Want to change behaviour? Pull the trigger…

My third post about motivation is inspired by the second talk I saw Michael Wu deliver recently – the Science of Gamification.

Roy Rogers on his horse Trigger

At the heart of gamification is the observation that we avoid work in preference to play. So perhaps if we can introduce elements of the game to the working world, we might be able to influence behaviour to achieve a business purpose.

Wu’s definition: gamification is the use of game mechanics/dynamics to drive game-like engagement and actions in non-game environments (e.g. work, education, exercise, etc.)

My interest was piqued with that mention of engagement… Here we are in the world of motivation once more. Wu demonstrated how gamification dynamics are mirrored throughout behavioural psychology and economics.

Hosted by Digital Surrey at Farnham University of Creative Arts and delivered in a lecture theatre, this whistle stop tour of gamification was like one of the best seminars you attended as a student. You could practically hear synapses snapping into action all round the room. The slide deck won’t do the live event justice but is an excellent resource.

Wu took us through Bartle’s four types of gamer.

  • The Killer – no greater than 1% of the population, highly competitive and motivated by being challenged.
  • The Achiever – around 10% of the population, driven by status and motivated by an increase of same.
  • The Explorer – again around 10% of the population, driven by discovery and their own unique contributions and motivated by a call upon their unmatched skills at their own pace.
  • And finally the Socialiser accounting for 80% of us – they hate confrontation and value relationships – they can be motivated by what Cialdini would call social proof.

What a relief to have some boxes to put people in! You can find out which box you fit in here.

We looked at Fogg’s behaviour model to examine the three factors which underlay why people do things: motivation, ability and trigger. Temporal convergence of these three factors results in action. Once motivation and ability cross the ‘activation threshold’, a trigger is required. For a Socialiser a trigger might be suggesting that all of their friends are already doing something. As an aside, Wu noted the games industry has been building games for Killers and Achievers for years, only addressing 11% of the market. Then along comes Farmville

Wu covered Dan Pink’s intrinsic motivators,  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Watson’s and Skinner’s Learning and Conditioning and Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘flow’. The parallels between behaviourist theory (and Nudge theory I might add) and gamification dynamics and mechanics are patent.

The theory was fab, but seeing it put into practice was amazing. In the Speed Camera Lottery example, the experimenters were able to effect a change in the public’s behaviour. They used a game mechanic to make a boring thing – driving within the speed limit – fun. The results were illuminating – during the experiment, the average speed on the road was reduced by 22%.

Keeping up with Michael was a brain workout. It was instructive and inspiring. As an infrequent game player, I hadn’t thought I would be interested in gamification. But the point of interest is not about the gaming environment.

What is fascinating is how effectively it can be applied at both a macro- and a micro-level. Gamification is a great tool for the ‘paternalistic liberalism’ that Thaler and Sunstein talk about in Nudge. And it can help create an environment that initiates change in how influencers engage with a brand or how members act in a team.

All you need to do to effect the change you need is find the right trigger for your subject… Simple…

3 thoughts on “Want to change behaviour? Pull the trigger…

  1. Michael Wu PhD

    Hello Jane,

    Thank you for the nice summary. I’m very glad that you find my talk inspiring.

    I just want to stress that to have an effective gamification, trigger alone is not sufficient. You really need to have a convergence of all three factors: motivation, ability, and the trigger. Feel free to explore my mini-series on gamification here:

    And although it is nice to be able to put people in boxes, it is also important to recognize that like most of the modern market segmentation, such as psychographic, technographic (via Forrester), Bartle’s player type is not mutually exclusive. In fact, people usually belong to several types. For example, I am mostly an explorer, some achiever, and socializer, and a tiny bit of killer. The hard (mutually exclusive) segmentation is based on the dominant player type in each person.

    Anyway, it is very nice meeting you at ECEW and Digital Surrey. And thanks again for the write up.

    1. janeyfranklin Post author

      Hi Michael

      I agree. I was taking a little artistic licence in over-simplifying to set myself up for a point I shall make in my next post. Tongue-in-cheek-ness (!) doesn’t always come over well in the written word. The convergence of motivation, ability and trigger is a simple idea to grasp and helps us make sense out of complexity – but in actual practice achieving the perfect blend of each factor at one moment in time is far from simple. I took the Bartle test and am a socialiser but am pleased to note the blend of the other types in me too. Once I get on Mario Karts, there really is no stopping me.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it. It was lovely to meet you and your wife in May – please do pass on my regards and best wishes.

  2. Pingback: Never hire the wrong person again | Strange fascination

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