4. Chapter 4: Mission

by Janaki Mythily Kumar and Mario Herger

"Begin with the end in mind"
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood"
— Stephen Covey


Mission refers to the goal of your gamification activity. It has to be identified with care, since it determines the ultimate success or failure of your efforts. In this chapter we will discuss the aspects to consider when choosing a meaningful mission that can be used internally by the gamification team to guide their endeavors.

4.1 Steps to create an effective mission

The key aspects to consider in setting an effective mission are:

  • Understand the current scenario
  • Understand the target business outcome
  • Identify a S.M.A.R.T. Mission

Begin with a good understanding of the problem you are trying to solve, and the outcome you are trying to achieve; based on this understanding, set a S.M.A.R.T mission.

Let us examine each of these steps in detail.

Analyze current scenario, understand target business outcome and set a S.M.A.R.T. mission
Figure 4.1: Analyze current scenario, understand target business outcome and set a S.M.A.R.T. mission

4.1.1 Analyze Current Situation

The current scenario is what the players do today. It involves studying the work practices currently followed by the employee, customer, or partner.

The best way to get this information is through qualitative research such as observation, site-visits and interviews. The goal is to develop a strong empathy with the target players. An effective way to do this is through Design Thinking (footnote 1) a methodology offered by the design school, Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (footnote 2).

If the gamified software is for internal use, it is relatively easy to access the target player. If the gamification is part of standard software, however, the level of customer intimacy required may not be achievable through the normal recruiting processes. To overcome this issue, we recommend establishing Co-Innovation Partnerships with a few key customers. For more information on Co-Innovation Partnerships, refer to Appendix A.12.

4.1.2 Understand the target business outcome

On a high level, the target scenario is what the management wants employees, customers or partners to do. For example, they may want sales reps to sell more, customers to buy more. However, this is too high level and we need to go deeper to create an effective mission.

The best way to get this information is to interview stakeholders to understand the behavior change they wish to see in the organization.

4.1.3 Identify a S.M.A.R.T. mission

Based on an analysis of the current scenario, and an understanding of the target scenario, we can identify a mission for our gamification project. We recommend that the gamification mission be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound. These elements are encapsulated in the acronym S.M.A.R.T.

Let us examine the applications of these dimensions in defining a mission in the following case:

Company A's call center has a low customer satisfaction score. Management have examined the cause of this problem and identified that call center agents are not sufficiently knowledgeable about their new product's features and functions, and are therefore not able to provide satisfactory answers to customer questions. The company has provided on-line training materials for the agents. However, only 10% of the agents have completed the training. The company decides to try gamification to motivate the agents. What is an appropriate Mission for this enterprise gamification project?

For the above case, we do not recommend you choose "Increase Customer Satisfaction" as your gamification mission. Although it is somewhat specific and measurable, it is not actionable, or time-bound.

Rather, we recommend that you look at the root cause relating to lack of training. A more effective mission is to "Increase completion of training activity to 80% in 3 months". This mission is specific, can be measured, is actionable by players, and time-bound. To know if it is realistic in the given time frame, we need to examine the current scenario and the target scenario.

4.1.4 Additional guidelines for Mission Selection Do not get in the way

Engagement is an important part of any gamification mission. However, select the part of the application to be gamified with care, and select your mission accordingly. Enterprise software's primary objective is about achieving specific business outcomes. Therefore, ensure that gamification does not get in the way of such critical business processes. Embrace iteration

Player centered design is iterative. Therefore, information learned at later stages in the process may shed more light on previous stages. For example, during the course of analyzing the current scenario, understanding target scenarios, and identifying the mission, we may learn more about the player. If this were to happen, we can go back and adjust our player persona based on this new information. Iteration is the key to any innovative endeavor, including gamification.

The mission of gamification could be revisited for new releases of the application to maximize business outcome.

4.2 Mission examples

Here are a few non-enterprise examples to illustrate how to identify a mission:

4.2.1 Example: Everyday fitness

  • Current scenario: The majority of people take the escalator instead of the stairs
  • Target scenario: We want people to take the stairs
  • Mission: Encourage majority of subway passengers to take the stairs instead of the escalator in a fun and engaging way.

This is what a team did in the Volkswagen project Piano staircase. Check out the video at: Source: http://www.thefuntheory.com/piano-staircase

Piano Staircase
Figure 4.2: Piano Staircase

4.2.2 Example: Driving below speed limit

  • Current scenario: Drivers drive above speed limit
  • Target scenario: We want drivers to obey the posted speed limit
  • Mission: Get more people to drive at or below the speed limit by making it fun to do.

This is the story of Speed Camera lottery that started as a Volkswagen fun project, and was later implemented in Sweden where it reduced average speed from 35 km to 25 km/hour. Check out the video at http://www.thefuntheory.com/speed-camera-lottery-0

Camera lottery
Figure 4.3: Camera lottery

4.2.3 Enterprise Example: What is in a name?

  • Current scenario
    The company has grown fast, and the employees no longer know their co-workers' names. They feel they are working with strangers.
    Employee turnover is trending up
  • Target scenario
    Nurture employee camaraderie and reduce employee turnover
  • Mission
    Help majority of employees learn each other's names in 3 months

Every time an employee logs in, he/she is presented with a co-worker's face and three possible names. The employee identifies the co-worker, and gets to learn a little bit about them.

4.3 Summary

The mission refers to the goal of the gamification activity. Setting a good goal for the gamification project involves understanding the current scenario, and target business outcome, and setting an appropriate mission for your gamification project.

Engagement is an important part of any gamification mission. However, in the enterprise context, ensure that gamification does not get in the way of a person's core job. Select a S.M.A.R.T. mission, to allow the team to measure the success of their gamification strategy against this agreed-upon mission.

4.4 Insights from SAP Community Network

Having created a player persona, the next step was to identify the mission.

  • Current Situation: Complex environment with little support
  • SAP's Target Business Outcome: Increase customer satisfaction by increasing the quality of SAP implementations
  • Mission of SCN: Help SCN professionals succeed by providing them access to a large community of experts by increasing number of active users, and recognizing excellence by highlighting top contributors

The original assumption was that the most frequent participants in the community would be consultants and IT professionals from large companies. However, it turned out that a large number of early contributors were independent consultants or members of smaller IT teams. They welcomed the connection to other developers. They participated actively in the community and shared their expertise generously. This created a positive momentum, and made visible the helpful and generous spirit of the community. Soon, this encouraged employees from larger companies to engage with a similar community spirit, and they started sharing their knowledge for the benefit of everyone.

The mission of SCN, to share information, learn, and connect with others, was appealing to SAP professionals who did not have a large network of their own. They saw this as an opportunity to become visible to a wider audience.

To be continued at the end of next chapter...


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4.6 References