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Stop Using The G Word: How To Successfully Pitch Gamification

A Rose by Any Other Name…

Gamification fascinates me–the concept and the word itself. Allow me to explain how you will successfully pitch gamification by never saying it again.

At first glance, the word suggests that we are turning everything into a game. The reverse is actually more accurate–everything was already a game and the process is just now catching up to the reality. The concept is beginning to spread across the world and Enterprise Gamification will be a major accelerator for the movement. In the meantime, we have to sacrifice The G Word to make the concept a reality.


The G Word Wears Sneakers to Work (& It Does Not Like Cubicles)

The G Word, as you might imagine, does not mesh with a Fortune 500 world full of suits, cubicles, and earnings reports. If the word were a person it would be an incredibly high performer–but it might also show up late wearing jeans and sneakers. In the Bay Area it would raise an eyebrow–on the East Coast security would not let it in the building.

I am being a bit facetious but my point is that an average executive has no idea what the term gamification means. The biggest problem with the term is that the only people who understand its meaning are the people that already understand the concept. If you find yourself as the person in an organization that is championing gamification this puts you in a precarious position.


Championing the Cause

If you are the champion of the gamification cause–if you are an innovator hoping to persuade the masses–you are left with one of two paths:

1. Explain gamification, the concept, by explaining away gamification, the word, in every conversation

2. Define your own relevant terminology that communicates the true power of the concept


Define Your Own Terminology

The section title may have given it away–but I tend to advocate taking the second path: defining your own terminology. In full disclosure, I work for EMC Corporation and I was the person that brought the gamification concept to the table. Many colleagues had discussed gamified systems but none had the right mix of timing and audience to drive real change. The key factors for innovation, however, surrounded us–a highly collaborative team, a group of intellectually-curious individuals always willing to listen to a new idea, and an executive willing to support us.

The G Word, however, was holding us back. As with most teams just beginning to explore the idea, the term either meant something different to everyone–or it meant nothing to anyone. My advice: forget The G Word and remove it from your vocabulary. For a time I pushed back. I thought “I know this concept better than anyone else and this is the term for that concept.” I was an idiot. If you’re the person fighting for gamification in your organization, you have to be prepared to fight for its potential, for its power, for its benefits–but not for the word itself.


Once you come to this point–once you are willing to give up The G Word–you are ready to begin communicating the value of such a program to your organization. In my case, our team fumbled with a few terms before settling on “Reward, Recognition, and Motivation Programs.”

Clunky? Yes. Verbose? Yes. Accurate? Absolutely.


Unify the Organization Behind a Vision

The vision you depict of a gamified future is far more powerful than The G Word in a vacuum. Gamification might confuse very bright individuals into thinking that you want to build a new game on your Facebook tab–or that you’re building a game to represent your brand. Based on my experience, you will be far more successful if you focus on and communicate what you can deliver for your brand–a program to redefine the way that you Reward, Recognize, and Motivate your audience members.


Ignore the Experts, Customize Your Message

Anyone reading this probably has a clear opinion on the split between researchers/consultants and practitioners–in any field. On a recent webinar, I submitted a question to a prominent researcher on gamification about the stigma of the term. To be frank, he responded like a jerk. He missed the fact that I was asking for his advice on how to pitch the term to a company full of well-meaning folks that, in most cases, have never heard the word gamification.

The last point I want to stress is this: tailor the message to your organization. In my case, Reward, Recognition, and Motivation Program works–in your organization it might not. For some The G Word might work, but for the rest of us we must look for a creative way to communicate the value of this powerful movement. It is your incredible privilege to bring this vision for a gamified future to your organization–make sure The G Word does not stop you from doing so.

Go forth and conquer, gamificators.


  • [...] of education, some call these “reward, recognition and motivation programs.” And Alex Chisholm, executive director of the Learning Games Network, a spin-off from the MIT [...]

  • [...] of education, some call these “reward, recognition and motivation programs.” And Alex Chisholm, executive director of the Learning Games Network, a spin-off from the MIT [...]

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