Top posts for 2018

In 2018 we published 113 blog posts, this leaderboard makes it 114. Here are the top 20 most read blog posts from Gamification Nation in 2018:

1.Top tips for Virtual Reality Gamification

2. How can gamification help a small business?

3. WordPress gamification tools
4. Inclusive by design

5. What does good gamification feel like?

6.Inclusion by ability

7. Solution design feedback

8. What do you need to create a serious game?

9. Breaking the pattern as a way of adapting to new skills

10. When employee retention is not a linear thing

11. Are you putting your users at a disadvantage with a one size fits all strategy?

12. What can we learn from a BAFTA best game winner?

13. Is learning a finite or infinite game?

14. When is what more important?

15.Gamification in insurance

16. What do you need to develop corporate boardgames for communication and educational purposes?

17. What are your deliverables

18. What data do we need for gamification design?

19. How to build a business case for gamification?

20.Gamification of the blockchain

Happy New year top 20

Happy reading and Happy New Year from all of us at Gamification Nation!

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Some analysis and highlights of 2018 for Gamification Nation

With 2018 rolling towards its tail-end, it is good to do a bit of analysis and review what we have been up to both in business and sharing online. At least as an owner, I find it interesting to do a bit of analyzing as to what has worked and what hasn’t.

For me, it is a twice a year exercise to deep dive into statistics albeit with a slightly different focus. At annual report time, it is reviewing profitability figures and details around what was profitable and worth keeping and what wasn’t profitable and in need of re-working. At the calendar year-end, it is reviewing the social media and marketing strategy, reviewing of tools and setting actions for the year to come.

The statistics

This year we published 113 blog posts with a very variable reach from 300 hits to over 5500. We averaged out 2 blog posts per week, which is slightly below our average for the previous 3 years and that has purely to do with my time availability. I still write all the blog posts for the company, because I feel it is important to share my thought leadership inside and outside of our business and hopefully also share some valuable nuggets of information for people to work with.

I will publish the top read articles tomorrow. Google search remains the best referrer for traffic although we always see spikes in readers when I am speaking at a conference. Talking about conferences, I spoke at 17 in 2018 in some fabulous locations, which is neatly above target and remains a focus area for 2019.

We once again shared 365 gamification design tips and cartoons in our fun break. My team compiles these for me based on blog posts and our cartoons keep coming from Andertoons, who we like a lot.

We sent 54 invoices and only a mere 20% were actually paid on time. We set up a more rigorous reminder and chasing system, deposits for most projects, etc. We keep an eye on it every month and will now no longer start work until a deposit is received and contracts in place. Having to take one customer to court was something I didn’t enjoy but felt was necessary to receive what was rightfully ours. Of course, these things have knock-on effects for me and my suppliers, which we are actively aiming to eradicate in 2019.

I think I already mentioned this in a previous post, but we worked on 20 projects, whereby 18 achieved either repeat business or happy end-results and 2 where we had more work to be done and in 1 case we are working on it, the other we didn’t have the chance to do this.

The great thing is on balance we are growing and building more solid processes, adding team members and learning the hard way on how to get things to work right are all part of the joys of being in business.

Highlights

For me, highlights are often related to projects ending well and delivering on the results we set out to achieve. For all the clients who allowed us to experience these kinds of highs, we are very grateful. This feeling is the greatest when we have clear objectives at the start and are allowed to have an insight into the results and end-user feedback. Some agencies enforce the seeing of results, for us thanks to our work with mainly employee focused projects, we are not often allowed to share it.

All the conferences I have been privileged to speak at, are always an honour. It has brought me to amazingly exotic locations all around the globe. This year it brought me to Barbados, Toronto, Beijing, Vienna, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Chicago, Hartford and off course occasionally also London. When I do have the chance I try to experience local sights and this year’s fabulous highlights have to be the Niagara Falls and The Great Wall.

Winning the award for Best gamification design for a no-tech gamification project, was definitely high on my top experience lists. The board game in question was great fun to work on and has since been revisited a few times and is being used by the client to keep educating its employees on cyber risks facing businesses. Two awards, two years in a row will be a great tradition to keep up, but best we can aim for is to keep delivering high-quality work and to keep submitting our work to awards.

Thank you to all our clients and collaborators

Any business is only as good as the projects we get to work on and that can only happen thanks to our often visionary clients, willing to try something new.

We are grateful and honoured to have worked with all of you this year and hope to welcome many of you back in 2019 and beyond.

I can’t deliver everything on my own and have often reached out to freelance and more long-term resources to help in delivering what we need for clients. Thank you to all of you and specifically Marco, Bon and Paul who are on the long haul road with me.

2019

I look forward to what 2019 will bring, we have some exciting work already lined up and underway, so watch that space.

I wish you all a great year end and a fabulous and fantastic 2019, where everything you are willing to work towards comes true!

