The formula for change through gamification

In all my career I have worked with change management and a common wonder is whether there is a formula for change. For some time I wondered too and then I said if I analyse the successful change projects I have worked on and pull out what made them work then I have a chance of creating a formula for change through gamification.

I shared the formula for sustainable change through gamification for the first time at an event in Turkey in November 2018. For me, it encapsulated all the elements you need to have in place in order to create lasting change based on my experiences of creating change for both individuals and businesses for over 15 years in several jobs. I often included gamification in my work well before I heard of the industry. (oh and if there are PhD students looking to verify if this theory holds up in your research too, I would sincerely welcome it.)

Sustainable change through gamification

When I posted the slide up at the event, I had quite a few very puzzled faces and to generate curiosity to find out more it worked like a dream. People I think had expected a few easy words instead of a line full of squiggles and symbols. I am guessing when you are looking at the image you may have the same puzzled look. So let’s clear this up a bit.

The first line of the formula is all about change management and it was inspired by an early mentor of mine Brad Sugars from Action Coaching:

(->) In order to inspire change, we need to increase dissatisfaction with the current state

+ V Then we need to amplify the vision of what the future after the change could look like

With these two elements in place, motivation to change or at least the looking for change options will have started. Both elements are essential because some people are towards motivated and others are away from motivated, so we need both to create a recipe for change. It also helps to reduce the levels of resistance to change. For the moment all this creates is frustration with a vision. In order to shift this to something positive, we need to enable action…

+ 1Nx Show people the first next step to take in action towards this new vision and away from the current unsatisfactory situation. People don’t need the whole path, but enough information to move forward and make a start towards change.

In order for change to stick for the long haul, I have added in the next line which I consider the gamification loop. The gamification loop enables longer-term commitment and nudges to keep moving forward.

F+:-)+Ng Feedback on that first next step and encouragement will keep us moving forward. The first steps are rarely comfortable and we don’t always feel confident, so having people and systems encourage you and edge you forward is critical in this phase. I reckon that most unachieved goals or intentions happen due to a lack of feedback and encouragement. The third part of the gamification loop is nudging in the right direction. If we have a mentor or a system with a guiding path that shows us the right things to do towards achieving a goal we are once again in with a bigger chance of achieving success. It is in this loop that game elements can add the biggest value, these could be progress measures, star ratings, likes/dislikes, and messages.

The infinity symbol is to indicate regular repetition of the gamification loop. In some gamification designs, we include this through the shape of log in streaks, in others they are reminder messages and in others again recognisable patterns.

p stands for allowing for personalisation. Personalisation can come in the shape of allowing to set the frequency of reminders. If individuals have control over some of the set-up and design, they will also feel more committed to it.

C stands for celebrating milestones. Making you feel good about an action you have taken is vital to keep us going. Celebrations can come in terms of game mechanics or messages. My Runkeeper is always delighted when I complete something, even if some days the feeling may totally escape me, it still lands a positive boost for me regardless.

Combining it all together makes it a formula for creating lasting change through gamification:

[(- >) + V + (1Nx) x (F+J+Ng)*∞*p + C] = sustainable change 



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