Grandfather of Gamification, Chuck Coonradt, explains infinite scorekeeping

When I wrote the “Game of Work”, in 1984, there were five core principles that would be considered, by many, to be the DNA of Gamification. They are as follows:

  • Goals Must Be Clearly Defined
  • Scorekeeping Must Be Clear and Predictable
  • Feedback Must Be Frequent and Appropriate
  • Rules Don’t Change in the Middle of the Game
  • There Must Be Freedom to Perform and Choice of Methods

Coach John Wooden said “It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that really matters.”

I agree, and after almost 40 years of hands-on experience with over 5,000 organizations, and hundreds of thousands of practitioners, I believe the most important learning has been that the creation of a culture of appropriate feedback is the most significant of the five principles we previously identified.

This principle is much more significant than I first realized and is the cornerstone of improved employee engagement through the gamification process.

The next great learning was that scorekeeping’s primary purpose was to create agreement between player and coach (not measurement or metrics). Feedback is based on:

  • When (what is appropriate frequency);
  • What Kind (celebratory, or corrective); and
  • How Much (primarily determined by the recipient)

Feedback is appropriate. This is the basis for judgment of the effectiveness of the scorekeeping system and scorecards within that system.

I am not a management scientist, like Jim Collins, but rather an observer of the different motivational levels demonstrated by the same people in different circumstances. Our observations produced a bit of a tongue twister, when we asked “Why will people pay for the privilege of working harder, than they will work when they are paid?

Let us learn about the power of infinite scoring from our experience with the games people all over the world love to play. The scorekeeping systems have several elements which make them the sustainable worldwide standard .

  • They are credible to the participants – all players accept the scorekeeping methods before being asked to play
  • They seldom change, if at all. Basketball took years to determine define and adopt the three point line, and then had to have several different distances.
  • They are objective – even the scoring of ice skating, diving, and gymnastics, (seemingly subjective) are governed by principles that insure the consistency which is necessary to gain credibility from the participants and viewers (fans)
  • They maximize the number of winners.
    • Compare 144 employees playing in a company golf tournament. – 6 different flights separated by player handicaps, 24 players per flight. Then you add longest drive, closest to the hole, and maybe even an award for most lost balls, and you have the possibility of multiple winners and several games within the game for overall best player.
    • Contrast that with the same 144 players in a tennis tournament where there will be only one ultimate winner. The first round 72 folks lose, and 72 move on to the next round., where another half of them will lose, until the final two are standing and then one of them will lose, resulting in a single winner. Unfortunately, the end result is 143 players whose final memory of the experience is a loss.
    • Whether you are in a marathon or other measured distance running the primary goal is to beat your personal best, or
    • Golf , where a handicap (based on past personal performance) allows all of us to challenge ourselves against our previous performance
    • In both cases, there is a world record, and of course PAR, but the vast majority of participants are motivated by the comparison to past personal performance.
  • They are dynamic. Meaning players know the score during the game (which allows them to change their behavior to win, before time runs out)
    • Hockey fans are much more enthusiastic than figure skating fans because they know the score during the game.
    • A figure skater only knows how she/he did after the performance is over with no chance to improve.

The very powerful question, which drives human behavior, on and off the job is “Am I winning, losing or don’t know the score?”

Leaders, Coaches and those of us who assist them, must stay true to the principles of established scorekeeping to bring true employee engagement and satisfaction to the workplace.

The Game of Work is just like the Game of Life. Everyone wants to be a winner. With clear and predictable scorekeeping, you can win.

For additional information you may contact us for a free executive summary of ‘Scorekeeping for Success’ via email or visit our website

By using the core Game of Work principles, we have much more than just a shiny new object. We will have a very valuable tool for management and an opportunity for individuals to reach their full potential.

Just remember – “Given a Good Game, People Will Play Their Heart Out”.

This guest blog was written by Charles “Chuck” Coonradt, labelled as “the Grandfather of Gamification” in a Forbes Magazine article in 2012 by Ken Krogue


Chuck is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of The Game of Work, founded in 1973 and dedicated to the success of its corporate clients. Graduate of Michigan State University. Internationally recognized in the fields of goal setting and profit improvement, as an author, consultant, and speaker. Chuck’s best selling books The Game of Work, The Better People Leader, Scorekeeping For Success, Managing The Obvious, and The Four Laws of Debt Free Prosperity have been labeled management “must reads.” He is a contributing author to the best selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series and quoted in an additional two dozen books. He is a founding member of the School of Entrepreneurship, Brigham Young University, Marriott School of Management.

The Game of Work’s client list includes many Fortune 500, as well as other nationally and internationally recognized firms. Companies that have successfully utilized and implemented Chuck’s unique concepts include Pepsi Cola, The Chicago Tribune, Nordstroms, The US Air Force and Postal Service, Boeing, Marker Bindings, Molina Healthcare, Coca-Cola Consolidated and International Paper. Over one million executives, managers, and supervisors on five continents have been exposed to Chuck’s ideas on feedback, scorekeeping, goal setting, coaching, choice and accountability.

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