Improv skills lead to success

Gamification: Deploy the Appropriate Tools

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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 took a wild stab at designing for fun in my last post. In this post, I’ll talk about deploying the appropriate tools.

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

Deploying the appropriate tools is where the cool concepts you’ve brought together become a system you can poke, prod, enter data into, and get feedback from. If you’re measuring data entry, you can automate the process. If you’re measuring geographic information or activity, you might program a mobile app to capture the data automatically. Otherwise, you need to create a system that combines automatic data collection with user entry. The specifics will change based on your environment and resources, but bear in mind that almost any system will require a significant investment of time, money, or both.

In an improv context, deploying the appropriate tools occurs in the context of creating your show and presenting your product. How you present your performances, from your venue to your costumes and format, shapes your audience’s expectations and reactions. Much improv comedy happens in restaurants, bars, and other spaces where the performance is secondary to the venue’s revenue stream. The venue often provides the space in exchange for a little rent or in the hope that the performers’ friends will eat and drink during the show. All the performer needs to do is put on their dark colored top, jeans, and soft-soled black shoes to get going. Troupes with dedicated spaces must pay attention to audience seating, bathroom access, and availability of snacks, drinks, and swag to buy at the performance.

You also have to create feedback mechanisms for the audience and performers. As I’ve said in other contexts, the audience isn’t there for the performers’ sake — they attended the show to have an enjoyable night out. Even your best friends wouldn’t see more than one show if the experience was so dire they didn’t enjoy themselves. You can get feedback from troupe members sitting in the audience and, in addition to watching the show, paying careful attention to the audience’s reaction. It’s easy to develop “laughing ears” where every reaction, regardless of how small, seems like a standing ovation. A teammate in the seats can help you see and hear what the audience really thinks. It’s your job to listen.

I’ll close out this section on gamification with a look at ethical considerations. Is it possible to use game mechanics to oppress your workers? Oh, yes…

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