The science

The Sales Activator Toolkit™ is grounded in scientific evidence. Everything we do is based on rigorous research and has been proved in practice. Read on to learn more about the science of gamification and how the brain retains information.



Gamification has gained in popularity since the term was first introduced in 2003 by Nick Pelling, a British-born computer programmer and inventor. By 2013, over 70% of Forbes Global 2000 surveyed said they planned to use gamification for the purpose of marketing and customer retention.


The psychology

Gamification draws on a number of psychological concepts, especially regarding motivation, behaviour and personality. As Gabe Zichermann, a celebrated gamification guru, puts it, ‘If you can make something more fun, and include notions of play, you can get people to do things they otherwise might not want to do’. This is because gaming leverages people’s natural desire for competition, achievement, status and much more.

Gamification is simply a means of tapping into the psychology of gaming. Applied to learning and development, gamification encourages people to ‘own’ their development, move outside of their comfort zone, share best practice, learn new skills and reinforce what they know.

In learning and development

Within the arena of learning and development, gaming positively highlights skills and capability gaps to trainees and their managers. Because the environment of gamified learning is non-threatening, players have fun and don’t feel exposed for not knowing something. You can use gaming to encourage learning and increase knowledge quickly and easily. By creating an environment that is competitive but non-threatening, you tap into people’s natural desire for learning, competition and status. Today, more and more leaders are looking to leverage gamification strategy to help differentiate their sales and service teams, as well as their organisation, from their competitors.

Gaming is rewarding

To boost competition and engagement, many gamification strategies involve rewarding players for accomplishing desired tasks. Types of rewards include points, achievement badges or levels, progress bars or virtual currency. Making rewards visible to other players or providing leader boards are great ways of encouraging players to compete, and it is this healthy competition that drives learning. In fact, participants are often not consciously aware they are learning because they are having too much fun.


The curve of forgetting

Research shows that up to 97% of the knowledge delivered at a training session is lost within 30 days if nothing is done with it, which is generally the norm. That’s up to 97% of the investment too. But using game-based learning and delivering ‘bite-size’ reminders over time can reverse this loss.

A study from the University of Waterloo (of students attending lectures) demonstrated through post-lecture testing that up to 97% of the knowledge imparted was lost within 30 days.

The Curve of Forgetting explains how we retain (or forget) information that we memorise and learn. This example from the University of Waterloo is based on a study of students during (and after) a one-hour lecture.

On Day 1, at the beginning of the lecture, the students went in knowing nothing (or 0%, where the curve starts at the baseline). At the end of the lecture they knew 100% (where the curve rises to its highest point). This is shown by their responses to a series of questions relating to the lecture.

By Day 2, students who had done nothing with this new information (i.e. didn’t think about it or read it again) had lost around 50%–60% of the information when re-tested.

By Day 7, the amount of information retained was down to around 20%, and by Day 30 it was down to just 2%–3%.

How to overcome the Curve of Forgetting? Review, review, repeat.

To keep retention high and make learning valuable, you have to review new information in small chunks and at regular intervals.

Here is an example of perfect retention.

This graph, from a further study from the University of Waterloo*, shows how it works. Here you can see that short, frequent reminders (as little as 5 minutes) over regular periods of time are enough to retain almost all knowledge.

In the above example, students who reviewed the information for just 10 minutes on day 2 retained around 9% of it. But those who studied for 5 more minutes during the first week and for only 2–4 minutes for the rest of the month retained around 90%.

Why? Because repeating information triggers your brain to hold onto it in your long-term memory. It’s as if your brain says, ‘Oh-there’s that information again – it must be important. I’d better keep it.’ This is why we remember song lyrics so easily.

When you are exposed to the same information repeatedly, it takes less and less time to ‘activate’ the information in your long-term memory, and it becomes easier for you to retrieve the information when you need it.

Our learning programmes and learning technology are designed to be delivered over time in small bite sized chunks. This ensures high retention and allows information to be retrieved with ease and used on the job with confidence.