🎲 Unleashing the Power of Gamification in Business Strategy! 🚀

Sustain enthusiasm for your business strategy using the power of gamification, particularly where enthusiasm starts to fade as execution gets real.


  1. What is gamification?
  2. Examples of gamification
  3. Components of gamification
  4. 12 tips for gamifying your strategy
    1. Tip 1: Apply gamification where enthusiasm wears off
    2. Tip 2: Make sure the objective and rules are clear
    3. Tip 3: Apply gamification where people have control of their actions and outcomes
    4. Tip 4: Look for areas where performance outstrips collaboration
    5. Tip 5: Gamify processes where feedback is swift
    6. Tip 6: Gamify things that are repeated often
    7. Tip 7: Break things down into their smallest components
    8. Tip 8: If you have to, make up proxies
    9. Tip 9: Allow people to compete against each other as well as their former selves
    10. Tip 10: Don't force everyone to play
    11. Tip 11: Be aware of the potential pitfalls
    12. Tip 12: Don't wait until you need it
  5. In conclusion

GamificationWhat is gamification?

Gamification is about bringing the excitement and engagement of game elements - points, levels, badges, leaderboards, and challenges - into everyday tasks. The goal? To transform routine activities into captivating experiences. 🌟

Examples of gamification

  • Fitness apps keep track of performance, create leaderboards, set challenges (for which you can earn badges) and set up competition between participants. (See A Fitness Tracker For Your Business)
  • Sales teams use leader boards to track and reward top performers.
  • Students earn badges for mastering new skills.

Components of gamification

  1. Clearly and objectively measurable outcomes that can be used to keep score.
  2. Clear goals/objectives and rules.
  3. Competition.

12 tips for gamifying your strategy

Tip 1: Apply gamification where enthusiasm wears off

Gamification is useful anywhere where initial enthusiasm typically starts to wear off.

That's why it works so well with fitness apps. People start with enthusiasm, but their enthusiasm may start to wane if they don't see immediate results. Gamification can be used to provide interim rewards, keeping people motivated until the real rewards become more evident.

In business strategy, enthusiasm often starts to wear off after you launch your new strategy. Enthusiasm may initially be high when the strategy is new and exciting. Especially if there are some high-profile launch events and top management are seen to be paying attention. But it can start to wear off as the new practices and routines start to settle in, and the first obstacles and difficulties emerge.

John Kotter talks about the importance of Sustaining Acceleration to maintain momentum over time. This is where gamification may be able to help.

Tip 2: Make sure the objective and rules are clear

Games work because the objectives and rules are very clear. In football, the objective is to kick the ball into the net. The rules are that you can't touch it with your hands. There are many finer points to the game, of course, but the basic objective and rules are clear.

In business strategy, the objectives and rules are often less clear. Even if people understand the overall objectives, they often don't understand what they are supposed to do about it. What are they supposed to do differently when they get in to work the day after you announce your new strategy?

Tip 3: Apply gamification where people have control of their actions and outcomes

Many years ago I was discussing my employer's annual bonus scheme with a colleague. He said: "I think of it like a lottery - sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but I've got not idea how to influence the outcome."

Think about it: in a game of Quidditch, scoring points matters, but if the Seeker catches the Snitch, the game changes instantly. It's as if the other player's efforts to score points made no difference. The same principle applies in business - people need to feel their efforts truly count.

Fortunately, most incentive schemes seem to have come a long way since then.

But lots of people, particularly at larger employers, still complain of feeling like a number; like a cog in a big machine; they lack agency.

Gamification can help here - if you focus it on action that individuals feel they have control of, and use it to drive outcomes they feel they can impact.

To achieve this, you may need to look for ways to strip out external factors beyond people's control. Economic cycles are one such factor. But even the performance of other departments can have an impact. For example, your sales team could do less well this quarter because of poorer economic conditions, or because of the underperformance of the marketing department. But you can still gamify the sales teams performances relative to each other - you can still recognise those who perform best even if everyone performed less well than last year.

Tip 4: Look for areas where performance outstrips collaboration

Collaboration is increasingly important for many organisational processes - but not all of them.

Gamification works best where individuals or small teams can compete with each other. So it is important to restrict it to processes where the benefits of competition won't outweigh the potential impacts on collaboration.

Tip 5: Gamify processes where feedback is swift

Games often involve referees or umpires who are required to arbitrate and make decisions in the moment. Image a game of football where it took months after the game had finished to work out who'd won. I doubt people would play or watch it with nearly as much enthusiasm.

Gamify those aspects of your strategy where it is easy to observe and recognise the behaviour you want to see in the moment. Avoid gamifying behaviour which relies on lengthy data gathering, consolidation and reporting processes. And avoid gamifying behaviour where there is a long lag time between the behaviour and the outcome becoming apparent.

