Gamification Too Expensive? Try Offline Gamification

Gamification seems to have become a very hot and trending subject within the corporate world these days. Companies and HR professionals alike want to embed Gamification into their culture. However, many shy away from Gamification because of the big costs associated with it.

What if there could be a way for one to incorporate Gamification into an organisation or a department without exhausting the allocated budget? What if one could not only incorporate but also create a culture of gaming within the organisation or department? It is possible through offline Gamification.

Before we get into the difference between offline and online Gamification and how one can build it, let’s understand what we mean by Gamification.

Loosely stated, Gamification is a concept which deems to turn anything into a game. Whether it’s a business process or a trip to Paris, a homework assignment or an annoying trip from office to home during rush hour, it can all be gamified and thus played.

Many people look at Gamification with the understanding that it can only be something which is simulated using technology. In other words, it has to be a computer application or something similar to a video game. This understanding would justify the big cost.

Games are a world in themselves. They are immersive and the gamefier has to venture out to create such a world for its players to be immersed in.

However, this understanding of Gamification is incomplete as it does not take into consideration offline Gamification. Offline Gamification is every bit the same as online Gamification; the only difference is that offline Gamification doesn’t require you to create a web-based application. With offline Gamification, you may not be able to capture backend data of the player’s thought-process or decision making. Nonetheless, it has several applications i.e. training (business process and skill-related competencies), improving workforce productivity, enhancing collaboration and embedding healthy competition, to name a few.

So, how exactly do you design a game environment for work?

From my experience of being a gamer, nearly all my life, and from having designed some games myself, I‘ve learned that there are some rules which govern a game environment and these rules must be observed in order to create an effective game. The essence of the rules revolves around one guiding principle: Create a world.

Games are a world in themselves. They are immersive and the gamefier has to venture out to create such a world for its players to be immersed in. Here are five rules which will help you do that. These rules can be applied in other arenas also; however, they’re stated here in the context of simulating ‘play’ in a business process.

1. Know your business

You must absolutely and positively know your business and these elements of your business:

  1. Best Case Scenario – What actions have to be taken to arrive at the best outcome in addition to knowing what the best outcome is;
  2. Worst Case Scenario – What actions have to be taken to arrive at the worst outcome in addition to knowing what the worst outcome is;
  3. Ideal Behaviour – What is the behaviour that needs to be exhibited for the best outcome;
  4. Impact of Resources – What implications the resources (money, product, human capital, etc) have on the final outcome; and
  5. Impact of Time – What impact the lapse of time makes on the final outcome.

2. Create accurate currency

Currency can be anything (fictitious) you choose: points, coins, dollars, etc… Nevertheless, something that fits the game scenario you’re creating. Moreover, the accuracy of currency is essential for effective calibration of the actions taken throughout the game-play with the ideal work-place behaviours.

In essence, the currency serves as a reward or penalty mechanism. It is to be designed in a way that encourages the good actions by adding ‘points’ to the player’s score and discourages the not-so-good actions by subtracting ‘points’ from it.

Data for this decision can come from knowing the Impact of Resources (above). If money, product or human capital, etc plays a big role in creating that Best Case Scenario (above) for your business, then rewards and penalties must be designed around them for the game to truly create a positive change in employees’ work-related actions.

3. Establish fair timelines

Many business processes are time-bound. Here’s your opportunity to get timely actions flowing from people using neither carrot nor stick but by using something far more fundamental to us humans: competition.

However, the timelines have to be relevant and achievable. When thinking of establishing the timeline, the gamifier must think of two very impactful and intrinsic motivators: fear and hope.

The timelines must be designed in such a way that the player has the fear of falling behind if he/she doesn’t keep up and the hope of winning the game at any point of time. Data for determining the timeline for your game can be taken from knowing the implications of the Best Case Scenario. Thus, the time allotted must be sufficient for the necessary actions to create the best possible outcome.

4. Embed team competition

There’s a great story on competition that Dale Carnegie tells about Charles Schwab from almost a century ago, the essence of which holds true even today.

