Add Rocket Fuel to Your Innovation Process with Gamification

Improve your innovation process with gamification.

The ideal moment in any innovation process is when innovating becomes fun. But it’s tricky to take something that, while rewarding, is still work and get the joy out of it. That’s where gamification comes in, and it can blast your innovation onto a whole new plane.

What Is Gamification?

Gamification is the addition of game-like ideas and rewards to a work process. A good example of it can be found in fitness apps. Notice how fitness apps will compare you against your friends or other users? How it slowly fills a meter as you reach a set number of steps or hit a specific number of minutes? That’s a good example of “gamifying” fitness, an extremely popular strategy.

Gamification can take a number of forms, and draw from a number of tropes, especially when combined with crowdsourcing. One common way to draw from the wisdom of crowds with gamification is to offer badges, like the popular beer-tracking application Untappd does. The more different types of beers you consume, the more badges you rack up, and coincidentally, the more data Untappd has about shifting tastes among beer consumers.

Essentially it boils down to completing tasks and receiving some sort of reward for it. And it absolutely works; it’s been found that gamification can increase engagement by up to 20%, regardless of the audience. Everybody’s had a game that they get unexpectedly, deeply into, and gamification can harness that power to improve your innovation process. So how do you combine fun and work?

Implementing Gamification

Where to start with gamification?

Sometimes this can be as simple as offering a prize. Google, for example, has established a $30 million prize purse for what it’s calling the Lunar X-Prize, asking scientists and engineers to invent and launch new lunar rovers to explore the Moon. It offers extra cash prizes for meeting certain goals, like traveling beyond the minimum required distance or visiting an Apollo landing site. That was really all the motivation many people needed; Lunar X-Prize competitors will start launching their rovers in 2017.

In other cases, it’s worth considering how the “game” will be constructed and what you want to achieve. By far the most successful example of this remains FoldIt, an actual game constructed by a scientific team to test how proteins are folded. FoldIt users started examining a thorny problem involving HIV proteins and beat it in weeks, where researchers had spent twenty years looking at it without success.

Regardless, there are a few standards worth following. First, make sure all competition is friendly and collaborative; it should make more sense to work together to solve a riddle or reach a goal than it should to compete against each other in your design. Rewards should be reasonably placed and feel tangible; a badge, going “up a level” like in a role-playing game, or some other structure will help drive engagement. And most importantly, your goals need to be clear. People should know what they’re playing for and why.

A well-designed gamification strategy can super-charge innovation if done right. To get started, join an IdeaScale community.

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