Business Growth & Strategy

Don’t Stop Playin’ Those Games! Top Companies Drive Innovation With Gamification

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I’ve spent 20 years as an innovation strategist, and it still amazes me just how naive some organizations are about what it takes to drive enterprise innovation.

Recently, I’ve observed several organizations launching an innovation initiative that was destined for failure. These failures were based on the leaders’ assumptions that all they needed to do was wake up one day and proclaim to their stakeholders, “We will be innovative.”

If only it was that easy. As my good friend Malcolm De Leo, Ph.D. has articulated, there are three key players in this innovation equation: the enterprise, the stakeholder and the team.

The key to true innovation, then, is to drive alignment of the motivations of these three players. In other words, if you don’t align the pleasure and the pain with these various participants, you’ll never be able to drive innovation consistently.

Gamification

One way to achieve this alignment is by using Gamification — in other words, using game mechanics to motivate, engage and ultimately inspire your team to participate in innovation. This approach has become so popular, it’s created a new industry of enterprise Gamification.

So what is it, and how can you use it to drive innovation in your business?

Game mechanics provide you with the ability to directly engage your stakeholders by creating well-articulated innovation challenges. Let’s say that your innovation challenge is to significantly improve customer value by way of a new product introduction.

You would communicate this challenge using either free collaboration tools such as Yammer or enterprise 2.0 solutions such as Spigit. You would then install basic game mechanics that could include points or badges that are redeemable for currency. This also sparks a great deal of peer collaboration and competition that is, in my experience, one of the biggest game motivators.

Now, your team knows what you want, and, through competition and peer collaboration, they’re inspired to achieve it. This is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful ways to drive enterprises innovation.

There is, of course, more to the formula than the simple version I’ve laid out here. But the bottom line is that it works, and it works with mathematical certainty.

Additional Considerations

There are a few other things to consider before trying Gamification. First, contrary to the proclamations of the game gurus, this is just one of many tools that you will need to drive innovation in your enterprise.

Second, for this to work, your innovation challenge must be well articulated already, and directly connected to your organization’s goals and objectives.

Third, the “what’s in it for me” psychodynamics that drive successful gaming in your enterprise must include a real and meaningful benefit to the stakeholder.

Last, but certainly not least, you must remember that the biggest cause of innovation failure in organizations is “Fractional Innovation.” That’s basically a failure to create a comprehensive innovation system in play that serves as the life-support system for your entire initiative.

If you’re confident in your ability to tackle the above considerations, then Gamification can be an exercise that greatly enhancing your culture’s capacity for innovation. So go to it! Have fun with your game — and don’t forget to play nice.

This topic and more are included in the Vistage Connect™ peer advisory sessions. Learn more.

Nicholas J. Webb is a Partner at Lassen Innovation, an innovation and business growth-consulting firm. He is also the author of The Innovation Playbook and The Digital Innovation Playbook. Visit his website at www.nickwebb.com.

Category: Business Growth & Strategy Leadership Competencies

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  1. This is great perspective on gamification’s use in innovation management. We have taken the game mechanics you discuss here and applied them to project management with our online service RedCritter Tracker. All the same motivational triggers apply in this area as well. We have points, badges, leaderboards and a rewards store.

    We feel that gamification holds tremendous untapped promise for better engaging employees in every department. Game mechanics can help support great workplace cultures that are geared towards optimal collaboration, productivity and happiness.There is a video overview of the gamification aspects here…http://vimeo.com/25905793 

  2. This is great perspective on gamification’s use in innovation management. We have taken the game mechanics you discuss here and applied them to project management with our online service RedCritter Tracker. All the same motivational triggers apply in this area as well. We have points, badges, leaderboards and a rewards store.

    We feel that gamification holds tremendous untapped promise for better engaging employees in every department. Game mechanics can help support great workplace cultures that are geared towards optimal collaboration, productivity and happiness.There is a video overview of the gamification aspects here…http://vimeo.com/25905793 

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