First let me say that I speak from experience on both topics as I have spent the past two years traveling the country meeting with over 200+ companies to discuss gamification vs. game based learning and its impact to the companies that launch these endeavors. This journey has led me to a conclusion that gamification might as well be a new fad diet, as its characteristics and traits resemble that of a weight loss program. (You will see from the pictures below I have over 40 years of experience with this…)
During my time here on this earth I have weighed as much as 285 lbs. (Freshman year of college) to where I stand today which is 100 lbs. lighter at 185. This journey has had highs and lows, and it certainly hasn’t been easy. So what is the difference between me and the 95% of the rest of the world who gained their weight back within a year? I am sure many folks will cite DNA or general willingness to be committed, but my answer is that I was taught about nutrition and exercise, versus just “gamified” with weight loss programs. I mean what is Weight Watchers, really, but a gamification program where each food type is worth a certain number of points, that adds up to your daily allowance, that results in you getting a winning total. Better yet, go download LoseIT or some other weight loss application from your local app store and get ready to earn your green vegetable badge for eating 3 servings, or your exercise badge for walking. Seriously, folks – there is no difference between gamification and weight loss programs. Your employees who participate in gamification programs will certainly demonstrate short-term behavior change and possibly 5-10% will retain that behavior, but the majority of folks will go right back to their bad ways. That’s because there is no learning going on when you check out a document or sell 3 more accessories – just motivation of the moment. It’s kind of like telling your team to get “bathing suit skinny” only to see them three months later back at that “non-bathing suit weight”. The simple truth is Gamification is a short-term blip, whereas as a focus on actual learning creates real change in behavior with much longer term impact. Gamification basically gives someone a fish whereas a real learning culture teaches people to fish.
So if you are looking for short-term impact, then gamification is your answer. But if you are looking to make permanent behavior change and have your employees keep the weight off, may I suggest incorporating learning into your gamification initiatives – without it you will be dieting again next summer in attempt to get “bathing suit” skinny.