GAMIFICATION: An alternative approach to employee engagement

Aaron Dignan, CEO of Undercurrent & Author of “Game Frame“, presented his theory that bringing those exciting and engaging characteristics of games into our sustainability work will create more productive employees and projects. Rather than saying, ‘produce less waste’, create an Iron Chef game: ‘create something with this one lobster!” In other words, make it into a game!

Ever wonder why we have to “work now and play later”? Aaron Dignan argues that maybe we should just play all the time. Bring the structure and satisfaction of games into your every day work, life, and sustainability programs, and we’ll be even more productive than ever before.

At the same time that more people seem to be bored or unsatisfied at work, the popularity of games has increased dramatically. Some examples: More 2-5 year old kids know how to open a browser than know how to swim, play with an app than tie their shoe, play a video game than ride a bike. High school grads go into college with 100,000 hours of video game experience. Executive businessmen play Angry Birds in the first class section of an airplane. You might not even consider yourself a “game person,” but you’re probably engaged in games in some way.

What do games have that life doesn’t, that get us so excited about them? Aaron argues that games have 2 things that life doesn’t: structure and satisfaction. So, How is it structured? Why is it satisfying?

Games let us:

  • Learn – almost all specifies play as a way to test boundaries and learn how to survive. Humans are the only ones that separate play from our work of survival.
  • Take risks (without dying) – Innovating allows you to become a version of your best self.
  • Work together – The most popular games are the ones where you are engaging with others.
  • Find a State of Flow – Games create a challenge that is just above your skill, so you push your limits, but
    can still succeed. You loose sense of time and place. Isn’t this what we need at work?
  • Activate our wanting circuitry – As opposed to the liking circuitry (which releases a calming sensation), the
    wanting circuitry releases a sense of accomplishment and drive to get you what you want.
  • Grow our skills- Who doesn’t like to get better at what they do? Being the best at angry birds still feels
    great, even though it doesn’t mean anything – perhaps we need to find this feeling in our everyday work.

Games are great, but how do we turn work into play? Boring desk jobs into games? Here’s 3 criteria to make something into a game (think Nike run tracker):

  1. Includes activity that can be learned
  2. Player can be measured
  3. Feedback delivered in a timely manner (fast!)

Our work will be judged by our ability to engage and empower a network. Games are a great way to do it. Are we going to use them to get people to buy stuff or to make people and organizations better?

Application to sustainability:
Rather than say “do more with less”, create an iron-chef scenario: “Make something with this Lobster!”.
Here is a list of products or technologies based on this gamification:

  • my energy
  • practically green
  • mutual
  • terracycle
  • recyclebank
  • closet swap
  • nest
  • smart gage

The Top 10 Platitudes for Designing and Executing Your Sustainability Program

Bart Alexander, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer, Molson Coors spoke at the Sustainable Opportunities Summit 2011. According to Bart, he gets paid to help a really great company make money the right way and wants to share his top 10 platitudes to help guide your sustainability efforts. Watch the whole video so you can learn how Molson Coors implements these 10 principles:

Top 10 Platitudes for Designing and Executing Your Sustainability Program

10. What’s in a Name? Does it matter what you call your program?

9. Keep the Home Fires Burning. Find out what fuels you business drivers and your leaders and how your customers expectations are changing.

8. Walk Before You Run. It’s easy for an organization to trip up by over promising and under delivering
Remember you won’t get credit for the good stuff, if you are still doing the bad stuff. Get the basics right.

7. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel. Learn from others and use existing frameworks (i.e. GRI) to guide your effort.

6. Find Your Sweet Spot. Identify the spot where your organization can have maximum impact. Look for where the needs of the world, expectations of your stakeholders and your capabilities and expertise intersect – that’s it!

5. Look Beyond the End of Your Nose. It’s critical to focus on things you can control but lifecycle impact goes beyond company walls. Your organization must look at lifecycle impact of your business.

4. Expose Yourself. Consumers expect more transparency!Be open and honest about your successes and failures.

3. Don’t Go it Alone. You’re exposed but not alone. Embrace all stakeholders and move towards strategic partnerships.

2. Think Global, Act local. It’s everyone’s job to change the world but start by looking at your own company. Start with what you can control, then work outwards.

1. Keep it Simple, Stupid. The world get what’s important and consumers support companies doing the right thing. Don’t make things more complex than they need to be.

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