Ep 048 Bart Hufen with the Golden Circle for Gamification

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Bart is the author of ‘A brand new playground’ (Kluwer, 2010) and ‘Playing on the job’ (van Duuren, 2016). In these books, he focuses on the power of game mechanics and how they can be applied to organizations to achieve continuous improvement. He’s been a steady force on the Global Gamification Gurus top 100 and is certainly one of the founders of gamification and game thinking in Europe. His track record with his company BrandNewGame holds over twenty -often award-winning – digital game innovations. The solutions provided for clients are always developed using a proven agile method that Bart developed. This method is also part of the curriculum at the University of Amsterdam and the Gamification Academy. With an average score of 8,7, Bart is a highly valued speaker both in the Netherlands and abroad.

We started with the fact that in certain cultures, like the Dutch, it can be embarrassing to hear about your achievements or brag about them. However, it is important to be proud as well! About his week, instead of days which are less constant, he works 24×7, which is six hours a day, four days a week! He was inspired by the Four Hour Workweek and the fact that he almost drove his car off the driveway a couple of years ago. He now tries to organize his activities as part of a process with circular loops, that has three entities: publications, presentations and projects. Publications can be a blog, interview, writing for books, LinkedIn or other content generation situations. The idea is that this will lead to presentations, like Gamification Europe and other national and international conferences as well. These two help provide leads for his client base, which is where he gets his clients (and to pay the bills!) These projects are, whenever possible, then incorporated into this circular flow so they become part of the publications, that lead to presentations and so on. The projects have led to the creation of a gamification platform because they often worked with freelancers and small agencies which wanted to start from scratch every time, even if it had many similarities, and he wanted to be able to scale something. This platform allows companies to build a profile and solve problems for other people that struggle with other things. For more, we can talk to Bart at Gamification Europe or on the web brandnewgame.com.

Bart has been lucky and meticulous enough to have only a few failures using gamification, he gets a commitment from clients regarding the process of working to avoid unnecessary problems. However, occasional failure is hard to escape, and his story is about a time when he worked with a university (of applied sciences) five years ago. The concept included a heavy focus on competition and a leaderboard, they assumed that boys and girls would equally enjoy seeing themselves on the leaderboard. The male audience, in general, responded quite well, however, the female audience quit on the game quite quickly. The women saw it as a total turnoff. The main problem was that they made too many assumptions because the budget did not allow for many iterations so they didn’t have enough information about the audience.

A great story of success was with a client they worked with (no names allowed!) who is a large sneaker retailer in Europe. They showed the example of a store manager in Italy who was playing around with their clients and engaging them in the store. The objective was to get all the store managers with that level of engagement. Bart realized that different cultures in Europe (Dutch, German, Swedish, Italian, Spanish, etc.) behave differently, so it would not be possible to get all of them to behave like the Italian. Since it was 860 store managers, they had to design something simple that they would be able to replicate with their employees in the stores. The result was a game called Talent Hold’Em that is played with five people, you start with five cards (that have talents) and discard one card and pick up one from the stack on each turn. The idea is that after the stack is gone you have chosen five talents and you have to discuss how these talents are used in the engagement in the store.

The way that Bart approaches projects starts with trying to get the “dark side” as well from the client, using a gamestorm. It is about the objective of the company but it is important to go deeper, which for Bart is about behavior and has what they want for people to start and/or stop doing. The next thing is the users and their motivations, so they can figure out what to use effectively, and they use PlayGen’s cards. There is a game concept, a context if there should be a theme and which. For more info, Bart has slides on SlideShare, videos and presentations all over the place.

There are two things that he believes are best practices. The first is to really listen to what people are asking for, it is easy to just dive into the first thing that someone says they need. Getting to the core of what is really needed is what solves the problem, using strategies like the five whys. The other recommendation is to remember what the objective of the game or gamification is because it is easy to get lost in the creativity and excitement of a project and forget about the objective.

Bart’s favorite game is Cossacks. He also enjoys the Fallout series, Red Dead Redemption 2, and lately, he has been playing a lot of Hearthstone. He would love to hear the voice of clients who have benefitted from gamification and what is their perspective, which we agreed would probably be seriously difficult! However, he said that one of his clients, Regina Te Raa, has this video talking about this perspective in Gamification Turkey ’17. About books, he would recommend reading Bold: How to Create Wealth and Impact in the World. His superpower is to be a generalist, to know a bit of many things and to be able to understand business, the game industry, the clients, the creative people and to bring them all together!

In Gamification Europe Bart will be talking about the past decade and how to gain clients and his golden loop, his process, and how he has grown his practice using this. Remember that you can get your discounted tickets for Gamification Europe 2018 in Amsterdam just by going through this link: professorgame.com/GamificationEurope. You will get a 10% discount and you will also support Professor Game’s mission because we will receive a small reward if you purchase the tickets through that link.

The final advice is to always think of gamification as a strategy and not just an add-on or a trick that will solve all the problems. It has to be taken seriously even though it is going to be a lot of fun!

There are many places where we can find Bart, there are two websites: brandnewgame.com and gamificationacademy.com, he’s on YouTube, LinkedIn and all around the web using his name Bart Hufen.


There are many ways to get in touch with us, you can go to my Twitter @RobAlvarezB, my Instagram, our Facebook Page, subscribe to our email list and even ask a question to future guests!

Looking forward to reading or hearing from you,


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