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Can the Pokémon Go effect happen in the workplace too?

July 18, 2016 • gal

People all over the world are all of a sudden extremely excited to take their dog for a walk, ride their bike or go to the local park. The reason is Pokémon Go, which managed to turn the simple stroll down the street into a fun and exciting experience – for those of you who don’t know the game yet, it uses a GPS and your camera (together with augmented reality) to show Pokémon in public places.

On Pokémon Go, users have to catch Pokémon’s that hide in street corners and other main attractions in different cities around the world.

While for some people, walking is simply a boring activity, with Pokémon Go it has become a fun and exciting activity. Using the smartphone to gamify health should sound familiar – for a while now, we have seen numerous health apps take advantage of the mobile phone’s ubiquity, motion sensors and GPS to get us to move more. But while fitness trackers count steps or measure runs – applying to those who are already interested in self-measurement as a way of improving health, Pokémon Go does this even to people that aren’t after a workout.

intrinsic achievements are key

The app is well-done in many respects, a great game, leveraging our need to explore and collect, a strong motivator of intrinsic achievement. I thought I’d mention some of the game elements in the app, since they are applicable to many other gamified environments, such as workplace gamification:

  • A link to the real world: Pokémon Go doesn’t happen on a screen, but rather is overlaid on reality, driving activities in the real world rather than a virtual worlds
  •  Collections: forming collections is an innate human urge, allowing people to form sets. Actually, anything can become a collection – virtual goods, Pokémon, badges or even locations.
  • Levelup: the drive to progress to the next level, by acquiring points or completing missions. People are also likely to share their level (or points) with others, as a way of achieving recognition for their achievements. Level up is a reward
  • FOMO (fear of missing out): an apprehension that others may be getting rewards while you are absent. Can drive users to play to not be left behind. This is a powerful motivator in a community setting.
  • Challenge: collecting Pokémon then culminates in challenges.  This provides a climatic event that is built up during play
  • Surprise and discovery: en emotional state caused by searching, with the surprise serving to form a habit (such as walking around with the app and waiting for the buzz indicating that there is a Pokémon somewhere close)

What the game is good at is sparking play and intrinsic motivation – a desire to do well and a strong sense of engagement. When a person pursues an activity simply for enjoyment, he or she is doing so because they are intrinsically motivated. Pokémon go obviously ignites certain powerful triggers.

Moving the conversation to the workplace

While this is all great for dogs all over the worlds who are getting extra walking time, and great for the developers of the game, I guess many game companies are asking themselves how they can also be the next runaway hit. As a game designer, I must admit I don’t have an answer for that. But I do know something about Enterprise Gamification – using gamification (i.e. game elements and not games) to motivate workforce engagement and performance. I know that creating intrinsic motivation in the workplace is super important both for employers, but also for employees, who want to feel more driven and engaged at work.

At Gameffective, we’ve focused on this and have developed an award winning workforce performance management platform. While we don’t send employees running after Pokémons in the office, we do use game narratives that build on the same game elements mentioned above. One of the them is the Scavenger Hunt. It is a game that incorporates curiosity, social interaction, a sense of achievement while collecting items. The added value at the workplace? Our Scavenger Hunt puts an emphasis on mastery, mastery at work.

We believe that it there is a way to encourage people, whether if it is to make them stroll down the street or if we want to improve their performance in the workplace. For walking, use Pokémon Go; for the rest at work – Gameffective.

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