The Gamification Revolution Goes Global

This post was written by Alicia Bonner Ness on behalf of the Case Foundation: 

Alicia Bonner Ness (@AliciaBNess) is the Communications Manager at CDC Development Solutions where she seeks to amplify the stories and impact of skills-based volunteerism and enterprise development around the globe. She is the editor of the online magazine The New Global Citizen.

Last month GSummit stopped in Washington, DC for GSummitX, a Meetup event designed to educate the masses about the benefits of gamification.

“Gamification?” You say. “I think I’ve heard of it but…” Blank stare.

It’s this response that leads Gabe Zichermann, the author of The Gamification Revolution and two other books, to lead workshops on the topic.

Psychological understanding of gaming is changing the way organizations and even governments motivate positive behavior change and compliance. To illustrate the point to his audience, Gabe called out the efforts of the Swedish government to lower driving speeds with Speed Camera Lottery, Domino Pizza’s attempt to grow its market share with Pizza Hero, and Nike’s business model transformation that was powered by the introduction of Nike+.

Gaming behavior follows a simple cycle, driven by dopamine production. When we take on a challenge, and achieve a goal, we experience dopamine release, or pleasure, which further motivates us to continue to the next challenge. When individuals compete, the incentives that most successfully reward behavior can be surprising. In descending order, effective rewards are Status (hello, leader board!), Access, (hello, Mr. President), Power, (go fetch, Mr. President), and Stuff ($$$). Gabe argues that the efficacy of these rewards is linked to human habituation. This cycle can reinforce any behavior cycle, but when harnessed for good, it can propel greater compliance and achievement.

To illustrate the point, GSummitX lead the audience through an interactive “Gamestorming” activity, Play for a Cause, engaging participants in a game that solves a social good problem—CDC Development Solutions was fortunate enough to be the beneficiary.

We asked, “How can we get more Americans engaged in the world?

Gabe proceeded to facilitate a Gamestorm called 3-12-2. In tables of eight, each participant has three minutes to write down as many aspects of the problem as they can think of. When time is up, each table breaks up into teams of two, and each team uses the problem aspects as inspiration to brainstorm one solution to the problem. For two minutes, the table discusses amongst itself to vote on its two best ideas. Each of the winning teams shares their idea with everyone, and the moderator then empowers everyone to cast two votes for the winning idea.

As we watched the teams brainstorm about the challenge, many considered how to circumvent language barriers, how to overcall negative perceptions of Americans around the world, and how to increase cross-border exchange through sports. The two winning ideas were both fantastic, but for me, the second runner up was the most innovative. The first proposed an athletic exchange program among collegiate athletes. The second proposed a shift in thinking among leading corporations from “MBA preferred,” to “global citizenship preferred,” placing a premium on globalism to compete for high-impact professional positions. (Indeed, many leaders, like Ángel Cabrera, are already encouraging just such a shift in thinking).

Interestingly, none of the participants voiced strategies that would compel Americans to investigate cultural exchange opportunities right in their own back yard—most considered effective ways to help Americans leave the United States. But it’s the work of the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy, a division of CDS, that seeks to encourage exactly this kind of American engagement to increase awareness of ways you can both be a global citizen and sleep in your own bed.

To this end, they are launching a campaign: You had me at Hello—you can follow the campaign at #helloworld.

This publication is also aimed at amplifying cross-cultural stories of collaboration and impact. You can read here about how to tell your story. And of course, you can visit GSummit to find out how you can use gamification for good!