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Gamification – don’t attempt to wear too many hats, (and avoid people who do)

Change Makers

Gamification – don’t attempt to wear too many hats, (and avoid people who do)


In a recent pitch for an employee engagement project we were competing against an HR training company, a game technology company and ourselves, who work with this client as a creative communications company.

Why such a diverse shortlist for this review? Often businesses don’t know where to start and what skills are required with projects that require a blend of creative and technology skills; not to mention some clear strategic thinking on audience insights.

One mistake is to take on people who claim to be expert across a number of areas but in the end are forsaking quality outcomes for a grab at revenue beyond their core skills. Equally, organisations who assume that internal capabilities will suffice are often left with off-the-shelf solutions that look and feel like generic attempts to win the audience over as they lack creative or technical spark.


There is a good reason to take some time to consider what your ideal team should look like and how quite separate disciplines are going to operate as one well-oiled machine.

The following checklist on what to avoid may sound a little cynical but it is interesting that a lot of businesses do experience a degree of these before they put in place this well-chosen team:

  • A fabulous creative idea that costs a fortune to build.
  • An amazing technology solution that doesn’t have anything to do with the business problem you are trying to solve.
  • A solution that has worked in other areas but doesn’t take into consideration the true motivations of your audience.
  • A user experience that is good in theory but is not translated well by your developers (either because of lack of skills or cost constraints).

The pitch example I started this article with wasn’t entirely resolved by selecting the external resources (happily that was us otherwise I wouldn’t be able to complete the second half of this story). It was only when external creative and technology skills were brought around the table with a range of stakeholders across the organisation that this project took shape.

Importantly, Marketing lead the formation of the team but “leadership” was provided by various individuals at different stages of development.

HR guided the development of a lot of the planned content and made sure it complemented existing assets. IT led a lot of the thinking on how to contain the costs of the build. The head of the sales team provided the insights into the needs, likes and dislikes of front line staff (one of the main targets for the project).

In turn, we led the considerations around user experience and how to build in a social component to extend the life of the game we are building.

Projects like this that are designed to increase audience participation often fail due to poor design; often a result of superficial thinking and execution. There can be a rush to add some game mechanics and an element of “fun” and as a result a number of critical success factors can be overlooked.

By pulling together a comprehensive team sourced from both inside and outside the organisation, this short-sightedness is avoided.

Successful gamification and engagement projects generally require fluid, ongoing creative discussion between a mix of people. For your program to be genuinely engaging with a great user experience and delivered on time and on budget is clearly not the domain of any one individual, or company for that matter.

Avoid trying to wear too many hats and certainly avoid those who claim to have all the bases covered. If the promises of “all under one roof” sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Peter Hosking

Peter Hosking is Director of ghosydney.com. gho works with organizations in retail, banking, education and the public sector. Increasingly gho is seeing more investment in new technology and creative communications to protect and grow quality people to, in turn, become strong advocates for their brands.

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