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Why Gamification Projects Fail – And What You Can Do to Get Back on Track

Why Gamification Projects Fail – And What You Can Do to Get Back on Track

Gary Chavez

03/05/2015

By Gary Chavez, Vice President, Client Services, Bunchball

At Bunchball, we know gamification is a powerful business tool that can motivate better performance and drive ROI across all levels and all departments. However, we're also well aware not all gamification projects are created equal and some managers are struggling to achieve desired results. Gartner has even predicted up to 80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives. Is your gamification delivering less than you expected? Have you been up at night wondering, "What are we doing wrong?"

Why Gamification Projects FailFor help answering your questions, I asked gamification experts to describe the most common reasons gamification projects fail – and what you can do to get back on track. Here are their responses.

Gamification is unsuccessful when:

  • It's not tied to strategy/business goals. Contrary to popular belief, gamification is not about competition or workplace contests that pit employees against each other for big, one-time prizes. Instead, gamification is about motivation. Done right, it blends strategy with a scalable platform that motivates ongoing engagement, business insights and ROI. The only reason to implement gamification is to drive business results, and if you're not realizing ROI, it's likely you need to take a step back and re-think your intentions. You need to define clear goals supported by tangible and measurable objectives.
     
    From Ross Warnlof, Marketing Manager, Bluewolf:

    "What are the objectives of your behavior modification program? High-level goals must be supported by tangible and measurable objectives. Whether it is sales/service effectiveness, social collaboration, or adoption of new technologies, these initiatives are ambiguous without quantitative backing. Metrics are something that can garner executive endorsement. Keep this in mind when developing your key initiatives and their measurement criteria."
     

  • There's a lack of participation. If people aren't engaging with your gamification project, it's because they're not motivated to do so. That's a problem – and one that signals a flaw in project development. Successful gamification taps into basic human intrinsic motivators. That means it's designed to inspire active participation, because participating is interesting and satisfying in itself. If your gamification project wasn't designed with intrinsic motivators in mind, your employees probably consider it nothing more than another item on their (already endless) "to-do" lists. Is it any wonder participation is low?
     
    From Caitlin Donaldson, Sr. Data Analyst, Bunchball:

    "The first step in building a vibrant, active community, is understand exactly who's using your platform – and how. Then, once you have that data in-hand, you can work to optimize collaboration by facilitating participation, broadening conversations, and encouraging dialogue that endures. Interestingly, we've seen implementations where the top 1% of users comprises one-third of total activity (on average), and where the average daily activity for the top 1% is more than 2,000% higher than the average daily activity for everyone else."
     

  • The design doesn't resonate. Effective gamification design starts with an intimate understanding of what motivates your users. From there, you need to: 1) create experiences that tap into those motivators and inspire behaviors (especially high-priority behaviors), 2) build in elements that will surprise and delight users and keep them wanting more, and then 3) use the big data made available by your program to continually optimize it and drive higher ROI. If you haven't followed those steps, you'll be missing the real opportunity to engage your employees.
     
    From Molly Kittle, Vice President, Digital Strategy, Bunchball:

    "At Bunchball, we've found that as users get closer to the next milestone - reaching a level or accomplishing a goal - their activity increases. This is one of the reasons why it's essential to offer a mix of short- and long-term, easy and hard goals; so that all users, regardless of where they are in their motivation life-cycle, are encouraged to engage. As part of your design planning, we also suggest introducing new elements into your program over time to keep it relevant and interesting. One way to do this is to tie the new elements to the cadence of your business and align with existing events such as conferences, employee recognition vehicles or performance reviews."
     

  • You try to go it alone. The field of gamification is becoming increasingly focused on the power of enterprise-class gamification platforms. In order to succeed with gamification, you need to partner with a proven provider, one that not only understands the fundamentals of human motivation and the distinct motivators of your employees, but also offers a scalable means for delivering enduring engagement, business insights and ROI. It isn't quick or DIY – but it is highly effective and scalable.
     
    From Rajat Paharia, Founder and Chief Product Officer, Bunchball:

    "I've seen too many ‘out of the box' or ‘one size fits all' apps flop because all they do is apply meaningless game mechanics to a program, hoping users will be tricked into earning goofy badges and trophies. After an initial spike in interest, these slap-dash programs fail to ignite any enduring or long term change. Why? Because they aim to trick your audience with short-term bribery, rather than respectfully engaging them in a win-win scenario that embraces their personal desire to succeed and be recognized for their contributions. If you only focus on badges, the result (if there is one) is fleeting, and the program gets abandoned with the other 80 percent of the gamification failures."
     

Hopefully, this list will help you better understand why your gamification project isn't delivering the results you expected. Remember: Analysts expect the gamification market to reach $2.8 billion by 2016.

What's the driving force behind all this growth? The fact that gamification works. If it's not working for you, do you know why?

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