Angry Birds, Farmville, and Recycling

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Michael Jordan
Strategy Consulting – Sustainability

Although some are claiming the end of gamification even before others have heard of it, I’m now convinced that the use of gamer psychology to know if your players (employees) are killers, socializers, explorers, or achievers is a useful paradigm in designing engagement strategies for positive, sustainable behavior change. 

I’ve worked with a number of companies on employee engagement for sustainability programs.   Ironically, for every company where employees cry for more recycling, there are just as many companies who wish employees would turn off the dang lights when they don’t need them.  

There is a very long list of micro-behaviors that corporate sustainability leaders would like to influence in the name of green.  We’ve been effectively using emails, education, guilt, brown bag lunches, data, green teams, and the like.  But the gap between desired behavior change and actual behavior change remains.

As gamer expert Gabe Zichermann suggests, let’s try using fun as a motivator.  Friends at Saatchi & Saatchi S agree — Saatchi S just released the results of a 2000-person study about the relationship of games to business, brand, and loyalty. 

Greenopolis is an example of making recycling more fun.  In a nutshell, the way it works is you put your recyclable bottles into their kiosk and you earn points.  Points can be redeemed for stuff for yourself or for other people.  At last week’s Sustainable Brands conference, I got my own Greenopolis rewards card.  I’m ready to go.  And I think this model will expand.

Where green teams are successful, it’s partially because we’re playing on the “socializer” gamer type.  You might not be giving them points or badges (yet).   You might not have a full suite of gamified rewards structures such as giving your employees status, access, power, or stuff for acting more green.   But if you understand these motivators, the potential is tremendous.

If your energy efficiency and recycling programs were as popular as Angry Birds and Farmville, you’d be in pretty good shape.

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