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This is a special episode, instead of a regular interview you will have access to the audio version of the panel I moderated during Gamification Europe 2018 in Amsterdam, featuring Juliette Denny, Munch Lam and Will Stuart-Jones.
Juliette Denny is the managing director of Growth Engineering which is a company that helps the corporate world make their learning a lot more engaging. They set up the learning infrastructure for large and small companies alike so their employees actually love to learn. Will works for 3radical that is a SaaS company that provides gamification software coming from a marketing background. Munch Lam founded SelfDrvn in Singapore and they are a gamification platform company that started in 2015 building their customer base especially in Asia.
The first question for the three of them was about how has the industry progressed in these 10+ years. It started with Juliette seeing a big leap from sticking some gaming mechanics into a client that is better informed on how gamification can work beyond the typical and mainly simplistic points, badges and leaderboards, at least from the perspective they have from the contact with their clients. Will has seen how coming from a more traditional marketing perspective, there has been a lot of validation for the strategy of gamification. Where they used to go more towards clients to convince them, they are now more and more getting inbound requests for the use of gamification. This doesn’t mean that mistakes haven’t happened, which has led to multiple learning opportunities to improve the practice. On the other hand, Munch has been doing software engineering for a while (since he was 12) and he has seen technology come and go. Initially, there are incredible expectations of what new technologies can achieve, then come many failed experiments (mainly due to unrealistic expectations) and then comes a time to learn from experience and consolidate what works, how to deliver tangible value and he believes there is a place for gamification in the business world. The whole behavioral science is picking up and gamification is really the user experience aspect of this science and we can make it work.
Coming from social media before the conference I did get a few questions from the Engagers. and one of them was from Chuck Sigmund who works in Amazon. He asked how to make the business case for gamification when a company doesn’t have much data to make the decision. Juliette faces that question quite often and they approach it not from a gamification point of view but rather from behavioral science and how the brain works. The question is what do you have now, how many people engage with that learning platform, typically logging in 5 times a year where Growth Engineering usually gets around 10 logins a day on average, which is meaningful since learning is not a once and done. The idea is to talk about how to make the best of the budget they have available to reach the objectives. Will says it is about being able to prove the output that has been generated, which is something they certainly include in their solutions. The other thing is to work with clear objectives and value exchange which is something they use quite often and measure how those objectives are being achieved. Munch agrees with the previously stated and also gave us insights into what a CEO of a company who doesn’t do gamification can think because that is where he was before starting the journey of gamification (and he still is that CEO). In a CEO’s head, learning without performance is not a business, it is a university. Engagement without performance is pampering. What they care about is performance, which he argues can be defined as the following three things: increased revenue, reduced cost or better compliance with the law. If we don’t hit one of those three, the meeting is over, if you do then I am onboard!
A question from the live audience was directed towards the last comment coming from Munch, where mentioning the three components of performance and she was wondering what about employee engagement. Munch mentioned how in today’s world knowledge, collaboration, innovation and initiative is important, decisions have to be made on a daily basis so engagement needs to be done right. Having said that, he has also seen companies with highly engaged workforces that are not performing, so argues that engagement is just one part of it. It always has to be about how to improve business outcomes, employees also need to be successful within the context of the business. He also provided an interesting example of one of his clients.
Manuel Pimenta then also came with a question for the panel, especially to Juliette, with regards on how to measure the results in performance that Munch was talking about, on the use of gamification for learning. She has a lot of data to support how the more people learn the more profitable they are, particularly in sales. However, it is not always about immediate return on investments, sometimes it is also about cultural transformation projects. When it needs to do this consistently across the globe it gets quite interesting. It can also be about creating a passionate learning community within the company that is passionate and engaged and wants to learn, which will end up translating into the bottom line. A source frustration that exists in learning is that it happens in one single moment: you put content out there, people see it and that’s it. They’ve seen how this does not change behavior at all. This is where gamification can come in because it can happen over a period of time. William thinks it comes down to the metrics as well. They’ve found that people do gamified training a lot faster and in their own time, which is a cost-saving in itself. Picking the metrics can be crucial. Gamification is also able to drip-feed more of the content when practicing what you have learned, actual using of it.
Next, we addressed what can we do and what are the panelists doing to move the industry of gamification forward. For Juliette, it is all about delight and excite. They are adding more and more mechanics so they are available, as well as making it look really beautiful. Their target is to have the users look back to the L&D and say WOW. For Will, it is also about embracing the new technologies to include them within gamification to keep it at the forefront, which is why they are now also focusing on applying AI into what they create. Munch agrees with the above and the fact that we need to stop looking gamification as the shiny new thing. A mistake that has happened many times is creating something that gets people out of the job but instead to go for something that is more integrated into the work experience. It is about reaching a place where gamification is so pervasive that we don’t even know it’s there!
Another question that came from the live audience was related to the ethics in gamification, especially with recent developments like those in China. Munch was reminding us that in gamification we place our player at the center and what they are doing is certainly not about the citizens. For Will at the heart of gamification, there is a value exchange that is fair, to keep you out of prison does not sound too fair. Juliette said that she feels it is like sugar, if you get too much of it you end up getting sick. I argue that gamification is a tool and just like a hammer it can do amazing things but also quite terrible. There is also Andrzej Marczewski‘s Open Gamification Code of Ethics which I personally support whenever I can.
The final question was about how to convince CEOs and others on the use of gamification. Will went into the controversial side to say he feels it is necessary to start from where the company wants to be, the business goal. Unless you have a clear vision of where to go it is not possible to just push what you think is necessary. Juliette argues that L&D has inherited the fact to have successful training all you need is attendance. It is not often that their job is to increase performance, which is something different from actually using training to actually change behaviors!
Finally, we ran out of time, but you can have more of Juliette Denny on her episode in Professor Game and perhaps we will have other panelists as well on the show in the future! You can also find the video version of the panel below.
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