Monday, December 17

Gamification: an often neglected silver bullet

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Use Gamification to accelerate innovation and creativity – Customer Experience needs it!

I will always remember the words of a stressed CEO of a highly successful customer of ours. “I have 25 choices of great idea every single day – I’m not short of options – I just don’t always know which one is the silver bullet to take”. He said he believed deeply in “the customer agenda” but getting staff to embrace new approaches was often difficult.

He of course was referring to that age old problem – creating real employee engagement rather than simply doing their job and giving lip service in going the extra mile.

I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of companies. Helping build a customer centric culture often means I work with groups of people from different areas of the business, do not know each other, have different mindsets, motivations and skillsets. I work extremely hard to make the customer agenda “come alive”. I have had to be able to sell ideas as well as explain new concepts clearly and make them easy to understand.

The reality is for most companies changing mindsets is extremely hard. If there are “silver bullets” out there which can help – should we not be checking them out?

I recently attended a two-day Gamification masterclass organised by Pete Jenkins and Gamification Europe. It featured two subject experts: Marigo Raftopoulos and Melinda Jacobs. For me these were “silver bullet” days. The impact built in short time was simply extraordinary!

Ready, Player One

For those who are familiar with the term, the focus i son “the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts”. Its been around since roughly 2010 and has gained popularity in employee engagement, recruitment and, of course, customer experience.

Up to now the customer experience application has been focused on improving moments of truth in the customer journey – which is in danger of “gamifying” a journey that’s already sub-optimal with the hope that it will contribute to making it better.

There is a much more powerful application – accelerating CX culture change.


At the start of the day 1 session – there was a reasonably large group who knew each other partially. Conversation was polite, many were quiet looking at their phones, waiting for something to happen. I see this quite regularly when new cross functional teams in large companies come together for the first time.

The first game started immediately. Within a couple of minutes people who had been largely silent were talking animatedly. I have delivered hundreds of workshops in the past and I always considered myself pretty good at getting interaction. This game sped up the process by a country mile. The specifics of the game are not important here – it will be different approaches in different companies. What was important was to witness how a simple game focus people out of their comfort zone but created a new one with vital connection so quickly.

Time is a vital resource – traditional relationship building is too slow. If you can accelerate trust and confidence building then you accelerate the delivery of results. At this stage I was less than 5 minutes in!

Changing Mindsets is hard!

Our mindsets are tuned to test or challenge new situations before we accept and adopt them. How many times have we sat in presentations and listen to the persuasive words and messages of a slick presenter and find ourselves challenging “the fantastic new idea”. Our psyche is naturally designed to challenge. Why should the presenter of the new idea give all the answers?

Companies present new ways of working all the time. How many times have you seen staff politely listen to the new ideas and then promptly rubbish them behind the scenes. Staff in these situations often do not understand the full ramifications, feel they have not been consulted and new ways of working have been imposed on them.

Gamification is a great way to explore new situations in a much more engaging and fun way.

Exploring in 3D is much more powerful than 2D

Two dimensional representation is the business norm. It enables people to easily summarise, represent an idea and converge to an answer.

It also stifles creativity. What I did not realise until I observed it was the extent 3 dimensional modelling allowed contribution of different mind-sets without having to discuss and gain consensus on every single point.

We modelled current and future states in 3D using Lego, stickers, bits of wood – anything that could be used to create a deeper, more meaningful picture. People did not need to seek permission to add a perspective they simply took it. Everybody was working to a similar outcome and new layers were added which viewed in isolation would have seemed non-logical even stupid became meaningful when viewed as a whole.

When the model was presented back to the audience everybody in the group felt they had played a part in its creation. It was agile, highly creative and so different to the consensus driven analysis we typically work with.

It was so much more rewarding!

Identify the star players

This process allowed people who wanted to look at situations differently to natuarlly flourish. I watched university student Kira Downer, barely into her twenties, come up with ideas that would have been to the credit of many “creative” senior executives.

Where do natural innovators get these ideas from? All organisations have people who would love to “dare to be different” but social conditioning prevents from shouting their ideas from the roof tops. Exploring problems in a gamification environment helps identify those innovators who could be your stars of tomorrow.

Test new skills

Finally, creating a genuinely customer centric company requires new skills beyond the skillsets those required for the specialist silo. Gamification is a great way to explore new opportunities in a really creative way.

The term was virtually unknown eight years ago. It is estimated that it will be a 23 billion USD industry by 2022. Any company that is looking to explore new ideas, innovate, change their culture and create greater engagement along the way should explore its potential.

NextTen will be bringing you some practical gamification ideas from interviews with the experts in the customer management space very soon.

I’ll go on to consider more sophisticated gamification techniques and how they can be introduced productively into employee and customer experiences in future articles but for now it’s… game on!



About Author

Founder & CEO. Charles is an acknowledged leader in customer-driven performance change using both best practice and emerging next practice perspectives. He leads, mentors and coaches in both strategic and operational initiatives. A strong believer is the potential for "supercompany performance" he innovates using next practice thinking and methods to enhance the business. He researches heavily to retain his reputation as a thought leader, which he has applied across 40 countries, multiple sectors and companies such as Citibank, Nielsen, Microsoft, Vodafone, Tracker and governments in Middle East and Asia. Contributes to business journals and often invited as a speaker or chairman to events all over the world.

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