What are you doing towards global goals?

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Merry Christmas

We wish all of our clients, collaborators, supporters and friends a peaceful and merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas

We hope you may be able to take a well earned break and spend time around your loved ones.

We thank you for all the work this year and look forward to meeting you again in the New Year!

Best wishes

An Coppens and the team at Gamification Nation

 

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Is gamification validated?

Many human resource professionals and academia, often ask the question has gamification been validated. There are several ways of looking at this question.

Commercial validation

When we look at the different ways of validating a product or service, we could look at commercial validation first of all. Commercially the first indicator is whether there are buyers for gamification services and gamified products, secondly are they satisfied with results and third are they repeat buyers. I can say with evidence from my own business that commercially we have a market and there are repeat buyers. The more prepared the buyer is to allow us to do our best work, the better the results. Our best work happens when rigorous user research, creative gamification design and implementation followed by small iterations culminate to achieve the results.

Business result success

If we look at it from a business results perspective, then the achievement of business goals is most important. In our way of working with clients, the goals should be measurable and clearly related to a specific business process. The more refined this is, the easier it becomes to work towards them. If we increase learner engagement or employee engagement, then this should also translate into some end-user behaviours and actions that we can measure such as retention of knowledge, reported application of knowledge, increased job satisfaction, etc.

I know from judging projects in competitions, that the measures to prove project effectiveness and results vary widely. Until we have standards across the board it is just my word against the word of another person. We can use return on investment, sales increases, net promoter scores, happiness index and blend them all together, but linking it directly purely to gamification is not easy to prove. Most businesses don’t operate in a vacuum.

Research validation

In research terms validation needs to produce consistent outcomes over time, in a variety of conditions and for a variety of people with different backgrounds, environmental circumstances and mental states. If we cannot replicate results, then the validity is not proven and makes it hard to be applicable in multiple places. Unless the results are over 70% consistent, the tools are not considered adequately validated.

The studies dedicated to proving gamification struggle to find approaches to be similar enough to start with. It seems to me that it is in fact easier to find evidence about game effectiveness than there is proof on gamification effectiveness. I could be wrong but that is just my observation.

Gamification requires more validation and research

I would love to come to a place where every project also has an associated piece of research that can validate everything we do and suggest over time and aim for the 80 to 90% consistency mark. I can say that to date we cannot make this claim. Firstly because research is not widely available even if it is increasing and secondly because gamification (especially in our experience) has taken many different forms for different clients, so finding the commonality may not be so easy, hence replicability and consistency are in question. We may have good reasons to differentiate, but we may then not have a given formula.

In a way, I think this is the dilemma for growth in our industry unless we can prove what works consistently in given business processes with some sense of security then we will keep stumbling over these questions. I like to build an evidence-based gamification design and track it the data on behaviours in order to come to the best outcomes for all our clients. With personalisation high on the agenda and very relevant to end-users in an on-demand world, there may also be a need to review validation to be more granular and personalised too.

At company level and specific client level, I can prove the results of gamification and we can measure how they are valid for a larger group of people. Because our projects are bespoke and vastly different in industry, goals and client culture, I would say even comparability can at times be an issue. It may be worth grouping evidence of a variety of sources to find the common ground, which is something we will be looking into for 2019 and beyond.

Inclusive by design

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Lessons learned in 2018

2018 has been a year with steep learning curves for me personally and in business. When it comes to net results in annual reports terms the difference from the previous year was marginal with the 7th year of growth in a row, albeit just. From an experience perspective, it feels like we have turned a big corner and are finally reaping the rewards in terms of projects I have been working towards for the last few years.

So here are some of the biggest lessons of 2018 for me:

Stand your ground no matter what size of business you are up against

In business, you will have situations where the balance of power may be against you, whether it is due to size, due to manpower or due to financials or anything else. Accept it is likely to happen more frequently. Have a strategy on how you want to work and stand your ground to look for a workable solution that you can work within.

Very often the smaller player will back down and accept the terms the bigger one imposes or the behaviour the dominant player demonstrates. After having to take a client to task legally for non-payment of a contract they had entered and we had performed on, what I took from is that they hope they would get away with it because I was a woman with a small business. I didn’t recoup all the money owed to us, but I did make it clear that we didn’t just roll over and accept unacceptable behaviour.

It made me realise that sometimes you just have to fight for what you actually bring to the party. Sometimes it is knowledge and expertise, other times it is connections and business. When those contributions are not respected, walk away from the deal or the supplier and negotiate hard at the start to get the conditions you want or can agree on. If payment is late, chase it and take it legal if you have to, we have had to let go of people and freeze work as a result of late or non-payment (even after deposits etc.). I still don’t have the payment structure the way I ultimately want it, but applying my own knowledge to the process is having some positive effect.

