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Practically Green and Gamification: Making Change Fun, Engaging And Sustainable

Bill Roth | Tuesday September 18th, 2012 | 1 Comment

Business owners are learning that they can save money when their employees engage in sustainable behaviors like recycling or turning off computers during non-business hours. The challenge is motivating staff to adopt these cost-saving beneficial behaviors. Gamification is emerging as a new human resources tool for motivating folks to cut costs by adopting sustainable best practices.

Gamification is booming
Gamification is the use of game design and mechanics to engage people in changing their behavior. Think Farmville or fantasy football but played in the workplace to achieve real business and environmental results. Gamification is one of the hottest trends in human resources and marketing. M2 Research projects business spending on gamification will increase from an estimated $242 million this year to $2.8 billion in 2016.

Gamification best practices
Technology has moved gamification from a solo experience engaging an individual player into a social experience where teams compete to achieve real results – like lowering costs by reducing waste streams. This tool offers a cultural bridge that engages, aligns, trains and motivates staff. Gamification also cuts across the sexes, in fact 54% of social game players are women. The industry of gamification has now evolved the following design best practices:

Real time feedback. I grew up in business having to wait for an annual review to figure out how my performance compared to management’s expectations. And once a year there was a special event hosted offsite that offered training, motivational speeches and team building. Gamification smashes this template by enabling instantaneous feedback (what gamification experts call an accelerated feedback cycle). A key best practice I learned from the shop floor is that what gets measured gets done. Gamification enables measurement for individuals, a team and a company – in real time.

Know What You Want To Achieve. A game must have clear and simple performance goals and rules. If it is not clear how to score then scoring will be low. The game must be fair. If the deck is stacked then associates won’t play. A best practices design resource is fantasy sports leagues. The good ones have designs and rules that keep the playing field level, make participation easy and enable success.

Answering “why should I play?” The three top reasons why people play games are: they are fun, it relieves stress and it’s competitive. Who wants to play a game that is not fun? Who wants to play a game where they know they will lose? This is where a gamificaton professional really adds value. They understand games and how they engage people. Imagine a CFO trying to create a motivational game. It would look like Monopoly. Not everyone likes to play Monopoly because they don’t like going to jail or landing on Boardwalk loaded with hotels. Gamification only works if employees actually want to play and then engage.

Create Winners. Competition is a huge success element for gamification activities. The goal is to create “winning” results. Defining how to win is crucial to achieving sustained behavioral change. In the most popular games winning can be achieved in a relatively short period of time like the nine innings of a baseball game. Popular games also offer a path for building momentum to greater success like winning a division title and then a league championship with eventually the potential of winning a World Series. The gamification experience should enable the achievement of near-term tasks or accomplishments that declare an individual or a team a winner. The best gamification experiences enable players and teams to move forward over time to higher levels of accomplishment.

Practically Green: Capturing ROI as soon as day one
Practically Green is pioneering the use of gamification techniques and the social web to

…motivate employees and customers to make healthy green changes at work, at home and in their community.

The company’s success is built upon making change easy, fast and fun while also delivering measurable reductions in costs and a company’s environmental footprint. The following video with Practically Green’s CEO Susan Hunt Stevens conducted at Sustainable Brands 2012 profiles gamification best practices being deployed for companies that include Seventh Generation and NBC Universal that are proving to deliver return on investment as soon as day one!

Bill Roth is the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches businesses on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference, typically within 90 days! His book The Secret Green Sauce profiles pioneering best practices by businesses that are proving to win customers and grow product revenues.


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  • Valerie

    Great article about gamification and Practically Green! There are a few other platforms that use gamification to empower employees to get involved by making sustainability initiatives fun and participatory. There’s Scope 5, which emphasizes data and metrics. AngelPoints does data collection for large Fortune 500 companies. At earthbongo.com, they use social media to engage employees around sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

    Not only does social media and gamification make participation competitive and fun, but it offers an array of other benefits. It enables companies to gather concrete metrics, fosters collaboration, and tells the company’s social responsibility story in a compelling way.