Improv skills lead to success

Gamification: Devising Activity Cycles

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My previous set of posts described elements of gamification (such as meaningful choices and conflict) and how to incorporate them into business and improv. Kevin Werbach and his coauthor Dan Hunter also identify six steps to gamification (For the Win, p. 86), which I think provide an excellent framework for business and theatrical endeavors. I just examined how you can describe your players using personas. In this post, I’ll talk about devising activity cycles.

As a quick review, the authors’ six D’s are:

  • Define business objectives
  • Delineate target behaviors
  • Describe your players
  • Devise activity cycles
  • Don’t forget the fun!
  • Deploy the appropriate tools

In a gamification context, activity cycles are the actions you want your players (teammates, customers, co-workers, etc.) to take. You can think of activity cycles as patterns of interaction with your site that represent a task or series of tasks taken to completion. As an example, consider how you check in at sites on FourSquare. Your activity cycle involves pulling up the app on your phone, having it sense your location, and giving it permission to check you in at that location. You can also earn badges, receive special offers, and be named Mayor of a location by checking in there more than everyone else.

Some sites have longer activity cycles. TeamSnap offers a website where you can track your sports teams’ rosters, schedule practices, track attendance, and record game results. You can even assign team members (or their parents) tasks such as bringing snacks to the game. TeamSnap’s also useful for improv groups who want to track practices, send messages, and schedule shows. (Full disclosure: I’m good friends with several TeamSnap executives and my main improv group, ComedySportz Portland, uses their site to track our activities.)

Businesses have activity cycles in all aspects of their operations. Client generation, sales tracking, and customer service all lend themselves to gamification. In some sense, businesses that track sales performance and use other measures to rank their employees already use elements of gamification, but many times those scenarios take on the tenor of the “motivational speech” Alec Baldwin’s character Blake delivers at the start of a monthly sales contest in the film version of Glengarry Glen Ross. In that contest, first place is a Cadillac El Dorado, second place is a set of steak knives, and third place is “You’re fired.”

Some bosses thrive on intimidation and insult, but that approach goes against the spirit of gamification. If you want to gamify successfully, you can’t forget the fun.

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