To better design incentive programs, it would be wise to use the methods commonplace in the video game industry.
They would know, after all, because what are video games aside from work and challenges that people often pay to participate in?
Jane McGonigal writes all about this in her books Reality is Broken and SuperBetter.
Curating and presenting decades of Positive Psychology research (the science of human happiness and well-being), McGonigal demonstrates how the video-game industry has developed key insights into the mechanisms of motivation.
Positive Psychology and video game designers have both identified the critical elements of Intrinsic Motivation. At its core, intrinsic motivation is all about ENGAGEMENT. Humans are hardwired to engage with activities and experiences that challenge and reward them.
Largely, intrinsic motivation is connected with
Humans are driven by work that provides a sense of progress and impact. People strive for experiences relating to excitement and success. We are driven to share these experiences and enhance our connection with others.
And perhaps, most of all, we are driven intrinsically by meaning. Most humans have the desire to be engaged with activity or concept which is bigger than the individual. This is likely because of our deep wish to have significance that endures beyond our limited lifetime.
Well, as the title implies, McGonigal describes thoroughly how most aspects of “reality” fail to activate our intrinsic motivation because of dis-interesting work, marginal rewards, and lack of meaning.
To remedy this pervasive, disengaging mediocrity, Reality is Broken prescribes “14 Fixes”. These are 14 insights from game design and positive psychology that can help you engineer a more engaging and meaningful competition, App, or business.
You could(should) even use these insights to engineer elements of your personal life.
Tackle Unnecessary Obstacles. What is a game if not an unnecessary obstacle? Football and many other games are dangerous, even fatal, but millions of people engage with these unnecessary obstacles because they showcase strength. Games motivate our interests and creativity. The obstacles push us to reevaluate and optimize our performance, continuously motivating us to develop.
Activate Positive Emotions. People pay money to labor away at tasks in World of Warcraft, but they bemoan their paying job. Why is this? Extreme Positive Emotions! Games focus our energy on efforts which provide emotional payoffs.
Satisfying Work. Games provide clear objectives and immersive “hands on” work. These games provide a blissful sense of productivity enforced with clear actionable goals and vivid results.
Hope of Success. Games provide us with great accomplishments as motivation. But, equally important is the way that games eliminate our fear of failure. In games “failure” becomes part of the game, they are an expected and necessary part of accomplishing the goals. In reality, fear of failure causes many people to shut down. How can we engineer a world where failure is understood as bittersweet prerequisite of success?
Strengthen Social Connectivity. Working and overcoming obstacles with others builds our social bonds and sense of belonging (aka prosocial emotions).
Epic Scale. In games you save the world, solve mysteries, and accomplish impossible feats. When you work in a game, you know that you are building to accomplish something impressive.
Wholehearted Participation. When a game is great, it has our full attention. When we are wholeheartedly engaged, we are content with our place in the world. We are not concerned with peripheral worry or the desire to be elsewhere (aka FOMO).
Meaningful Rewards When Most Needed. Points, levels, and enhancements provide ample motivation. But, additionally, games know how to provide a boost when we need it most.
Fun With Strangers. Games give us the opportunity to collaborate and achieve with people we hardly know. This improves our sense of the world, ourselves, and others. Additionally, through random cooperation, our social networks develop in ways that enhance and diversify our default connections.
Invent and Adopt Happiness Hacks. Games encourage us to take advice and to try alternative methods. Games increase receptivity and reduce the pressure associated with trying new things.
Understand the Engagement Economy. With Billions of people on the planet and online, the most important resource is Engagement and Attention. The rewards provided by games are nearly infinite. Knowing this, it is possible for anyone to direct Engagement and Attention towards addressing real-world problems. Games give us the ability to address challenges, without the need of money to problem solvers.
Epic Wins. Along with Epic Scale, there should be Epic Wins. Saving the world from extraterrestrials is pretty epic. But, games can give structure to massive real-world challenges which are eventually overcome in epic fashion (ie: Xprize).
10,000 Collaboration Hours. If 10,000 hours is the way to mastery, open sourced problem solving, when structured with game mechanics, creates a hyperdrive portal to unprecedented problem solving in record time (for perspective, 10,000 hours is 416 solid days or 1250 workdays (ie: 3.4 years of concerted effort) .
Massive Multiplayer Foresight. Games make it possible to imagine a create a future collaboratively. Multiplayer games created empowered and hopeful individuals which develop stronger communities. With Massive Multiplayer strategies, humanity can begin addressing world scale issues in an organized and rewarding way.