Community Strategy Insights

The latest insights on community strategy, technology, and value by FeverBee’s founder, Richard Millington

Subscribe for regular insights

Explore by Category:


Follow us

Better Reward Systems

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

Two beliefs about rewards…

1. Giving people rewards reinforces behavior. When someone does something you like you should reward them with praise, prizes, and badges.

2. Giving people rewards undermines their intrinsic motivation. It turns intrinsic motivation into extrinsic and reduces the behavior.

Which is right?

Rewards (praise/gamification etc…) derives from a branch of psychology known as behaviorism. Behaviorists believe people are programmable robots. You can teach people what to do through classical conditioning (create a stimulant to trigger a behavior) or operant conditioning (rewarding them for the behavior).

This worked better on rats and pigeons than it did on humans. Outside of the lab, it’s hard to replicate the results. There are too many stimulants and possible rewards. It also turns out people aren’t born tabula rasa.

Worse yet, rewards often (not always) undermine behavior.

But this isn’t the entire truth. One discover of behaviorism, variable rewards, is especially important. If people can’t predict what precise behavior will trigger the reward, they become more likely to engage in that behavior.

Don’t give badges based upon a set criteria. Anticipated rewards don’t help drive behavior.

Give unique badges that reflect the unique, special, contribution members have made to the group.

Give badges based upon – 

If someone shows a unique expertise in a niche topic, give them a special expert badge for that unique topic. {topic} expert.

If someone becomes known for a specific role in a group, give them a badge to reflect it (helpfulness, humour etc…)

If someone creates what you consider a landmark article, give them a landmark article badge.

If you want to get badges right, make them variable.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for regular insights

Subscribe for regular insights