Dan Ariely’s TED talk is a good one. It’s very straightforward, and gives some good ideas about what motivates people. It can be especially helpful when considering a rewards system within enterprise software. It’s important to think beyond the money that workers (our users) are rewarded with. The challenge is to include things like meaning, creation, challenge, ownership, identity, and pride. That notion — that we need more than just payment as motivation — is at the heart of enterprise playability.
The question comes up often in designing gamified systems: Are the rewards actually worth anything? Can I trade then in for something?
Great article addressing the topic: Motivating Through Games.
At MOC1 we ran an experiment on this very topic, to see if rewards with little or no value (we used Post-It notes, each with a star scribbled on it) worked as a motivator. The experiment was short-lived, but highly successful. Team members responded brilliantly.
The notes themselves were posted to a bulletin board, under the names of the team members who earned them. So it was a leaderboard. It was clear that the notes themselves weren’t what people wanted, but rather to see a stack of stars under their names, and to have more than their teammates.
The team also responded well to Post-It stars given to the team on days when everyone on the team earned a star.
At one point one of the team members approached me to ask “Are these stars worth anything? Can we trade them in for something?” I just said “Right now I’m not sure.” It had no effect, positive or negative, on anyone’s behavior.
Our conclusion was that seemingly empty rewards are a strong motivator, when shown in a leaderboard.
The key components of Enterprise Playability are gamification and video-game-like usability. When designing an app with EP, a couple of important questions must be addressed early on: What should users be rewarded for? And which functionality should be playable? Two of the fundamentals of EP are:
- Make it easy for users to meet their own goals
- Reward users for meeting business goals
Understanding user goals is just as important as understanding business goals. In user-centered design, designers must capture and design for both.
Great video games are easy to play because they make it easy for users to understand what to do and how to do it. They keep users engaged by rewarding for meeting specific goals. Think of an arcade shooter: You pick up a gun and shoot at stuff. Fun! Easy to get! Your simple user goals (“shoot stuff,” “blow stuff up”) are easy to achieve. Your score, however, is tied to shooting the right stuff, and also not shooting the old lady holding a bag of groceries. Those are the business goals, and you get points when you get them right.
In an enterprise app, core functionality should support the primary goals of the users, and make them easy to achieve . Rewards should motivate users to meet business goals. Think of a point of sale app. The user wants to inform customers, make sales, and get a big fat commission check. Management wants to sell more of the high-margin items, capture customer phone numbers for follow-up contact, and keep customers coming back.
So the easiest activities in the app should be:
- Sell stuff
- Get information about stuff
- Sell more stuff
Rewards should be for:
- Selling the right stuff
- Capturing customer contact info
- Repeat visits from happy customers
The end result is happy users who are excited about doing their best to meet business goals.