Sep 12

More On “Drive,” Mastery, Autonomy, Gamification, and All That

Board games

A mess o’ games (photo by Eric Mallinson, CC 2.0 license)

Comments Are Good!

I was chuffed to get a long comment from Kathy Sierra on my last blog post, about how gamification of enterprise applications aligns with Dan Pink’s “Motivation 3.0” as he describes it in his book Drive. I’ve been a big fan of Kathy’s for many years, since I first discovered her “Creating Passionate Users” blog, and then listened to her many talks that are available via IT Conversations and other places on the web. (An annotated bibliography of Kathy’s good stuff is below.)

Kathy took some exception to my admittedly simplified descriptions of the components of Motivation 3.0 – mastery, autonomy, and purpose. And some of her points were welcome clarifications to what I sketched in my post.

Any attempt to use external regulation for anything that might EVER be intrinsically motivating is a dark path, and one I would strongly reconsider if I were looking into enterprise gamification. Gamification claims to be taking “what is good about games”, but it is actually doing the opposite. What is good about games does NOT lie in the mechanics (look at the oldest game — one still extremely popular throughout much of the world — the game of Go. It has all the essential ingredients for Motivation 3.0, and almost none of the surface mechanics), but rather in the core experience which IS intrinsic motivation: it feels good to do it for its own sake.

First of all, I completely agree with her that the fundamental challenge we have in gamification of enterprise applications is that adding extrinsic rewards to a knowledge-based activity can have the extremely counter-intuitive effect of reducing the intrinsic motivation to do that activity. As I’ve said over and over in this series of posts about gamifying enterprise applications, I’m assuming that the users are already well motivated, intrinsically, to use the apps and to do a good job. So gamifying them is not about increasing their motivation, but rather about achieving other important goals that enterprise applications (indeed, most other applications) do not do well, but which gamification can do a good job of.

So let’s rephrase what our goals for enterprise gamification are. There are three problems:

  • Getting attention – that is, competing against all the other distractions, whether they are hallway conversations or Facebook, or doing expense reports
  • Getting feedback, especially enabling feedback
  • Making the interactions more fun, engaging, satisfying, pleasant

Which summarize to one big goal, in Kathy’s own terms:

  • Enabling them to “kick ass” at their work

As Kathy notes in her comment:

Games often make excellent use of feedback, but it is the feedback in games, not that they are games, that makes them so good at creating higher skills. Feedback is an absolutely essential element for developing competence (and ultimately mastery), as virtually all learning and improvement happens as a result of high-quality, low-latency feedback.

And that’s the key component of what I’m suggesting we learn from good games in our gamification of enterprise applications.

Again, I’m not trying to motivate people to do a good job (they are already motivated to do that, and I don’t want to mess with that intrinsic motivation), but I’m trying to:

  • Help them make the decision to leap into the work, which is the only way you get into flow
  • Help them get into flow by removing obstacles and making the experience more engaging
  • Help them know when they are doing a good job or have done a good job, so they can be constantly improving – think of this as supporting “deliberate practice.”
  • Help them have a better time doing the thing that they already want to do – this is like giving a musician a better instrument, or a photographer a better camera – they can’t always take advantage of all the improvements, but it’s just easier to learn to play guitar, for example, on a good instrument that’s well set up than on a cheap instrument that’s always going out of tune and has terrible action.

Work is always hard, or it should be, but it should be just as hard as you can actually accomplish, and not easier, and not harder, in order to make maximum progress.

Heading Toward A New Categorization of Gamification

As I’ve pondered this conversation with Kathy, and what I’ve learned in Kevin Werbach’s (@kwerb) Coursera course on gamification, I’ve realized there really are two threads or rivers of gamification. I’m calling them, for now “coercive” and “encouraging” – I’m sure there are better words, especially for the latter type. Specifically, I’m partitioning these as follows:

  • There’s the set of things that we don’t want to do but we need to do (e.g., fitness and new habits fall into this category for some) or that someone wants us to do (e.g., visiting a marketing website, slow down on the road). That’s the realm of coercive gamification.
  • Then there’s the set of things that we want to do, and we’re motivated to do, but we sometimes need some help in doing them as well as we’d like, or in getting started, or in keeping going, or in truly getting into flow or getting engaged, or in knowing how well we’re doing, or what we need to do in order to get better. This is the domain of “encouraging” gamification.

