by Alex Palmer | September 05, 2014

A new white paper from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) provides a tipsheet on what to do and what to avoid when incorporating gamificiation into incentive programs. While gamification continues to grow in popularity, IRF urges that incentive managers keep a few points in mind when devising their program.

The first "do" on the list is to understand what behaviors are being driven, and to understand it on a granular, rather than general, level. The report points to the example of "productivity," often cited as a goal for incentive programs, but which is in fact the result of a number of smaller, specific behaviors. For gamification to work, managers need to determine what these are -- for example, competing online courses, serving as a mentor, or sharing ideas.

The next recommendation is for managers to use a sophisticated analytics platform to measure and track these behaviors.

"The right technology depends on the type of behavior you want to track," writes the report's author Michael Wu. "If the behaviors leave behind digital footprints, such as a tweet, or many other behaviors of productivity, then there are many platforms that can track or at least infer the behaviors."

The other steps recommended by Wu are:

--Keep an eye out for unintended consequences (for example, causing workers to circumvent the rules or exploit a loophole in order to earn more rewards)
--Know your players
--Know the effective timescale of your desired behavior change
--Create a community for your players (such as a leaderboard)
--Try to create ways for everyone to play frequently

Wu also provides three "don'ts" when designing a gamification program. The first of these is "don't gamify a behavior that doesn't actually provide value to your players." He points out that organizations may use gamification just for the sake of it, and that managers must think through the actual purpose of any such program they create.

The other two don'ts suggested by Wu are:

--Don't try to fix a broken product or service with gamification
--Don't build a game on top of existing processes

Wu concludes that, "The bottom line is: building a game on top of existing workflows or a process is not gamification."

The full white paper can be downloaded here.