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MBA students learn gamification concepts in new class

After taking Krannert’s gamification class fall semester, MBA student Tochukwu “Chu” Chimezie sees gamification everywhere. Take, for example, McDonald’s month-long Monopoly promotion. “That’s the only month I eat at McDonald’s every day. I do it because I have a chance to win something. It’s gamification.”

Karthik Kannan, associate professor of management at Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, taught Chu and 26 other MBA students gamification concepts in his Management 59000 course. “People tend to think about gamification as creating games, but it’s not just about creating games, it’s about creating engagements,” Kannan says.

Like the McDonald’s Monopoly promotion, gamification can manipulate human behavior by using a series of incentives and rewards to produce a desired outcome. The outcome may be purchasing a specific product, or it may be collecting, transferring or sharing information. The key to winning over the participant is to ensure the game, and the engagement, is fun.

“The most difficult part is trying to figure out how to engage people in doing something that might not be all that much fun,” says MBA student Ana Romero. “Making something fun for everybody is much harder than you think. Something that’s fun for you might not be fun for someone else.”

If designers can successfully identify the fun factor, gamification is an efficient means of engaging larger audiences. Engagements do not have to be linear any more. "When gamified properly, companies may not have to directly interact with their customers but may facilitate interactions between the users and their friends to promote their products." says Kannan. The key for wider engagement is tapping into many individual social networks, using online applications and social media.

To give the students a business perspective, the class had a Skype session with gamification expert Kris Duggan, CEO of . The California-based company, with offices in New York and Europe, specializes in gamification and behavior management. Students also received detailed feedback from the company on group gamification projects.

Kannan sees students using the knowledge they have gained from his class in many different ways after graduation. Gamification techniques are increasingly becoming popular with firms as they apply game design to marketing, human resources management, productivity enhancement, training, innovation and customer engagement. Gamification tools can be used to aggregate information scattered in different departments across a company so it can be accessed to make better decisions.

Chu will graduate in May with his MBA and has already accepted an offer of employment from GE. “I actually see aspects of this class I can take to GE with me and make it work.” Chu sees gamification as a great way to introduce product differentiation to consumers shopping for large appliances.

“Gamification is really all about engagement. If you apply the right motivation it works,” he says. When creating games, “You don’t want to make it too hard. You don’t want to make it too easy. But, make it interesting in a way that engages.”