It’s very possible that this distinction has been made already, and I’m just rediscovering an already well-known map, that even has correct place names. If so, I’m sure I’ll hear about it in Werbach’s course in the next few weeks!

In any case, I expect to spend a lot more words on these concepts in future posts.

Also, I just found another recent post from Kathy on a very similar topic, responding to a post by Larry Ferlazzo on gamification in education. Similar concerns, and very apropos of this discussion.

My Favorite Kathy Sierra Stuff

Now, as I mentioned, I’ve been a big Kathy Sierra fan for a long time, and I’m always happy to have a chance to share her awesomeness with the rest of the world. Here are some of my favorites from her:

Of course, there’s her blog, Creating Passionate Users, which is an archive at this point, but I highly useful archive. Some of my favorite posts are:

Her talks (most of these are audio only, but some videos) – all worth the time spent watching/listening and learning:

Comments Are Open!

OK, I’m looking forward to hearing about how far off base I am – let ‘er rip! (In the comments.)

Sep 12

The “Drive” To Gamification: Motivation 3.0 and Game Mechanics

Dan Pink's Excellent Book "Drive"

Dan Pink's Excellent Book "Drive"

Gamification, especially as it applies to enterprise applications, is all about engagement, and quality, and helping people achieve their goals. Or, to put it another way, it’s about motivation. There’s another approach to thinking about motivation, especially of knowledge workers (i.e., those who work with enterprise applications), and that’s as exemplified in Daniel Pink‘s awesome book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. For the purposes of this discussion, we can summarize Pink’s main point briefly as follows:

We are in the age of “Motivation 3.0,” and motivation primarily is driven by three key dimensions – mastery, autonomy, and purpose. That is, if you want people to be motivated to do their work, they have to have or be working toward a sense of mastery. They have to feel they have some amount of control (or autonomy) over what they do. And the work they do has to be aligned with a higher purpose, it can’t just be “because.”

How does this idea of Motivation 3.0 apply to or intersect with gamification? Gamification is the solution to a lot of problems that especially enterprise software faces. In particular, gamification is intimately related to surfacing the components of Motivation 3.0 – mastery, autonomy, and purpose.

  • Mastery: Games are the best examples we have of reporting on a person’s mastery of something. Nothing else is as good. PhD dissertations are not that good, as we all know. High stakes testing is terrible. And so on. Games have this all over the place, with their points, levels, leaderboards, badges, etc.
  • Autonomy: One of the key components of autonomy is the “ability to get into a flow state.” And games, again, are among the best examples of this, and they certainly are the example of getting people into flow state more easily than any other activity. Even musicians have a harder time getting into flow than gamers do. Millions of gamers every day have to be dragged from their game consoles or computers after hours of playing because of the appeal of the flow that’s generated.
  • Purpose: One hopes in general that most peoples’ jobs provide them with a certain modicum of purpose, and that’s a fundamental assumption I make about gamification of enterprise apps – we’re not trying to solve the “purpose” part of the equation. But the work itself typically doesn’t help a person understand if what they’re doing is helping drive toward achieving the purpose. So, there’s a high level purpose, and we often have that in our job. But our day to day work may or may not be helping us achieve it. Games, again, are amongst the best tools we have for understanding if we are achieving our purposes. In games, of course, the purpose is much less compelling than a real life purpose (“Save The Princess!”) but because the linkage to making progress on the purpose is so strong, it’s enough to keep people engaged. Just think of the power we could have if the day to day, hour to hour work of a person could be seen, by the person, and in a legitimate, non-condescending way, to be aligned with and furthering the high level purpose. That could be ultimately compelling.

So, that’s my take on how the ideas in Drive align with gamification. What do you think about this? I’d love to start a conversation about this below in the comments section!