Flow is a concept by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi – a state of mind people enter when they’re totally immersed in a task; you don’t notice the outside world, lose track of time, feel in control, feel happy or like you are having fun, and become more creative and productive. Remember being a kid and going to play? You’d spend hours and hours making up stories, playing games, and have to be coaxed in to dinner at the end of the day. That’s Flow. It’s a focused motivation. Gamification is an attempt to stimulate Flow in people by introducing traditional game design elements, like rules, scoring, achievements and competition, in non-game contexts to foster a sense of play while people are actually doing something productive. Work doesn’t have to seem like work all the time, after all.
Who Uses Gamification?
Just about everybody these days. Schools, IT and technology companies, governmental agencies – every sector is finding a use for gamification. Marketers find that it helps customer retention and engagement. Businesses also find the same thing with their employees.
Gartner says that organizations that use gamification techniques have 250% more growth than those that don’t. Aberdeen Group found that companies with good gamification solutions have 35% less employee turnover and a workforce that is 48% more engaged.
Health has been gamified in recent years thanks to devices and apps like the FitBit, Fitocracy, MyFitnessPal and Charity Miles where the goal is to reduce hospital visits by getting people to exercise more in a way that seems like fun – competing against friends for badges and bragging rights, getting corporate sponsors to donate money to charities by hitting certain targets, and even making actual money by wagering whether you’ll achieve certain goals with others using apps like Pact (formerly Gympact).
Gamification on Digital Signs
You can start today by leveraging your digital signage system to incorporate the feeling of play among your managers, staff, student body, visitors, or anyone whose behavior you want to influence. Here are some ideas:
- Display information as visually as possible. Pie charts, bar graphs, funnel graphs and so on are a much more engaging way to present info than a boring list of bullets. Data visualizations also make seeing and understanding the information faster and easier – perfect for an audience that is walking past your displays on their way to somewhere else.
- Show progress towards goals to keep people in the loop on how the organization or department is doing, and encourage them to keep at it until the goal is met. Integrate with your databases to make sure the information is accurate and reflects real-time progress.
- Present current trends on your screens. This gives the feeling of low-stakes competition with others in the same industry. Show how you stack up in Inc500 rankings, ratings and reviews, award tallies, press coverage, and so on.
- Raise those stakes and have actual competitions. Individuals or departments can compete against one another toward similar goals. Winners get points or badges, or some other sort of reward that can eventually be cashed in for tangible, real-world prizes (gift cards, pizza parties, extra PTO, Friday casual dress, etc.) This also creates breakroom buzz (the modern equivalent of water cooler talk) as people compare where they are in the current standings.
- Get your staff to use and promote your own products. This is known as dogfooding. One way is to give points to people who promote things on social media using a dedicated hashtag you create just for this purpose. People can then turn in those points at a reward store for prizes like gift certificates, free lunches, travel vouchers and more.
- Encourage microlearning and reinforce training with quick quizzes on your screens. Provide a simple system for people to answer the question (QR tags or short URLS to take people to dedicated webpages is one way, or you could have them email or SMS answers). Then have a reward of some kind for those who answer correctly (or answer a certain number correctly), like being entered in a raffle, or a chance to play a slot machine game.
- Interactive screens and kiosks are ideal for gamification techniques. In the case of quiz questions that reinforce training or safety measures, people who answer incorrectly can immediately be shown a short refresher message or video, and a chance to try the quiz again later. This motivates them to learn what they need to, because there’s a possible prize at the end of the process.
- Celebrate success. When someone wins, show it on all your screens, as well as through social media, intranets and other outlets. People will see this and want that sort of public congratulations, so they’ll participate more.
Gamified systems use thing like points, badges and leaderboards to measure participation and progress automatically, so you can immediately see how much people responding to your system, for some instant ROI.
Rewards don’t have to be directly tied to the theme of the game. You know what you want your audience to focus on, but aim to please with your prizes. If it turns out you have a lot of coffee drinkers, then make the reward a Starbucks gift card or something similar, even if your game is an on-site safety quiz that has nothing to do with coffee. People will want to win if they have a chance to get something they like, and they can only win if they play.
One of the tricks is to always make gamified solutions voluntary. As early adopters talk about how much fun it is to participate, more and more people will come on board. People play games because they are fun, not because they are told to play them. Word of mouth may (whether face-to-face or on social media) be your strongest advertisement for gamification, especially with Millennials, who are used to sharing with friends.
And change it up often – a particular game shouldn’t run more than a week, two at the outside. Besides, the more different games, and types of games, available to your audience, the more people will have a chance to win, which increases participation.
Since digital signage is unparalleled for grabbing people’s attention, it’s the perfect place to advertise your games and rewards. Make sure you have good, high-quality visuals that are enticing. If it’s a voucher for lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant, show a colorful picture of a delicious burrito with all the fixin’s, not a washed out image or a scanned newspaper ad.
A few tips for creating gamified solutions:
- Before creating a gamified solution, think about the goal. Make sure the goal is something specific and tangible. “Be green” is too vague – make it something like “recycle 75% of all paper in a single week”.
- Give points for each task that needs to be finished. This allows progress to be measured and gives you immediate ROI. It also gives you data to display as incentive along the way.
- Have clearly defined rewards, so people know what they can get if they win. And make it more than just something abstract like points. Have actual things that people can use in the real world.
- Don’t delay rewards – hand out the prize as soon as possible once a game ends. If you dally, people won’t feel the satisfaction and may not participate in future contests.
- If there are repetitive tasks involved, create a level system that gives the illusion of progress. Unlock rewards and bonuses for people who reach certain levels.
- Make sure that your gamified tasks aren’t too easy, but also not too hard. Always think of your audience, and experiment, evaluate and adjust.
- Make it easy for people to participate – either by pressing buttons right there on an interactive screen, using their mobile device to go to a webpage, or send a text, or snap a photo.
With a little gamification, you can transform your digital signage from something that just pushes information out to your audience into something that encourages them to interact with your organization in real, measurable ways.