Mario Herger: There is a learning path with every technology or concept. So you start with simple designs and then learn while doing with the help of trained gamification practitioners.

Over the past 3 years, 'gamification' has seen widespread acceptance from businesses who are now implementing strategies around it for their employees and customers.

We got in touch with Mario Herger - Founder and CEO of Enterprise Gamification Consultancy LLC, a strategic consulting group focused on gamification, innovation, social business, and intrapreneurship in the enterprise.

Mario has driven awareness around gamification by organizing and leading innovation events, holding workshops, working with gamification platforms, service-providers and game studios, consulting and advising organizations, and by incorporating gamification into corporate strategies. He has formerly headed SAP’s Global Gamification Initiative and has been driving communities for over 15 years. So when it comes to enterprise gamification, Mario Herger is one of the best persons to talk to. Below, he shares some insights and thoughts on how gamification is improving everyday and revolutionizing the world.

PL: Gartner predicted that by 2015, more than 50% of innovation driven companies will gamify their processes. Do you think that's happening?

MH: I think most now use an innovation management system that offers some basic gamification design elements. But they are not adding the magic. Smarter gamification designs and trained gamification masters operating the system are needed. Do they have it? Yes. Do they operate it well? Most of them, probably not.

PL: "By 2014, 80% of the gamified solutions will fail". Do you think these companies are learning from their mistakes? What do you believe was the primary cause of failure?

MH: First, I am skeptical about those numbers. Gartner has a history of using the same failure numbers for many areas. In fact, gamification will fail if you do a shitty job and just don't know what gamification is. Second, there is a learning path like with every technology or concept. So you start with simple designs and then learn while doing with the help of trained gamification practitioners. Third, gamification is a process, not a project. It doesn’t stop when you launch the system, it is ongoing. As with social media. You wouldn't just toss out a social media platform, lean back, and say: "Now community, come". And then you are surprised that it’s not working and blame it on social media as a failed concept. A famous example of gamification failure is the competition that the Disney Resort in Anaheim implemented for their room-maids. They put on a leaderboard based on the the speed with which the maids cleaned the rooms, which led them to skip bathroom breaks and do a worse job and be all stressed out. The management there just didn’t care about what motivates the room maids. They would have also learned that competition among such an audience is a very very bad idea. And they actually violated labor laws, because the women skipped breaks.

PL: If you had to chose the top 3 most successful gamified solutions running currently, what would they be? And why do you think so?

MH: SAP Community Network, Stack Overflow, and LinkedIn are three examples. They keep players engaged over long time and keep the system fresh. Players have a chance to build up reputation in their profession.

PL: You have recently talked about why companies should not have gamification debt getting accrued. How should companies plan in advance to solve this problem for the long term benefits?

MH: Learn gamification. It’s like training your sales-force. You wouldn’t let them meet your customers without training them on your product. Otherwise, you are just burning the customers’ time and they’ll never let you in again. So if you think that you can just go in and say, “Let’s do some competition and add points and badges” you are doing a terrible job and accruing debt, because everyone in the company will then associate gamification with that and tell you, ‘no, not again’.

So the best way is to get trained and not take short cuts.

PL: Do you think intermittent feedback through contests and competitions is better than sustained feedback to maintain engagement over long durations of time?

MH: I generally discourage contests and competition, especially in a work environment where you want people to collaborate. Competition leads to unethical behavior, less collaboration, and disadvantages certain employees, especially women. So the answer should be clear.

PL: Do you think there is a need for more exotic game mechanics like timers/resource management/narratives to drive engagement or is the standard PBL methodology sufficient if applied correctly?

MH: Yes there is a need for better game mechanics. But if you are new to gamification, start with some points and badges and work your way up to more elaborate designs. I keep showing my clients designs and videos of gamification approaches that are fun and do not have PBLs at all.

PL: Do you think fun is an integral part of gamified experiences? Is data driven feedback sufficient to motivate behavioural change?

MH: Yes and No. It's like money: money itself is no means to an end. But fulfilling dreams with money makes sense. Sufficient feedback through points or a text message are good and necessary, but adding fun or having a larger meaning is important. Do I enjoy myself while doing this task? Do I have an opportunity to learn, become better, make new experiences, meet others and socialize? Then this is good.

PL: Do you think in the long run gamification will kill intrinsic motivation and hence be treated as a bad thing?

MH: Gamification and intrinsic motivation are not opposites. Good gamification designs use a lot of intrinsic motivators. That I build up a reputation as an expert on a knowledge community is an intrinsic motivator. Being able to meet people there that I otherwise would never have a chance to meet or get to know is another one.

PL: Can you name three top sectors that have successfully implemented gamification, and why do you think it succeeded there?

MH: There are so many sectors now with good designs, it’s hard to choose. We see a lot in healthcare, in fact there are hundreds of designs for surgeons, nurses, patients, family members, children, etc. Then there is the whole space of education and training. This is by far the largest sector where gamification is applied. And then even areas such as banking and financials, or sales and support are using a lot.

PL: How much do you think should a "user/company" be involved in the process of creating a gamified solution when outsourced to a gamification vendor?

MH: It’s not an external service. They must learn how it works, why it works, and how it is operated. It’s not just some fun that you spread over some application. What you actually get beside engagement and a happier workforce/customers is a lot of data on your employees and customers. A game needs to know what you have done, how often, and how well to level you up or reward you. Applied to all aspects of work this is a reflection of your skills. Suddenly this information becomes super valuable for your HR and management processes and change the way you manage. Would you outsource such a crucial component?

PL: What are the upcoming potential fields in which gamification could be applied to solve engagement problems going forward (where it is not effectively applied at the moment)? How do you foresee the gamification industry growing from here and will there be any market forces that will affect the industry in the coming days? If so what are they?

MH: I see the market for universal, enterprise grade gamification platforms doubling in the next 12 months. The forces that come in are SAP – the largest business software maker – entering the market this year with their announcement of a platform. They tend to be very successful with introducing new platforms to their base of 200,000 corporate customers. And this will draw a lot of attention from customers, who will see gamification moving from a novelty and obscurity to a mainstream serious technology that they have to invest in. And this will also force other large software makers to enter the market. The next 12-18 months will be very interesting.

We hope that all of you have learned something about how gamification is making its impact on businesses around the world, and how gamification itself is improving around the world — we definitely have!

If you would like to learn more from Mario, check out his works:

Playlyfe is addressing the same problem! Check it out.

Until next time!