Interview with Toby Beresford – Founder and CEO of Rise.Global

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Our guest for today’s interview is Toby Beresford, the Head of Client Engagement at Veneficus, where he is responsible for ensuring a smooth and successful customer experience for both our clients and publishers.

Toby’s most notable accomplishments include gamifying the United Nations staff to use social media more effectively, providing UX gamification design for the justice ministry of Sierre Leone, increasing touchpad use among engineers at UK Power Networks, encouraging the use of social media at PWC, IBM, Zoopla, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

He is also the Founder and CEO of rise.global, which is a SaaS tool for managers who need a simple way to automate and distribute scorecards to their team or audience.

Scorecards can be rendered as individual personal score, a leaderboard of players ranked against each other or as a collective score showing team performance as a whole.  Scores can be shared as images on social media, personalized emails, on the big screen TV, on the web or as an embeddable widget.” – About rise.global.

Toby’s latest book, “Infinite Gamification: how to motivate your team until the end of time” is currently available in English via Amazon and Turkish via Elma.

In this interview, you will get to know more about his life, profession, career, and future ideas related to gamification.

1. What does the term “Gamification” mean to you?

Using techniques from the world of game design and applying them to real life.

2. What inspired you to start your journey as a “Gamification Consultant”?

I used to create social games, mainly on Facebook, some of which had real-world outcomes. The overlap between social network usage, gameplay, and facilitating positive, real-world behavior change triggered my interest.

3. Tell us about your experience at GamFed and how it has helped shape your career as a gamification expert?

I was invited by Niels van der Linden, Roman Rackwitz, and Nicolas Babin to join them in founding an association for gamification consultants and businesses worldwide. I wrote the original constitution and was keen to create a member-led organization that promoted best practices and created a healthy gamification marketplace. GamFed’s chapter in Turkey has been very successful, and I really enjoyed working with them on a Turkish version of my recent book!

4. Walk us through your day-to-day responsibilities as the Founder and CEO of rise.global? What were some of the challenges that you faced in the earlier years?

Rise.global is currently a part-time passion project for me; right now, I am trying to focus the product and marketing on sales teams as this is a key use case for the personal dashboards and scorecards that rise.global enables.

In earlier years, I struggled to find funds – investors I spoke to felt the gamification market was too small. In the end, I self-funded rise, which has led to several tricky conversations at home! It continues to serve a small number of dedicated clients, and it grows gradually every month.

5. You have spoken on how governments can redesign coronavirus statistics for more effective behavior change using gamification. What problems do you think third-world or financially challenged countries will face when adapting such ideas?

I actually think gamification, and in particular infinite gamification, is a very effective behavioral change technique for resource-poor regions because it costs so little to run. All the effort is upfront in the program design – what to call it, who to compare with, etc.

Once set up correctly and adopted by the target participants, these programs can run themselves. For example, there are football leagues worldwide that get people up and running every week. A football league is a basic infinite gamification program design.

Toby Beresford - Gamification

In terms of problems, I think, like most public organizations, they will struggle to adopt the iterative execution model that good gamification requires – you need to try it, see how it performs in the wild, get feedback and then iterate.

In public sector terms, that means funding multiple pilots where each learns from the previous one. It’s all about expecting a cycle of improvement – no one gets it right the first time – but of course, taking the time to get it right can be expensive. It’s such a shame that gamification designs can’t be cut and pasted to a new context – you have to design each program in context

6. One of your best works includes your book “Infinite Gamification: Motivate your team until the end of time.” We would love to know more about the infinite gamification program and how it can help drive the right behaviors in an organization.

Infinite Gamification takes something an organization already does well – management with metrics and enables individuals and teams within those organizations to manage themselves.

It’s very much like having a Fitbit. Still, instead of applying it to fitness (counting step count, heart rate, and so on), you apply it to a business problem, like increasing sales revenues (counting sales calls, proposals delivered, meetings held, and so on).

I wrote infinite gamification because I believe any manager or coach can create a useful program for their team as long as they ask the right questions. Infinite gamification is really just a process of thinking through the right questions in your particular business context.

7. We would love to know about your current goals and projects. Would you like to tell our audience what’s keeping you busy these days?

I’m gearing up for the Vitality Running World Cup in September – it’s an annual event that involves Usain Bolt to get everyone running. It’s the world’s largest mass participation running event – I love it because it’s so climate-friendly – instead of everyone traveling to a big event, they can run from their own front door. Each person’s runs are tracked and contribute to their country’s tally in the world cup competition. It’s great fun and a solid example of how gamification can drive crowd behavior.

I’m also designing a community gamification program for a large digital media company – it’s really interesting to get under the skin of their audience and understand what makes them tick. Our objective is to increase retention and return rates which in turn will increase advertising revenue for the business.

8.What changes do you want to see in the next five years? Any future predictions of this industry?

I am still frustrated that the term gamification means so many things to so many different people. It is an example of word-jacking where a poorly defined term has been hijacked to mean different things to different people.

I think the industry needs to gather around subcategories that are defined more clearly with a shared business objective and an obvious sponsor department within a large organization. For example, “sales gamification” is a good term as it relates to internal sales teams trying to increase profits. We can now focus on the gamification processes, tools, and methodologies that really work in this specific use case.

9. If you could give one piece of advice to the people starting in the gamification industry, what would it be?

Similar to my previous point, I would steer clear of generic “gamification” – it’s just too broad – I would focus on where it is being applied – within education, healthcare, marketing, sales, community management – this is where the gold is being dug. I would also say “don’t give up” – if you look at the startup businesses of the last few years with gamification in their DNA, it’s clear gamification drives huge value – StackOverflow ($1.8bn), Duolingo ($6.5bn), and Robin Hood ($32bn) to name just three.

10. Name a few of your mentors, influencers, or friends you think have helped you understand or increase your knowledge about gamification.

Well, there are so many! I learned a lot from my colleagues at Nudge,  Steve Folkes, Iskandar Najmuddin, and our clients.

For example, at Playstation, Genevieve Ampaduh really took me behind the scenes of a big video gaming company. I’ve valued books and talks by Gabe Zichermann, Mario Herger, Rajat Paharia, Kris Duggan, Jesse Schell, Amy Jo Kim, and Brian Burke. But it’s not just the big interactions – little social media comments such as those from Jane McGonigal and Cathy Sierra have really helped set my own thinking straight – it’s not easy to critique someone else’s work in a way that makes them change their mind!

In terms of what works, I’ve been particularly influenced by self-determination theory, popularised by Daniel Pink, and all of Chuck Coonradt’s work – in particular, “scorekeeping for success” is fascinating if you can get your hands on a copy of it. If we’re doing shout-outs, thank you to gamification friends like Pete Jenkins, Rob Bucholska, Nicolas Babin, Andrzej Marczewski, Guy Stephens, and Stalwart encourage and trailblazers in their own way.

Finally, though, my wife Amber and my business partner Nick Shah are the real stars. Amber is so good at keeping the big picture in mind, and Nick is the sort of person you want by your side if you are scorekeeping anything – he has attentiveness to both the scoring algorithm, the data on which the score is calculated, and the display of the result that is second to none. Thank you, all of you.

11.  Could you share a picture of your workspace with our readers?

work place toby

Here we go – aside from the copy of Infinite Gamification, I’ve been using a Progress Journal to track personal goals; I have a Fitbit, which I am making clock faces for and a big screen and ergo keyboard and mouse to maximize productivity.

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