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A Lesson in Gamification from Car2Go

I was in a hurry to get home the other day and the bus wasn’t going to get me there in time, so I hopped in a Car2Go (if you’re not familiar with Car2Go, it’s a pretty ingenious way to get around town without having to own your own car; check it out here).

As I sped home in the little Smart Car, I noticed what seemed like a warning light. I pressed on the touch screen display and up popped a message, something along these lines: “you need to drive better.” Apparently I wasn’t driving in a very fuel efficient manner. Then, on the touch screen display, this image popped up:

Gamification 1

My initial thought was: What the hell? I’m just trying to get home. It’s rush hour. I’m driving in city traffic. Seattle is full of hills. And drivers who don’t go when a light turns green (nor do they honk). How am I supposed to drive in a more fuel efficient manner?

And then I took a closer look. Those trees did look pretty sad. And who wants a monitor displaying grey rain clouds? And what were those numbers? What was the highest score? 50? 100? Guess there’s only one way to find out. So I started pressing a little lighter on the gas pedal when I accelerated. When I was cruising I stopped pressing the gas pedal when I was going down a hill. I eased into traffic stoppages and stop lights a little more gently.

I noticed that the forest started looking a bit healthier. A cloud even went away. And those clouds that remained had turned white. Who doesn’t like a few white, puffy clouds in the sky?

Gamification 2

What lessons can learning & development professionals take from this?

As I drove, there were no detailed instructions. There was no carrot nor was there a stick. Nobody at Car2Go would ever yell at me (nor would they ever reward me) for my driving habits. There was barely any message given to me at all, yet my fuel efficient driving apparently improved. It tapped into my curiosity (hmmmm, how do I get these numbers to go up? How do I make the trees get bigger? Wait, the clouds turn different colors? And if my score gets high enough, the clouds go away? Well then, what happens if I ease off the gas pedal a little more? What happens if I ease into slowing down and stopping a bit more?). It tapped into my competitive nature (just how high can I get those numbers?). It tapped into my playful nature (all right, there are some electronic images of trees… how can I get them bigger and healthier?).

Whether elearning or in-person, do we need detailed instructions? Is there a way to tap into our learners’ inner curiosity? Their innate sense of play and competitiveness? Is there a more fun and simple way to motivate our learners?

If the car sharing service Car2Go can do it, why can’t instructional designers and learning and development professionals?

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