In a nutshell, he says:

Charlie found out that one of his manufacturing plants was significantly under-performing with respect to their output. The manager of the plant had tried just about everything under the sun to motivate his people. He went as far as threatening to fire them from their jobs. No results. The plant operated in three shifts and Charlie knew the managers and the staff very well.

One fine morning, Charlie decided to show up at the plant. He walked about the floor, shook hands and met people in his jolly way that he’d always done. He got to the shift leader and asked him how many heats they had done in this shift. The manager replied, “3.”

Charlie knew this was way below the standards of the company but he did not make a fuss about it. He simply thanked the shift leader and walked over to the center of the floor, took a piece of chalk and wrote the number “3” in big bold letters and circled it. Charlie then left the plant and went on about his business.

When it was time for people of this shift to leave, the people from the next shift had come. They were incredibly curious about the number on the floor, so they asked. The shift leader from the previous shift replied, “Big bossman was here this morning and he asked us how many heats we did, we said 3 and he put that there.”

Before the next shift was over, the shift leader erased the 3 and placed a number 4 there. When the next shift leader came, the same question was asked. The story was told to him and before he left work that day he erased the number 4, and wrote 5 in big bold letters. Within a week that manufacturing plant became the top producer in the district with 13+ heats per shift.

Such is the power of competition. Needless to say, we as leaders, must think of ways to create competition (with a collaborative spirit) within our teams to keep things exciting. Similarly, in the gaming environment, there needs to be teams of people playing the game against one another. Moreover, in order for competition to be real, the presence of a scoreboard is imperative.

Reward is a form of appreciation and we must be careful about what we appreciate.

A scoreboard that does two very specific and crucial things: 1) It tells people where they stand (their current score) in the grand scheme of things and 2) What they can do to change it.

5. Design compelling rewards/penalties

Designing a compelling reward/penalty system is perhaps the most important step of the five suggested steps. Reward is a form of appreciation and we must be careful about what we appreciate.

Very often, leaders appreciate the wrong things and wonder why the results aren’t in alignment with the company’s goals. Moreover, some leaders appreciate only the end outcome or the final product but are quick to penalise the wrong action or behaviour.

Such leaders must realise that not all people have the determination or drive to strive till the end for the sake of a reward. Thus we, as leaders, must recognise and appreciate end-goal-supporting behaviours because most of us are quite myopic in our outlook when it comes to achieving something.

Rewards and penalties must be designed around three things:

  1. Actions which are directly creating the Best Case Scenario (reward);
  2. Actions which are directly/indirectly creating Worst Case Scenario (penalty); and
  3. Behaviours which are indirectly supporting the Best Case Scenario (reward).

When leaders begin to reward end-goal-supporting behaviours, they start to see those behaviours more often because others begin to see the physical representation of what a ‘good’ work-place behaviour looks like. And as a result, the end outcome is aligned with what the company wants to achieve.

One element which is very crucial to be part of the reward system is a ‘bounceback’ mechanism. Something through which a dying star can be given a new lease of life. Simply put, it’s a bonus round which allows the losing team to turn the tables on the winning team. This keeps the pressure on and ensures that the winning team doesn’t become lethargic due to their lead and the losing team doesn’t lose all hopes of a comeback.

These five steps can be used for the various streams of application mentioned earlier.

  1. Training
    1. To teach a business process in an induction programme (non real-time);
    2. To teach a specific skill/competency highlighted in the game (rewards/penalties must be geared towards that competency).
  2. Assessment

To gauge the effectiveness of the player in the simulation.

  1. Gamify the department itself (real-time).

Ultimately, playing games at the workplace can be the root to personal and organisational transformation. It fosters enduring friendships between people who have been in the ‘trenches’ together. It allows people, in a fail-safe environment, to explore new angles, push their limits and gather new experiences. Experiences which they then take back into their lives to cherish for a lifetime.

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The effect of experiencing sheer joy together liberates and changes people at the very core of their being. It opens a new gateway, an entire world to explore which is fun and a bare necessity deeply craved by our consciousness. It lights up our world and makes us feel alive. Such is the power of games and play at work and in our adult lives.


Sport Girl Portrait 2 image courtesy Jan Willem Geertsma@freeimages.com


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