Lately, we have received a number of enquiries where the basic brief was to just design a gamified experience for our people, without access to the target groups or any background research about their behaviours or motivations. Whilst this is an option, it typically results in a far greater number of iterations than any other way of working. In my opinion, it is synonymous with designing blindly and also making the process more expensive.
I would compare it to asking an accountant to do your year-end accounts, without giving them any figures. He would be asking a lot of questions and looking for details of your business transactions, invoices, expenses, etc. In order to file your accounts, you will need to help them to generate the detail required to deliver on their promise.
When we have access to potential users and an insider story view of the organisation, we can come up with more meaningful interactions and experiences. It influences the theme we go with and the type of game mechanics we pick for the people involved. We will still have iterations but far less than in the case of no insight. I also always want to know why they want to gamify an experience and what is currently in place.
Some people in the gamification design space claim that motivations of individuals don’t vary that much and that generalisation into a few is sufficient. Whilst they serve as a base indicator, in my experience they are not fool-proof and fitting to all situations and organisations. The company culture, influenced largely by management, is an important driver of the behaviour of employees. Some industries have patterns of behaviour that are sort of their war stories such as for example the competitiveness of the financial industry, especially on trading floors.
At a minimum, a persona or a few persona that indicate employees or customers and their preferences is a good starting point. We tend to do a combination of interviews, focus groups and surveys, but are also open to using existing internally gathered data from Google analytics to employee engagement polls, recruitment personality profiles, etc. Something is better than designing blindly in my view. It saves time and money.