Solution design feedback

In the last week, I have attended a number of events amongst which a scale-up workshop with a pitch competition and then client meetings, all provided opportunities for feedback and growth. I personally think it is good to seek out feedback when you are somewhat clear about your offering or your work is at a point where only feedback will drive it forward and improve it.

In the workshop, I received feedback on how best to present the often very conceptual solutions in a more visual way with clear pointers where these said visuals would help. Equally some of my questions regarding market sizing and positioning received really workable answers. For me, this was a highly valuable growth opportunity. I invited the feedback and looked for clarification. It worked in my favour to have that spirit, I also ended up winning the pitch competition in our room. The bottle of champagne was a nice treat to come home with.

In solution design, we rely on feedback to make our work the best fit possible and we also need to manage expectations at the same time. I had been working on a proposal for a client and delivered the pitch for it a few weeks ago. Now when I pitch for work, we go in with the intent to co-create a solution with the client and at the proposal stage, the suggested options are just that a mere suggestion. I received the feedback that they couldn’t conceptualise the solution because they didn’t follow how the rules of the game would work. What I had obviously failed to communicate successfully is that the rules of the game are a work in progress and that even the original concept was up for a complete change and makeover. It is good feedback for growth when presenting proposals.

In another client meeting after the first deliverables were presented, the client turned around and wanted a completely different solution. In our view less fitting and from experience also less effective in achieving the results. In this situation, I felt it was my duty to point out that the second solution would not give the client the outcome they wanted, namely awareness and behaviour change. The valid feedback was the level of technological experience of their end-users being pulled into question and hence a simpler solution being required.

Feedback is all around us and when to take it on board and when to leave it to the side is important to learn. In my coaching days, I often had the discussion with clients around ‘whose stuff is that’, meaning that feedback is often also a reflection of where people are coming from. You have to be able to weigh up is this feedback valuable and will it help me forward or is this just ‘their stuff’ that even with the right intentions is not really helping you design the best solution.

Weighing up the options presented back to you in feedback is a judgement call that typically only you can make with all your knowledge about the topic and hopefully an increased full overview thanks to the feedback. There will still be times, where you feel it could have been better and also times where you feel it was as good as it could be.



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What does good gamification feel like?

We often receive the question what does good gamification look like, but to me, it should also be about what it feels like. If it feels wrong, then we have missed something. Wrong can make gamification feel childish, manipulative or irrelevant.

To create a good feeling, the user experience and the business process need to be aligned. User motivation is core to making it feel right. To start you need to understand what is perceived as motivational and what isn’t.


For the end-user, the process should feel effortless, in the sense that it fits right in with business as usual and it makes sense in the context. For example, a salesperson entering data into their customer relationship management system to keep their deal information up-to-date could result in a reward because it is behaviour the company wants to reinforce and it still fits within their day-to-day routine of what they ought to be doing. On the flip side asking the person to enter a mini-game to gain more points on a leaderboard without any link to work, would evoke questions on why do I need to do this and around relevance.

Rewarding in line with effort

Balancing rewards is not the easiest task in any gamification design. A few tips may work in your favour, namely, keep them in line with the local currency if they are in point formats, give an early reward to surprise and encourage, but then build serious milestones to work towards. If rewards are too easy to achieve, people will start to feel like their effort is worthless or the rewards are a joke. If you ever had the joy of being part of the guides, earning a reward badge usually came with serious effort and some fanfare when you hit a major one. In work, individuals still appreciate when hard work is recognised. The type of recognition can come in the shape of a personal note, a badge of honour, progression towards unlocking something bigger, etc. The key is that it feels proportionate to the effort you need to take to achieve it.

Smile like fun

A very frequent question we have from senior managers when they are considering introducing gamification is whether their teams will be playing rather than working. My typical answer is a counter question if they ever attended a sports event to talk business such as golf or a cup final or Wimbledon or anything not quite work like. In most cases, the penny then drops that the type of fun we are talking about is not like stand-up comedy or belly laughter, but it feels more like smile like fun and has a serious undertone. If the end-user on occasion puts on a smile as a result of unlocking a new reward or achieving a new milestone or gaining additional superpowers, then you are on the right track.


The biggest feeling I would like to evoke is to encourage a person to achieve more of what they are expected to achieve, whether that is in terms of work productivity or learning or sales performance or simply treating customers to their best ability. Encouragement comes from building moments of reinforcements, pats on the back for jobs well done and gentle nudges that you have all it takes to deliver. Today’s managers don’t always have time to give that individual focus, our systems when used as a work tool can aid in overcoming some of this. I would still say that the best success comes from a joint effort between systems and people. When managers are fully supportive of the gamified approach the results are exponentially higher than when it is just a system on its own.

What are the feelings you would like to see from your gamification efforts?

What are your deliverables?

