So one of the cool initiatives I have been working on of late is the opening of the National Australia Bank’s (NAB) first Smart Store . It’s been a really interesting change management challenge. The Smart Store is all digital, online and self-serve. Big on innovation and interactive. It presents a huge shift in thinking and behaviour for bankers. Their role changes to one of technology educator, as well as first point of resolution for customers. There’s no hiding behind counters or screens.

So as part of this initiative I was asked to do some work on building their capability and getting them used to the new ways of operating. Culturally, NAB Retail values customer experience, innovation and continuous improvement. It means there is a high tolerance for “having a crack” and finding a better way of what has been done before. It meant I had to “lift my game”. And so I did.

Gamification of change management.

Gamification is a bit of a buzzword in business at the moment. Basically it means using game design principles in business initiatives – eg customer loyalty programs, employee engagement, learning programs and potentially change management.  Gaming is incredibly popular because it fulfils human needs in a fun way – challenge, reward, social connection, recognition, problem solving. IABC had presented an issue of Communication World on the topic in November and then earlier this year I found myself eating up Jane McGonigal’s book “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change The World. For the ultimate schooling on gaming in the workplace, take some time to read Luc Galoppins epic 9 part series “Gamers Will Save Our Economy”

In his post “Game based learning why does it work”  – Steven Boller maps out how the elements of learning align with game principles


The four key essential elements for learning are as follows:

1)   Motivation.

2)   Relevant practice.

3)   Specific, timely feedback

4)   The ability to retrieve what we’ve learned when we need it.

So with that in mind, I had a crack at designing a new change readiness intervention – AKA…



Game Goals: players to get through an individual quest and complete tasks within a designated time frame. Player with most points and on highest level at end of the day wins.

Objective: Players have to gather information, absorb and apply to new context (have fun learning)


  • Become confident with technology and digital devices
  • Immerse in the potential customer experience of 700 Bourke
  • Raise awareness of retail “best practice’ and transfer to their role

Relevant practice.

For maximum learning effect, practice needs to be contextual – mirroring the situation where the learning will be applied as closely as possible. Additionally, game design often uses avatars or specific roles as a way of making it “safe” to try new things. When in role, you don’t take it personally if you get feedback that you need to do better.

With this in mind, I contacted the customer experience team and asked them to provide me with five profiles of “typical customers” to be expected at the new store. They came up with the goods big time – with great details on the background, mindset and attitudes of customer personas.

I provided these customer personas to the five bankers involved and told them that on Wednesday (the day of the game), they were to come to work “in role” – thinking, breathing, eating as that customer.  At 7.30 am I sent them all an anonymous text “This is your quest mistress – what is your role doing right now? Looking for keys? Watching people on public transport?  Ordering coffee? See you in T-45 minutes”  I suspect at that point, they worked out this was no ordinary day.

Once in at the office we gathered the team and gave them their customised iPads. Each iPad had a #700BQuest sheet loaded on them (building confidence in digital device usage). The sheet gave them the rules of the game and the order in which they had to do their quest (which was similar to a scavenger hunt crossed with a mystery shop exercise).

The Quest

Each banker had to go to a set number of retail environments (some best practice, and some not) and carry out a task which represented behaviors or skill sets they would have to do in the new store (thus addressing the element of relevant practice)

To build on the competence with digital devices, at the end of the task, the banker would have to log into their private Yammer group on the iPad and leave their reflection on what that experience was like as their customer persona and what the implications were for the new store (principle of self expression and also the ability to retrieve what we have learnt when we need it)

As Quest Mistress I was monitoring  the Yammer posts all day and provided running commentary and prompts as well as points for insight – thus providing specific, timely feedback that is continuous.

Badges and levels

While clear goals and objectives are intrinsically motivating, the use of points, badges and leaderboards are also key elements of game design that aid motivation.

In this game we had the senior  business executives and leaders give badges to Yammer posts that showed great insight. Level upgrades were facilitated by two tasks that were extra difficult (the Joker card – go find your own retail experience) and go find a store using QR codes. The leader board was provided half way through the day.

The results:  Epic Win! (HT @lucgaloppin)

It was an awesome day – the team was very competitive and it really helped with the team building (they hadn’t all worked with each other). We had 37 posts in the Yammer group by the end of the day and a log of how their understanding and knowledge increased throughout the day which enabled a great “debrief” and identification of areas that might need further attention. I was delighted – and really thrilled at the opportunity to give “gamification” a crack with my change management practice. If you have the time and appetite for innovation, I would recommend casting a gamification lens on your learning and change readiness activities. In discussions since there does appear to be a wide variety of understanding on what gamification is – so I’d be interested to hear:

  • What about you?
  • Are you using gamification in the workplace?
  • In what way?

Game on?



Dr Jen Frahm – Author of Conversations of Change: A guide to implementing workplace change.


  1. Melissa Dark says:

    Wow, what a fantastic case study! I’d love to hear more about how the results of this amazing day carry through into the “real world” when they have to apply their skills. Brilliant, creative thinking — well done Jen! I hope to see you presenting this case study at an IABC event — World Conf, perhaps?

    • Thanks Melissa – one of the follow up activities to test application was a Customer Experience day before the store opened. I got 40 “pretend” customers to go in and test various scenarios and skill sets and the customer experience team conducted interviews as they exited. The results came back pretty good. I was talking to one of the banking team last night and asked him how the first ten days have gone and he said that the #700Bquest was invaluable as it was the only activity that really addressed “mindset” – eg all the rest were about skills. World Conference? Maybe…

  2. Jason Little says:

    This is awesome Jen! I particularly like how execs and senior business leaders were handing out the badges based on insights that were posted. To me, that’s a key element of gamification, the gamers can’t ‘game’ the results!

    The books you mentioned have moved their way to the top of my ‘to read’ list.

    • Thanks Jason — yes, having the execs involved was critical. As Quest Mistress I gathered the team for lunch and they were certainly buzzing about the execs giving them badges and talking about why some insights got them and others didn’t!

  3. So glad you found our post on mapping learning principles to game mechanics useful! What an interesting case study on gamifying change management. You nailed it.

  4. Nadia Burborough says:

    Love it!!! I’ve not heard of gamification, but it is now something I’m going to investigate more – what a great way to learn and have fun!!! Well done you!!!

    • mm Jen says:

      Thanks Nadia! Keep in touch, if you do something with it, do let me know, I would love to share more case studies!

  5. was researching the concept of change management when i stumbled on your post. Awesome info..thanks!

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