We live in a world that idealizes the genius innovator. From Henry Ford to Steve Jobs, we find it incredible that a single person could see the world entirely differently and then make that difference happen. It also helps that the stories of inventions and the characters behind them are great storytelling material. We accept that Jobs’s knack for details and design was a natural gift that couldn’t be taught or replaced and that Ford’s understanding of the innermost desires of the American consumer came to him naturally. These notions may very well have some truth to them, but with the introduction of technology and the connectedness that it brings with it, we all may need to be prepared to open up to a new way to arrive at creation and innovation.
Gamification for innovation and the wisdom of the crowds
In contrast to this idea of the ‘individual genius’, the last few years have seen the rise of the notion of ‘wisdom of the crowds’. Countless crowd powered platforms have become immensely popular. Be it in the field of art production (Kickstarter, indiegogo), question-and-answers (like Quora), or medicine (crowdmed), it seems that there’s a business trying to incorporate the wisdom of the crowds in to every possible sector. There is an understanding that although the idea of a single innovator has a certain romantic appeal to it, there may be a much more efficient way to go about it, which is actually almost completely opposite to the way we’ve gotten used to thinking about innovation.
Obviously, the thing that all these platforms depend on is the involvement of their respective crowd. Waze wouldn’t be worth much if not for its enthusiastic community, which allows us to know the state of traffic on the road like never before, and nobody would think of turning to Kickstarter to try and get their music album out, if they didn’t know that there were enough music fans on the platform who may decide to back the project.
In many of these platforms, gamification mechanics play an important part in bringing the crowd to participate and engage with the platform. They use variations on karma point and other forms of gamification mechanics for recognution. In addition, gamification is many times responsible for motivating and focusing the innovating activities of the community that is created around a platform. It can create clear objectives, rules and rewards for those who take part in the creation process that the platform is undertaking.
Driving innovation in the enterprise
The role gamification plays in innovative processes is not limited only to these platforms. Many organizations are using gamification mechanics to foster innovation within their firms. Many social and collaboration gamification projects are intended to foster information sharing and, as a side effect, innovation.
Since people are naturally creative and eager to express themselves, sometimes all that is needed is a framework which motivates employees to do just that, and which enables them to do it easily. A great example of this comes to us from one of the best known brands in the world – Coca Cola. The company has recently created an app that enables users to mix several existing Coca Cola drinks to create a new one, name it, and then share the new drink with their friends on social media. Afterwards, it is possible to actually drink the newly created beverage at a FreeStyle machine, which is a new generation of fountain dispenser that the company has invented for this purpose.
Through gamification mechanics, the company is able to engage in a new way with younger customers that have come to expect a consumer experience which enables them to easily relate their thoughts about a product. For this to be a meaningful experience that achieves its goals, it must have enjoyable and playful aspects to it which make the customer want to use it again and again.
While enterprise gamification is mostly directed at coaching people to work well – through a deep understanding of their roles and a growth of engagement – and is used less for innovation per se or for the knowledge workers, it can learn from great examples of gamification, such as those used by Quirky or Barclaycard.
It seems that the way we arrive at innovative ideas is undergoing a major change and that gamification is destined to play a major role in this change process. Companies and organizations can now utilize gamification mechanisms which enable, motivate and guide employees in the course of the creative process.