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When suppliers delight you…

If you are a regular reader of my blog posts, you know of the trials and tribulations I have had with suppliers. To give a balanced perspective I have a few that just continue to delight me. What they do differently is within the realm of the possible for all suppliers, so here is what makes them delightful:

  • They treat all people with respect. You may say this is an odd statement, but as a woman in a technological space, it actually is the exception rather than the rule.
  • They think with you for solutions and actively give input into what would be a great solution for my clients.
  • They are open to suggestions and will work within the realms of their possibilities and on occasion go the extra mile.
  • They are happy to agree to a mutual win/win and non-compete on clients we are introducing to them and vice versa.
  • Occasionally they go as far as creating specific demo’s that we can put on our site or allow us a sandbox version so we intimately know their product when we talk to our clients.

For me, the above doesn’t sound like ridiculously difficult or extraordinary requests, but apparently, it is not the norm. I can count the suppliers that fit into this mix on one hand. These requirements are over and above their ability to deliver on time, on budget and to objectives. Off course those parts also need to be met.

I would love to know from you, what fits your requirements when it comes to supplier delight?


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What are your deliverables?

When we are talking to potential clients at some point in the conversation, we will get asked ‘What are your deliverables?’. For each project, they may vary slightly depending on the scope and the type of project. But as a rule we create the following deliverables:

  • Project Scoping
  • Target objectives
  • User research findings and persona
  • User journey flow
  • Gamification design document specifying all triggers, points and messaging

For each project, we want to be clear on the scope of the project. We know from experience that scope tends to creep unless boundaries are quite clear from the start. Having it in a document gives us a reference point and it also allows us to discuss how a change to the scope is requested.

For gamification to be effective, we need objectives. These can take the shape of hard numbers or softer described behaviours. We strongly believe in encouraging what you want more of, but in order to design for this, we need to know what we want more of. Sounds simple, but it often takes a few iterations.

We place a high value on understanding the target audience for which the gamification design is created, for us it gives clear guidance as to what to include or exclude.  Hence will look for the opportunity to speak and meet with the intended target audience through surveys, focus groups, interviews and observing them in their natural workplace. Sometimes we extend the user research to individuals with experience of the process we are gamifying to gain from their hindsight knowledge and expertise.

In our gamification design workshops, we may interact with the same user groups or extend the reach by including more people in the design process. Co-creation works very well and gives much more insight into what will or won’t work for people. The pride in co-ownership of a solution can go a long way in overcoming resistance at the roll-out stage.

The combination of user research and game design workshops results in both the user journey flows and the gamification design document. The user journey flow is a visual representation of where we found meaningful touchpoints, where game elements can make a difference and it reflects the process we are working on. The gamification design document is then the granular detail of how the game elements are applied with triggers, game mechanics and messaging. I have linked to a previous post where we go into more detail on what it should include.

In some projects, we create a prototype on paper, on powerpoint or with wireframes. More often than not, when in-house developers or platform suppliers are involved we discuss the gamification design document and user flows with them to ensure it is all possible and then they go and build out the solution.

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How to measure engagement of your design?

Measuring engagement when it comes to employee engagement is usually carried out via questionnaires or survey or even mood tracking within the business. Some behaviours like the 5 pm rush out the door and lingering breaks, slow pace of productivity is indicative of a probably dwindling level of employee morale and engagement.

When it comes to learner engagement, often the measures are along the lines of completion rates, interaction with materials, feedback surveys and rating of courses. In some organisations, more data of where people drop out or stop a course is also being tracked.  Very rarely do we look for feedback on whether the person got what they needed from the course.

In gamification design, we tend to track against the business objectives for which the design was created. But should we be doing more?

At a panel discussion in Toronto, we were asked how we measured our design before it goes live. The measures suggested were named as the game engagement questionnaire  (Brockmyer and others, 2009), the presence questionnaire (Wittmer 1998) and flow (Cziksentmihalyi, 1990). The first two were developed with video games in mind and the third to create optimal experiences.

Having looked at each of the measurements, I have to say honestly we don’t tend to test that much before we go live with a design. There are a number of reasons for this, firstly practically mainly time constraints and secondly because we iterate the designs live to make sure we hit the business objectives. We do a few playtests before we start implementing, to sanity check our assumptions and to widen our target audience. By doing thorough user research we aim to design according to what works best for the audience in question.

In another discussion last week on a webinar between university researchers and a number of gamification practitioners, it was clear that not knowing which were the best game mechanics for ay given situation seemed to cause frustration and confusion for the researchers. Yet, for us as practitioners, we felt that we had to test and iterate and adapt our designs depending on what works or not. Saying that buyers don’t always find iterations comfortable, because a lot of organisations believe right the first time should be the way, but then I guess they wouldn’t need any engagement interventions if that belief was upheld.

As an emerging field, it may be useful to find out from platforms what works most in their experience and potentially for research and practise to work together more to find more accurate measures to test designs with. I also think that as soon as we are dealing with human motivation and behaviour a vast array of other circumstance come into play from individual experiences to culture to company etc. So finding the ultimate one test, may in my view be an illusion, just like one framework to fit all or one design to fit all is equally presumptuous. But maybe in striving to understand we learn more about what does work and what doesn’t.

Either way, it is something I want to explore further, so we can keep improving what we do.