Take a look at some of An’s lessons on why gamification is beneficial to companies nowadays.
An Coppens is a Belgian Gamification specialist, GitScrum client, and manager at Gamification Nation, where she leads teams who develop gamification programs to help organizations engage their staff. She’s the author of the books “Leading the Boss in the Mirror”, “Attracting IT Graduates to Your Business” and “Tapping Into the Crowd”.
She kindly accepted our invitation to contribute with us here, sharing a bit of her well-recognized expertise.
Good morning, An! Could you talk a little bit about Gamification trends applied to project management?
AN COPPENS: Gamification is a growing trend, as we see everywhere. If you’re running an app or software of any kind, you need gamification in it. It’s nearly becoming expected. We have social media to think of that, they are largely being gamified or emotionalized with emojis. We have been trained by the systems we use the most to expect gamification.
How did the Pandemic influence the Gamification market?
AN COPPENS: The pandemic made people turn to gamification more, to track behaviors in the workplace, because, suddenly, managers didn’t have a way to see whether workers were working properly. They didn’t have an overview of teamwork, so they needed different things. This way, gamification has played a significant role. Besides watching videos, playing games was the other activity people turned to, and that’s worldwide, not just in Europe. More and more people got used to playing online, and that more and more people will respond to game mechanics showing up in the workplace. The pandemic drove more people to use gamification or be more interested in it, and as a consequence, more companies supplying gamification on project management tools. Two years ago, I would say gamification was a desirable asset to your business. Today, I say you must look into it and look for it.
What are the essentials and the main advantages of Gamification for companies?
AN COPPENS: Even the simplest gamification program needs a visual progression bar, with visual progress and visual feedback. There is something actually rewarding in moving something forward, making progression step by step. If we can combine it with a physical action that the person needs to take (like “moving a task to another place or box”), then we reinforce it. Gamification also offers the opportunity to grant emotional positive encouragement to team members, whether their “steps forward” come with a celebration, compliments, claps, points, a token icon, or a message from the managers to congratulate them for little achievements.
How to develop a good Gamification program?
AN COPPENS: What will add value to your gamification program will be thinking through from starting a project, on what would be motivational for your people, what would be motivational for the stakeholders; rewarding and assessing rewards and levels according to that. If I’m starting a project and getting documentation ready, that could be level 1. As some project goals are met and you level up as a team, you could reach levels 2 and 3. The team can contribute to building the program, too, since building anything visual together has a positive effect on them.
Are there behavioral differences among women and men, while gaming at work?
AN COPPENS: Women are so much harder on themselves. Women and men are equally competitive, but we (women) tend to only enter a competition when we feel we have an 80% chance of winning a competition. If we feel we have an equal chance, we’ll enter the competition and be just as good. At the same time, men would enter a competition even if they had a 10% chance of winning. So, if you have ladies in your team, make sure to encourage them and show that everyone is equally able to participate.
How do you use GitScrum for Gamification?
AN COPPENS: We use Kanban boards to create gamification programs – Gitscrum Boards – and manage them. Kanban is definitely the tool we use to work. We like people to self-organize, so they update their tasks on the board. We also have an overview board to monitor all project’s progress – GitScrum Gantt Charts – and we use GitScrum Task Effort and Effort Templates to make estimates on how long a project is gonna take, so I can balance the clients’ expectations with my team capacity. We use GitScrum User Stories to add value to the projects’ features. GitScrum Time Tracking helps us measure billable hours and elaborate budgets.
Why should companies start gamification?
AN COPPENS: It’s about rewarding what you want more of, rather than punishing what you don’t want (because that would be counter-productive). You can influence behavior with gamification. Collaborators feel motivated when they see top managers pay attention to their achievements and recognize them. The more you personalize it, the better. When you praise your team members for their accomplishments, that’s the kind of thing that shows that you, as a manager, care for them. No matter if it’s a manager compliment, point, pat on the back, or also a client message if you can link that. It is very powerful. It drives motivation in my view, it drives compliance in the sense of getting people doing more of what they should, and less of what they shouldn’t.
Do you recommend gamification models? What about the RPG model?
AN COPPENS: I am a critic of models. I’ve been working in this agency for 8-9 years. I’ve seen many models being used and tested. In my view, what’s important for a company wanting to start gamification is to understand the motivation of your users – what do your users want to do, and how can you positively stimulate them to do and achieve more of that. If you think about it in the project management context, what’s the purpose? We want to manage projects on time, and with your people doing the best work possible. If I want to motivate my team, do I want an RPG model? Probably not. But there are fun ways of keeping things on track, and that can include levels, that can include very visual things like you have in most games. It’s that visual sort of track on Candy Crush. I’m not a big fan of any specific framework being applied to all projects. The first thing we focus on is the objective of your gamification, then the second thing is who are your end-users. Profile them, their emotional states, and then go into gamification design. We pick a mix. Depending on the source you search, there are like 800 game mechanics that could apply. Ideally, you’ll have a great storyline, but that’s ideal. We cannot create a great storyline for every single item in a project when we run, on average, 7 projects a month, every month. If I had to dream of a storyline for every single item in every project, every time, that would be impossible, I’d do nothing else. So, the (GitScrum) project management tool helps to have some storyline built-in, fitting the projects into the deadlines.
What’s the best way to use Gamification on project management?
AN COPPENS: From a project management perspective, for game design, if you look at the available games out there, resource management games like Sims’ City (for the construction business) or Minecraft (for game designers) apply the most as an inspiration. Basically, they offer you a number of materials, some humans, and then time constraints, budget constraints, and challenges. Those game templates pretty much mirror what you do in project management. To reach productivity, the focus is not the game, the focus is getting the jobs done.
Can you mention inspiring references from other games? How do references usually help clients?
AN COPPENS: There is a platform in the market called Classcraft – it’s super beautifully designed, it’s all about collaboration, it’s about students collaborating together to complete their tasks, doing homework, and all the work points affect your little team, your little tribe. I’d love to see different tools taking approaches like that. I also question if that would appeal to the adult user. There was a polish company that used to offer a gamification platform where you associated tasks with little monsters you had to beat while completing tasks on your Kanban boards, it was pretty ingenious. The simplicity of it was amazing, your team could throw monsters against you if you weren’t delivering properly, so it used to be fun – that to me was an example of good narrative and design. It’s a balance: getting the job done, fitting your brand and company profile. If you look at Richard Branson using an adventurous kind of seal, adventurous kind of game, hard games, would fit in his business. On the other hand, if you’re a high street bank, for instance, you won’t want to use that and associate your brand with dangerous activities suggesting risks. Clients bring references and it’s important for us to see where their mind is at. We use them as a starting point, then we analyze all the game types and win conditions to see what can work for their goals. Most games are designed to help the gamers be the “hero” or “group of heroes”. We also do the same research with their users, to see if their preferences match the clients. In case they pick totally different things, we review the initial idea.
Well, the GitScrum team and community thanks for gently sharing precious knowledge with us!