Recognition rewards achievement with attention.

In the martial arts, a beginner is given a white belt. This belt signifies you are a student of a discipline. Over time (so the legend goes) the belt would get dirty and grimy with the dust of the road and the blood of your enemies. When someone survived long enough to wear a black belt, they were known to all as an expert.

This progression, from beginner to expert, has many stages in between.


Earning each belt certifies a new level of capability, experience, authority, and understanding. Your reward for gaining a level is to become a more accurate version of your highest potential.

There is a flavour of euphoria that is only experienced at the moment when you unlock a new ability. Endorphins are released in your brain, which cause amnesia for extraneous details, and you find yourself in the state called Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book of the same name.

Every time you level up, you gain a deeper step into the flow of your own journey to become yourself.

I like using my Customer Journey Workbook to make a map of the story of an avatar, because it unearths the changes in their chapters. Crafting rewards for those changes – and the tests that earn them – reveal a progression of badges that can outline the curriculum of a student.

In tonight’s all-new presentation Digital Badging and Gamification: The Neuroscience of Incentives I will share how rewards and penalties can amplify engagement. By providing incremental incentives along a learning journey, you can leverage the Super Mario Effect to encourage multiple failures.

By applying badging and gamification principles to learning design, we can encourage our students to try new things, get out of their comfort zone, and celebrate struggles as they learn.


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