Knowing your purpose is core to living a full life. Unfortunately, many people wander around never understanding their purpose or if their work and life make a difference at all.

Let's be honest: Most workplaces don't help. They turn work hours into a litany of mundane tasks to be completed--the antithesis of engagement. Employees spend the majority of their waking lives at work where they spend the majority of their time apathetic and uninspired. It's a damned tragedy.

And it's certainly not good news for business owners. The most successful companies of the future will need to create ways to motivate people and instill purpose.

The problem is, how do you measure purpose or improve it? I'm starting to see some new tools that do just that, and the potential is incredible.

Why Gamification Works

Gamification isn't a new concept. It's been around for decades. But I'm absolutely in love with its latest evolution. It's becoming more than gimmicks and badges; it's actual improvement to the quality of work.

Recently, I discovered a gamification tool I'm thrilled with: It's called Ambition. It has the potential to overhaul company culture by instilling a deeper sense of purpose--even across mundane, repetitive tasks.

The tool's maker, also called Ambition, is a newly minted Y Combinator company with very humble beginnings. It adapted Fantasy Football to the office environment, because it's something the creators "wish they could have had for themselves."

They're now realizing that their relatively simple system is incredibly effective, because it promotes camaraderie, competition, and a sense of accomplishment. Its users are becoming evangelists, because Ambition is changing the way they do their jobs.

The best part? It aligns incentives, which is critical for any purpose-driven tool for the workplace. These tools must not only motivate employees but also drive productivity and profitability.

What Really Motivates People

Managers can create a lot of unimportant tasks to be completed. This is not productivity. Pushing a red button 1,000 times a day is indeed productive. But is it really producing the results you want?

Don't just help employees be more productive. Measure their progress toward the right goals, to make sure they are motivated to do the right things.

In his landmark book on human motivation, Drive, Dan Pink makes a case that true motivation consists of three elements--autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

He discovered that external factors (carrots and sticks) don't really motivate employees. You can, however, create the right conditions to help employees develop intrinsic motivation. This is where gamification can help.

Gamification allows you to focus on what sustainably motivates people:

  • Autonomy is enhanced, because employees must own their performance. Their numbers are very clearly displayed on the dashboard. There's no room for excuses.
  • Mastery is developed, because employees are consistently being challenged and given opportunities to receive feedback.
  • Purpose is clarified, because everyone's work is recognized as a part of a whole. When the whole tribe pulls in the same direction, purpose is strengthened.

The Importance of Timely, Accurate, and Relevant Feedback

Perhaps the only thing humans crave more than progress is feedback. People want to know what others think about them. And it's not always the positive feedback they want.

Employees want honest feedback. They want to know how they compare with peers and how they stack up against others doing roughly the same things they do.

The problem is that most feedback is far too subjective. Without adequate measurement of an employee's performance, your emotions can hijack your ability to evaluate someone effectively.

Any HR professional will tell you to keep your feedback behavior-based, but unless you're basing feedback on the right behaviors, that too will fall short.

Gamification tools allow you to define your key performance indicators, or KPIs, and then help you structure your feedback on the basis of those KPIs. You know exactly what is being measured and how everyone is faring.

"Coopetition" Among Teams

Salespeople are naturally competitive. Gamification uses that competitiveness to your company's advantage. It turns intrinsic competition between individuals and teams into a vital part of company culture.

With gamification, competition is no longer about posturing for some nondescript power. The competitive drive can be unleashed in an engaging and fun way to meet company goals.

But humans also need connection with others to flourish. Our best work is not siloed or self-contained. Our best work consists of interactions and negotiations between different minds all working together to solve the same problem.

Gamification tools boost accountability by connecting individual results to the team's collective outcomes.


When an organization can be a transparent one, it has achieved something great. Similar to self-actualization in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, organizational transparency sits at the top.

Transparency builds trust between managers and team members. It makes expectations clear, as well as the criteria by which success is judged.

Gamification tools create a real-time dashboard on which metrics are timely and indisputable. Employees no longer have to wait for annual reviews to ask, "How am I doing?" They'll know.

And managers no longer have to make educated guesses about an employee's performance. The tools make all that information easily accessible.

Purposeful work is created when employees know how their performance contributes to the progress of the organization.

If you believe this is a necessary part of a thriving company culture, then you might want to give gamification a try.