"Book It", Scratch Cards, and Instant Gratification in Rewards

Yesterday Fast Company posted an interesting interview up on their site yesterday discussing the use of games to modify behaviors. The discussion mainly focused around influencing people to participate in healthier behaviors as a result of instant reward options through the games. They weren't focused on influencing long term results, like transforming smokers to nonsmokers, but were focused on changing very small actions.

Incentive professionals should find this particular project very interesting. More often than not, the emphasis of an rewards program is focused on the ultimate goal that wants to be achieved. "We want to have X amount of sales by X date." Having a goal and having an incentive to reach that goal is a good start but may not accomplish as much. It's more than just establishing that you want a goal met but more specifically what things people can do to meet those goals.

Book It

My first brush with this type of rewards system actually came about in elementary school. To encourage us to read more, our teacher had us participate in "Book It," a reading program set-up by Pizza Hut to encourage literacy. Some of you may remember this. As students we all had buttons with blank spaces to place stickers in. Upon completing reading a book or some other reading assignment, our teacher would reward us with a sticker...something tangible with a small amount of trophy value that recognized our accomplishment. Over time, as these small reading behaviors were instantly rewarded, our buttons would run out of space, allowing us to redeem those full buttons for a free personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut.

When your six, that's a heck of a reward.

It wasn't so much about getting that Pizza as much as it was about getting those stickers. Sure we knew the ultimate goal but the instant trophy value attained from earning stickers from reading made that incentive plan work.

Instant Gratification

We discussed this concept in an earlier post regarding safety incentives. The goal of most safety incentives are to significantly decrease accidents in the workplace. This usually results in un-reported mishaps in order to gain that ultimate prize, which is counter-productive in achieving results. However, we suggested using a scratch card system to reward small safety measures (i.e. wearing goggles, reporting a near-miss etc) to influence behaviors. Over time, modifying those small safety behaviors would have a ripple effect on the grand scheme of safety.

When you get down to it, humans demand instant gratification. Looking at things in the long term doesn't always influence behaviour across the board. With instant recognition for doing the little things right, the long term goals will ultimately be achieved.

So what do you all think? Does instant gratification for small behaviors make for a better influencer?