Gamification: the best path to Innovation

Innovation is a buzzword and it’s hard not to hear about it in all meetings or discussions within a company (see the nice infographics below, originally coming from a Wall Street Journal article). Most employees hate this kind of corporate vocabulary but can’t help using it. It is mainly a convenient and reinsuring manner of claiming that you stay upfront of trends and technologies… When moving from a generic goal to something more concrete, innovation becomes however much less obvious and clear. While people are usually quite comfortable in listing the benefits of innovation Innovation(increased motivation, better customer services, new products, etc.), voices start lowering when it comes to the means, tools or processes related to that. The process of making changes to something established by introducing something new (the raw definition of innovating) takes effort, creativity and risk taking. Few people are capable of achieving this without appropriate environment.

Many people say that Innovation is a “mindset”, so are Openness or Honesty… It has to be more than that, it cannot stay such a high-level good intention

Large international corporations with huge budgets, manpower and technology, have different models of innovation. Google, Apple, Amazon or Procter & Gamble do not follow the same principles for instance. For some of them, innovation is everybody’s responsibility whereas the others have a strong leadership combining business insight & creativity as well as the ability to motivate employees to follow their vision. Some outsource, some even rely on their consumers to propose new ideas (you can refer to crowdsourcing related articles for some examples). Smaller organizations of course innovate too and many more innovative companies can be found here in this FastCompany post.

Over the past years, the business world evolved drastically with the emerging social networks, the “bring your own device” phenomenon or the increasing influence of video games. Interactions have been made easier in our personal lives and it was not without effects in our working environment. In my opinion, the innovation model which seems to be working the best is based on some key principles: it is decentralized, based on try/fail/learn experimentations, and is very collaborative by nature. It does look like an online video-game. On purpose. That’s where Gamification appears on the scene! It will give you some patterns and means to reach true innovation. No, the Gamification is not a new buzzword. It is a proven and tested theory about applying game mechanics to engage users and basically solve problems. It is fun, speeds up the learning phases and gives structure to innovation.

Why is Gamification a great driver for innovation?

  • There’s a need for innovation and creativity ownership at every level (decentralized management & egalitarian culture): Everybody can play!
  • You can clarify goals & boundaries. After all, you are in a corporate environment: Define the rules of the game!
  • Implement a culture of experimentation (try, fail fast & cheaply, learn): This is the Game over effect”! You can play as long as you want (new credits/new lives)!
  • Create an environment that facilitates creativity, risk taking & error recovery: Playing games is fun! You learn faster and enjoy it, you don’t have the fear of losing.
  • Maximum empowerment & autonomy of employees: You could include points, achievement badges or leaderboards. This fosters peer collaboration and fun competition.

Play games, innovate.

About the Author

Donald Havas

French technical evangelist and blogger with extensive working experience in the technology industry field (corporate IT, professional services and product development). Passionate about software development processes, innovation, new technology & industry trends and the gaming industry. And promoting simplicity and pragmatism on top of everything.

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One Comment

  1. Horst Streck December 19, 2012 Reply

    Strange, but I never thought about gamification this way. Good piece! Innovation is so important especially in these hard times.

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