How We Applied Gamification to Building a Business

Feedback begets accomplishment. Feedback is one of the core principles of gaming, and by natural extension engagement. My close friend, client and business associate, Romi Mahajan has written quite a bit on rethinking gaming and how it applies to our lives – gaming for marketing, research and even management. I believe one of the fundamental reasons why gaming is so emotionally satisfying is that it has an unprecendented feedback loop. You shoot someone - you see blood splattering. You catapult birds onto wooden structures - you see things break and fall apart and blow up.

I want to share a personal story on how I got sold on the gamification model.

About 2 years ago, we started IdeaScale as a feature of our existing survey tool, QuestionPro. It was literally envisioned as a question type within a survey. As crowdsourcing became commonplace, we realized we had something big. The notion of crowdsourcing was buzzing with activity, so we decided to create a product out of it, and IdeaScale was born. It was not an instant success. We peddled to anyone and everyone we could (like all good endeavors), but we soon realized that IdeaScale needed to have it’s own wings to fly as an independent company. And so we spun out IdeaScale as a separate entity and Rob Hoehn became the point man for the business.

The big idea we were trying to achieve was to bring about ownership elements as we transitioned the business from a product to fully functional independent company. The one construct we came up with was to open up our checking accounts to the key individuals running IdeaScale – Rob and Jeremy. In hindsight, this was  the “feedback” element for the team. It does not get any more real than this. I believe that it is this unprecedented feedback element that motivates team members to go above and beyond the call of duty. Now, both Rob and Jeremy knew exactly how much clients were paying us, which deals were profitable and which were not. The back account cannot be fudged with financial trickery and Excel revenue engineering. If a sale was done for 20k, the bank account grew by 20k. If we blew 10k in a conference, it was obvious.

The bank balance was the one number  the entire team cared about growing. This became our game. It worked.

The next time someone says it’s all fun and games – my answer is, “Damn right!” It’s fun and games and profitable and real. It pays for mortgages, cars and weddings! It’s real.

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  5. Market Research Planning – What Every CEO, Business Owner, and Entrepreneur Should Know
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About Vivek Bhaskaran

Vivek Bhaskaran is the President and CEO of Survey Analytics.

  • Erika Lundahl

    Okay, I’m sold on the power of games -and feedback systems are integral to what makes a game a game, along with the rules of the game, and of course voluntary participation. Have been for awhile. But when you simplify your game structure to something as simple as “make this one number higher”, doesn’t that over-simplify your objective? I mean, its obvious that your organization benefited enormously from using gamification, a small team of people where there was a lot of trust and collaboration. I just wonder, about pros and cons of gamification on larger scales. The way the stock market functions seems largely game-like in structure as well, but is there a danger to creating such linear objectives within a game structure, that other organizational and ethical values get left by the wayside? There’s a philosophical quandary for you – I’d love to hear more of your thoughts :)