Business needs to be win/win for everyone and it is totally right, even as a woman with a small business, to stand up for that.

Successful project delivery is a balancing act

I probably knew this in any case from previous work experience. One trait I think sets me apart from others is the persistence we work with to deliver no matter what. We had a few challenging projects where deadlines, committees, mismatching expectations and standards were core to how things were handled. In one such case, we managed to ultimately finish, in another, we didn’t get the chance to do so, but we would have liked to have done even if it meant an additional number of iterations. Overall out of the 20 or more projects we ran, only two real problem children is a rather positive slanted balance.

When it comes to gamification, we can’t assume people understand first of all what it means. If they do know what it means, their interpretation of what it should look like can be any colour of the rainbow. From an expectation management perspective that is one thing, you have to keep clarifying, no matter how well you think you explained it or they understand it. The other key thing is in these situations to have solid business processes that you can refer to when doubts creep in.

In all things project management, you never have enough communication. Address problems quickly as they pop-up, don’t let them linger or develop into something we don’t need. Always be aware that there may be other politics at play, which you may not know about. Looking for clarification and calling out unacceptable ideas is part and parcel of the work, even if not always comfortable. But then those who expect it to be comfortable may not have done very many projects.

Small tasks as a test for suppliers

In a business, where I rely on several suppliers at any given time from freelancers to platform or technology providers etc. It is vital for project success to know whether you can trust them to deliver when you need them to. In the past, I often handed out a whole piece of work and found out too late it hadn’t been done to our standards if done at all. It caused all sorts of unnecessary stress and complications.

What is working for me now, is to give new suppliers small tasks and test their delivery in this way. These can be small project related tasks or simply documentation in a timely manner. If they fail to deliver, cut them loose quickly.   Look for behaviours that can predict success or failure, my red flag list now contains the following: changing goal posts (agree one thing and then look for another), failure to deliver at first hurdle, rogue salespeople (they are indicative of what is tolerated from the rest of the business), excuses and reasons to not-communicate, deliver or other such things, going missing in action. I am pretty sure the list will continue to grow, and learning to cut people loose quickly has been one of the biggest lessons of 2018 even if at times it even hurt a little to have to do so.

Focus on what you can control

I am a strong believer that there are things you can’t always control such as other people, weather, traffic and other more random items. As the CEO however, that still tends to be or become your problem nevertheless. As I learn more and more what works and hasn’t, assuming responsibility can be as simple as working out how to prevent the same from happening again in future. Communicating about problems early once you know they can’t be retrieved has been positive for most.

Having a good sounding board, who has your best business interest at heart is proving to be very helpful for me. I am really thankful to all the sounding boards I have had over the past 12 months, some of you lent an ear when I needed it and others are solidly working with me regularly to keep this show on the road to greatness.

There were moments in the year that I thought maybe I wouldn’t be able to turn around the negatives, yet each time I focused in on connecting back with those who had expressed an interest and asked if they wanted to move forward. Each time I did this, new momentum came out of it. If nothing else, this is probably the one behaviour that has given me the most results with the least friction.

Don’t be afraid to scrap something and start afresh

This year we entered an accelerator program called SetSquared and one of the exercises brought out that sometimes being willing to scrap something and start again is a way I have often taken to hit a goal. When we looked at it deeper, in fact, it also explained why some clients, suppliers and collaborators in the past may have been a bad fit.

To some people, this may sound obvious, but to me, this was a bit of an ‘aha moment’. Because I have had to scrap and start over a few times in life, I guess it has become a way of life. Not always the easiest route I may add, but often it has given me exponentially better results. It is also OK that not everyone can work this way, for me it is now clear that those people are not right to be involved in my business.

Travel to listen and learn

When I look at the rhetoric of many political leaders around the world, it is as if they have lost the ability to travel with an open mind and heart. I have travelled to many destinations this year and whilst at times it is exhausting, I have always come away with more insights than I came with. Sometimes they are small observations of how things work differently, other times much more profound stuff.

The one thing I find that connects all of us is that people the world over want to be heard and loved and respected.

Nobody wants inequality, war, unacceptable work practices, etc. and until as leaders, we get that balance right, there will always be work in our field for all the wrong reasons. I would love it to be different, which is why I support UN goals around inclusion and equality and actively work on implementing this in our projects and in our business.

Listening is the starting point always, after that open communication including asking what would maybe be a bit close to the bone or stating the obvious. To make a difference sometimes it is taking small steps to reach a middle ground and then work forward from there. Accept you will make mistakes, which means you have yet another opportunity to learn.

 

I guess we can conclude on that note, because it sums up nicely why I do what I do, in my mind at least. Knowing that I and my business can make a difference no matter how small sometimes is what makes the steep learning curves exciting, challenging and worthwhile all at the same time. I am looking forward to what 2019 will bring in business and life in any case!

 

The tools of the gamification trade

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