Nintendo and the Wii – Tricking You Into Higher Performance Through “Play”…

Paul Hebert Paul Hebert, Performance, Recognition, Total Rewards

Mario Sometimes, it amazes me the places you can find answers to life’s big problems.  Little did I know that the company, that brought you Prisoner of Zelda and those cute Italian plumbers Luigi and Mario, would have the answer to motivation and performance management.  While I’m sure Nintendo’s approach won’t make your employees go “Wheeeeeee” … and jump up and down on turtles and flowers – it will ensure your employees improve and grow toward whatever goal you set.

Nintendo just came out with a new “game” that is focused on fitness called the Wii Fit and the Wii Balance Board.  What was interesting is the way in which the program gets you engaged and keeps you focused on your goals.  This article in the Wall Street Journal Online is what got me thinking about the approach to motivation and goal attainment.


Sensors in the Balance Board detect a user’s weight, body mass index, balancing skills and positioning during activities.Provide feedback as quickly as possible in order to correct mistakes early and understand what you’re doing right early as well.  This applies in any job – make sure you catch the good early to reinforce it and the bad early to avoid building poor habits.
The Wii Fit program keeps track of your BMI and weight information, providing tips on technique or weight loss.Establish a baseline and measure your performance against that point. Without the baseline, it is impossible to see improvement.  Same goes for work – no baseline – no performance improvement.
Workout activities last for only about three to five minutes each. To unlock longer activities or additional strength-training repetitions, you must first do them a handful of times in their short versions.Before moving to more advanced work requirements, you need to master the lower level ones.  Even when moving to the higher level work functions, don’t try to do it all at once… small steps.  Like the movie “Bob” with Bill Murray – Baby Steps….
An on-screen graph tracks your progress, and “stamps” each calendar day to show that you have exercised.Visible recognition of accomplishment.  How often do we check the box to show we’re done with an activity?  We need to see the progress – not just know it.
Each minute of activity adds a point to your Fit Bank, and enough points unlock new activitiesCan anyone say “incentive”?  Classic reward for activity.  The more you do – a little at a time – focused on specific behaviors gets you additional points that lead to awards.
A daily body test measures your weight and body mass index against those from previous days and challenges you to two short balance tests, which chang daily.Change in routine based on change in performance creates variety and increases your ability to stay with a program.  No different than managing your own performance.  Same stuff over and over gets boring.  Mix it up!
The program provides a “Wii Fit Age”, a number reached using actual age, BMI and performance on the balance tests. On good days, this number can be a couple of years below your real age, but can be higher when taking harder tests.Establish normative data for individuals.  People need to see how they compare to others in their same group/category.  Let people know what good performance looks like at every level.

And my favorite – Managers – pay attention!

When the Wii Fit system thinks you lost or gained a lot of weight in one day, it offered tips for healthier fitness. If you gain weight it asks you to think about why you might have gained weight, then asks you to select an answer from a list of reasons, including Late Dinners, Night Snacking and Not Exercising. Based on your answer, it provides tips and encouragement.

As a manager, your job is to look for changes in performance and work with the employee to develop a plan – with their input.

So… when your kid asks you why you brought their Wii to work, you can honestly say it was for training your staff on how to increase performance.