I assume most of you readers know candy crush saga or a similar game consisting of aligning three or more identical items, e.g. candies or jewels, to make them collapse or aggregate into a bigger enhanced unit.
Each level of the game has an objective and fulfilling this objective takes the player to the next level.
Candy crush (I take it a generic example of this type of game) is simple yet (very) addictive.
The simplicity is surely one of the key to addiction, the game is simple enough to keep it attractive, even the successive levels get more challenging.
Another critical factor to keep players playing is to set the challenge high enough to require some effort, yet keeping the target attainable.
Would the challenge be too tough for the target being reached within acceptable time and effort, most players would probably quit because of frustration.
What strikes me about candy crush is that every level’s challenge is SMART based: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
- Specific: every level has a specific target, e.g. bringing ingredients to the bottom or eliminating gelatin. The target is always clearly stated.
- Measurable: a score is displayed as well as remaining moves and time, when time is limited. This is critical information to adjust the strategy to remaining resources.
- Achievable: by essence, the goal is set to be achievable. That does not mean easy nor quick.
- Relevant: well, relevance in the game’s logic…
Time-based: some level must be finished within a time limit, others are limited by the number of moves. When failing and retrying, the number of attempts are limited, thus limiting “timely” the game.
The game designers know well that a share of players will not be patient enough to go through painstaking trial-and-error sequences. For those, a fast track is offered by purchasing credits or begging them from friends.
So what to management?
Managers should always set SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based – for the same reason the candy crush designers did:
If objectives are not specifically stated, everyone can interpret and understand the intent at will. This does not guarantee to align contributions toward goal’s achievement.
Without measurement, no way to understand if the progress is adequate, on time and well oriented!
If the target is not achievable, the contributors will soon be discouraged and will disengage.
Relevancy or purpose is necessary to engagement when dealing with adults. They need to understand the purpose of the efforts asked. Notorious exception is military where duty and obedience do not require explanations, not even motivation.
Time-based means that target is kept in temporal sight. If the project is estimated to take two years, it is necessary to set intermediate targets. First to measure in smaller intervals compliance to the plan, second because the lower levels employees are more familiar with shorter time units, e.g. day, week. Something lying two years ahead is an abstraction for most of them, thus difficult to keep them focused.
This is like hiking. A group may go for a long trek, but the daily distance is known by all as well as the intermediate target: where to camp this evening. Everyone can easily feel and “measure” the time left until the evening rest. Achievement is measured by comparing the planned distance versus actual location.
Other lessons from candy crush to management
When playing with candy crush, it is common to move candies just to fetch the opportunity to align and crush, regardless to the contribution of this move to the goal and wasting one move. This happens frequently in real life, people do a lot of things are convinced to pay daily great efforts to the company’s goal when they usually mainly waste resources and get tired with unnecessary tasks.
To solve the candy crush level’s problem, the goal has to be kept in mind and the allotted moves (resources) planned consistently. So should the daily actions in our jobs.
If the challenge is too tough, the contributors may try to escape it or cheat. It’s possible with candy crush and this is how its designers make their earnings, selling by-pass, boosters or extra lives for those who cannot stand paying effort to learn how to solve the problem.
Management should therefore pay attention to set the targets achievable and in increments small enough to avoid cheating with indicators when challenge is too tough.
Author Chris Hohmann is native French speaker, if you’d like to help improve his English, post a comment!