How to have fun at work and other stories

In a break with tradition, the Digital Leaders North West session this week on the subject of gamification included a video, some small group work and quite a few references to cows! Liz Copeland of Knowledge Hub tells us more…

The Digital Leaders North West were privileged to start our session this week by watching a video recorded exclusively for us by An Coppens, Chief Game Changer (what a great job title!) at Gamification Nation and leading expert in this area of work. For those not familiar with the term gamification, it is the application of game psychology and game dynamics to non-game situations. For example, with employees in terms of learning and development and other HR related processes; within public service engaging the community in dialogue with government; or for membership organisations to develop better relationships with members.

I’m embedding the video here for you if you’d like to watch it (it’s half an hour long), but I’ll also give you a very short overview of some of An’s key points.


Firstly, she suggested three top tips for embarking on a gamification process:

  1. Business specifics: where are you starting from and where do you want to go? Get this clear and consider your business objectives and your culture when you think about this.
  2. Understand the player: who are you doing this for? Get an understanding of their motivations and behaviours.
  3. Gamification design: note that this comes last. Get the right kind of game elements for the purpose and people you’ve explored in the first two points.

An suggested here a note of caution. Do not use gamification to fix a broken process. It only succeeds with processes that work. It will not help you mend something that is fundamentally broken – if that’s the case, you need to look deeper at your organisational issues and culture and put things right before you can embark on using gamification to enhance what you’re doing.

An went on to discuss a range of great gamification examples we’ve probably all experienced. The obvious one being LinkedIn. She specifically referred to their profile completeness bar and said that figures showed a 60% increase in people filling in their profiles as a result of this.

Other examples provided included learning from games by translating game rewards into a dashboard for business performance, or providing immediate feedback on individual employee development and performance.

We had a lively discussion after watching the video, in which we all agreed with An’s point about not trying to fix a broken process using gamification. We thought it was important to understand the value of what gamification can bring – what are you doing it for? We also talked about how different people react to different things and that you need to consider multiple personas in the mix when you’re exploring gamification, as some people will like competition and others will only want to compete against themselves, not with others.

Our Chair, Kevin Harrington, shared two very helpful frameworks to support our thinking on the subject of gamification.

Firstly, Herzberg’s theory on what motivates people in the workplace. Interestingly, it’s not money. Increased motivation comes from achievement, recognition and personal growth.

Secondly, Yu Kai Chou’s Octalysis gamification framework, which seeks to optimise for human motivation within a system, as opposed to purely for efficiency.

Everyone shared brilliant examples of instances where gamification has successfully achieved an outcome:

  • Swedish speed camera lottery (see YouTube video below) – fines for anyone exceeding the speed limit fed into a pot that funded a lottery for those who drove legally. This resulted in less speeding and a much safer road.
  • Fold it – a crowdsourcing protein folding computer game that enables people to contribute to important scientific research such as finding a cure for HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
  • Dominoes Pizza – a mobile app for creating your own pizza that boosted sales and acted as a possible recruitment tool.
  • Sodexho – to deal with absenteeism on the oil rigs, the company implemented gym competitions that could be shared with family members and friends via Skype. This resulted in reducing the feeling of isolation and improved the rate of absence from work.
  • Ideastreet – DWP’s ideas management platform that encouraged employees to share and invest in each other’s cost saving ideas. By the end of the first year 4,500 employees had participated and generated £20m of savings.


We finished the session by breaking into groups to work on three scenario based gamification challenges. One group took on the role of local government, one took national/European government and one was a commercial business. Each group were asked to plan a gamification solution for their particular scenario and report back.

Local government – dealing with the problem of truancy in schools

After carefully considering their ‘player’ – children not attending school – this group concluded that the current mechanism of being rewarded for 100% attendance could be the problem. Perfection can be off putting to people and realistic goals showing progressive improvement is a better solution. Therefore, the idea of a levelled approach with small rewards even for a 1% attendance might be a possible answer. Rewards could be sport or leisure type activities, or music downloads for example.

Commercial business – making the organisation a better place to work and retaining staff

This group decided on the adoption of a loyalty type scheme similar to store card bonus schemes such as Nectar points for example. You could build up ‘appreciation’ points for the work that you do and at the appropriate moment ‘cash them in’ for rewards such as bacon sandwiches for the team on a Friday morning, a meal out for the team, or additional leave days.

National/European government – reducing air pollution

The natural starting point for most people would be to start with transport, more specifically cars, but this group thought laterally and chose to address an issue, which it feels no one is doing anything about: cows, or more specifically methane emissions from farms. We need to start incentivising farms to reduce emissions, therefore the group suggested a cow tracker on every cow that could include some sort of emissions measurement. This could be incentivised through supermarkets through a badging scheme for the best health and welfare conditions.

There was also a suggestion to incentivise a reduction in use of pesticides with grants and a ‘we are the best farm’ type badge.

In addition, the use of online communities would help farms to benchmark their progress against others and share knowledge about good practice, which might also earn rewards.


As you can see, it was a lively session, from which we all learnt in an interactive way. The top takeaway for anyone considering gamifying a process or system: always consider your player/user first – what motivates them and why will they get involved? Get into their mind and understand what makes them tick.

Find out more about Digital Leaders North West by joining our group and do come along and join us at our next meeting, which will be on 26 May.

Security level: Public

More Blog Entries

What is a digital leader anyway?

What is a digital leader anyway? Is there something about digital leadership that is different,...

Local government organisations on the true meaning of digital transformation

Twelve subject matter experts representing local councils, housing associations and CRM subject...


John Rudkin 5 Years Ago - Edited
Another highly enjoyable session, and full marks to Liz for the preparation, An's video and Kevin's activities and leadership. While the aim was to talk gamification, I am not sure we necessarily met the 'fun at work' title face on. Gamification can be aimed at many levels, but it may not be seen as 'fun' by some. What I do feel is that we can stimulate reactions, engagement and activity by presenting differently, and that is no bad thing. Good teachers use a variety of techniques to engage learners with a broad range of approaches and activities. Games feature as a means of disguising learning behind a thick or thin layer of playful activity - and that inventiveness can stimulate learners into engagement and improve retention. 'Fun at work' has to be something that transcends all attempts to invent activities, and fundamentally is about the way people interact together, or where appropriate with customers. I hold dear so many 'fun' days at work, from 'away-days' to simple and hilarious exchanges across the coffee machine - and that was all about working in comfort with great people. I still do! PS: My spell checker still thinks gamification should be spelled gasification!