For example, in a cultural transformation, look for ways to observe and recognise the behaviours you want to see on a daily basis. Don't just wait for your annual staff survey to find out if your staff are feeling their positive effects.

Tip 6: Gamify things that are repeated often

They work best where the activities being gamified are repeated often, are independent of each other and other influences, where feedback loops are short, and where the participants have a lot of control over the outcomes.

Gamification works best on activities that each individual or team performs multiple times a week. If people only get to do something once a quarter, gamification will have little opportunity to make much difference.

Tip 7: Break things down into their smallest components

Tips 2 to 6 all point in the same direction: to make gamification work, you need to break big holistic strategies down into small repeatable processes that can be performed by individuals (or small teams) and where they see immediate (or nearly immediate results).

What you end up with might not look like your strategy at all. So it is important to keep that big picture of how all of those small components contribute to the larger whole.

To summarise: gamification works best when applied to individual or small group behaviours, not to organisation-wide strategic KPIs. (You still need the organisation-wide strategic KPIs using something like a Balanced Scorecard to see whether the individual efforts are actually achieving the organisation's strategic goals, or not, though!)

Tip 8: If you have to, make up proxies

Sometimes the things that you want encourage just don't lend themselves to gamification. For example, you may want to encourage your sales team to prioritise those customers who are most likely to become repeat, long-term customers, even if their initial purchase is slightly smaller. But you won't know if they are repeat, long-term customers until much later - possibly years.

A proxy might help here. For example, you might recognise salespeople who can get referrals from the sales they generate on the basis that customers who are willing to make a referral are more likely to become longer-term repeat customers. (Besides, who doesn't want referrals.)

Tip 9: Allow people to compete against each other as well as their former selves

Competing against others can be very motivating (as long as it doesn't undermine collaboration). But competing against your former self can be just as motivating. It shows that you are getting better.

As an (older) runner, I know I may never be as fast as Eliud Kipchoge or Usain Bolt. But that doesn't mean I can't get faster than I was last month or last year.

Setting everyone up to compete against each other, including your star performers, may simply be setting some up for disappointment. And that will do little to sustain enthusiasm. But setting people up to compete against their former selves or against other groups more similar to them may be more motivating.

You can recognise people for being "most improved", "best in region" or "best within this year's intake".

Tip 10: Don't force everyone to play

Gamification is a great technique for sustaining enthusiasm - for some people. Other people might be more intrinsically motivated and less motivated by external recognition or competition.

In fact, forcing some people to participate in your gamifications might actually demotivate them.

It's important to create space where everyone can perform at their best. So, don't force people to "play". And make it clear that there are still opportunities to contribute and grow in other ways.

Tip 11: Be aware of the potential pitfalls

Gamification, if used badly, comes with some potential pitfalls.

In the tragic story of a British Headteacher who committed suicide, her family, doctor and the coroner all concluded that the recent downgrading of her school from "outstanding" to "inadequate" had likely contributed to her suicide.

In the book "Punished by Rewards" Alfie Kohn challenges traditional thinking about motivation and management. Kohn argues that rewards, like punishments, are ineffective for motivating meaningful, long-term change in behaviour or productivity. He emphasizes that rewards, while seemingly positive, can actually undermine intrinsic motivation, reducing a person's natural interest and satisfaction in their work or learning. The book suggests that rewards can lead to a short-term focus, diminish risk-taking, and damage relationships by promoting competition over cooperation. Instead, Kohn advocates for an approach centred on collaboration, empowerment, and an intrinsic love of learning or work, suggesting these foster more sustainable motivation and productivity.

Tip 12: Don't wait until you need it

If you wait until enthusiasm starts to fade before starting to introduce gamification elements, you've probably left it too late.

Introduce gamification from the outset so that it can take hold while enthusiasm is still high. Then where enthusiasm might otherwise have started to fade, you gamification components will already be established.

In conclusion

Gamification holds immense potential in business strategy, serving as a dynamic tool to maintain momentum and foster engagement. It's not just about introducing game elements into the workplace; it's about understanding and harnessing the psychology of motivation.

By breaking down strategies into engaging, manageable components, you can sustain interest and drive better performance.

However, it's crucial to apply gamification thoughtfully, keeping in mind the diverse motivations of your team. Not everyone is inspired by competition or external rewards.

The real magic of gamification in business lies in its ability to make strategy execution more relatable, fun, and rewarding, ultimately leading to a more vibrant and productive work culture. Remember, the key is to keep it balanced, inclusive, and aligned with your overarching strategic goals.

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Published: 2024-01-19  |  Updated: 2024-01-21