they should avoid. But for some reason, instructional designers skip this stage. They simply build a program around the course material without consideration of their “customers.”

Personas came from the marketing world a few decades ago. Marketers realized that focusing on whole populations wasn’t effective. They needed actual personas who are so complete you feel like they are your friend. Once you have their picture in front of you, you can create marketing copy that feels like you are talking directly to a single person instead of broadcasting to an entire population.

Whenever we speak about learner personas at conferences, we get push back. People say things like, “You...

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What Can We Learn from the Marshmallow Tests for the Gamification of Learning?

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

In our efforts to make learning engaging through gamification, we may trip over some unintended consequences. It turns out that there are some advantages to dry, boring lectures. 

It goes back to the famous “Marshmallow Tests” that began in the 1960s. As an aside, the Marshmallow tests didn’t just involve marshmallows. Researchers showed young children a small treat, whatever the child liked. If they liked marshmallows, it was a marshmallow; if they liked something better than marshmallows, then that’s what they were offered. 

The researchers told the children that if they waited and didn’t eat the treat until the researcher returned that the child would get two of the treats. However, at any time, the child could ring a bell and eat the treat, but they wouldn’t get the second treat.  

Some children rang the bell almost immediately; others were able to hold...

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The Dark Side of Oxytocin

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

In several of my articles and webinars, I’ve noted the importance of story in learning programs. Specifically, I mentioned the work of Paul Zak who, with the help of the Department of Defense, has shown that when we hear a character-driven story, even if it is as emotionless as the founding story of your company, we get a nice spike of oxytocin.               

Zak has made a name for himself in the study of oxytocin, being called the “Love Doctor” for his prescription of eight hugs a day. And while love can make the world go ‘round, it turns out it really isn’t as simple as eight hugs, especially during the #metoo era.               

Mammals produce oxytocin in their nervous system and bloodstream. It’s most obvious use is to...

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In Search of Fun

by Monica Cornetti
CEO, Sententia Gamification

Is it possible to make dull, difficult, tedious, or challenging tasks just a little more fun? 

What if you could make your employee learning experiences interesting, challenging, and FUN -- perhaps more game-like?

The reality is… you enjoy playing games. You’ve been playing games since the days of cavemen, and it is your nature to compare yourself to see how you measure up to others. Games drive emotions, build loyalty, and create character. 

Watch people immersed in gameplay and you’ll see their whole being is involved. They’re using their skills to the utmost. Time becomes meaningless and minutes, even hours, fly by. What if you could deconstruct games to understand what causes people to play games for hours, being completely involved in an activity for its own sake?

Because FUN is a completely subjective concept, to create courses that learners find relevant and fun is the pursuit of every...

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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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Four Types of Gamification for Learning

With a nod to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, it’s important to know WHY we are gamifying a program or process before we begin to actually gamify it. If I could anticipate what he would say (at least a few years ago) about the WHY of gamification, I believe Sinek would say our WHY will determine HOW we will gamify the learning program which will determine WHAT game elements and mechanics we will apply to our program. 

I’m sure the idea that there are four types of gamification didn’t originate in my brain, but I’ve given some thought to the below categories recently, and I’d like to begin a discussion and an awareness when we engage in the gamification of learning. Also, these types are not separate and distinctive; there are grey areas in between. So be kind and generous in your replies (and let me know whom I should be attributing to below categories to). 

  1. As a Cosmetic: Here you simply add game elements, visuals, and other design...
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