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Source: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2575515

As Oana pointed out in her last post, the use of behavioural mechanics from games such as achievement, competition and recognition, applied to non-game scenarios has become a very hot topic in recent years. It is already being used in all kinds of domains, on- and offline, including recruitment, education, marketing, customer feedback and healthcare. One of the main goals of gamification is to engage people to fulfil a certain action. Therefore it is quite obvious that such techniques have also been applied to collaborative innovation with large crowds, where a high level of engagement is a prerequisite. In order to have people become aware and visit your online innovation platform, participate actively, engage others and eventually also return, different elements have been introduced to these platforms. Here are some typical ones:

  • Points or virtual money earned for submitting ideas, commenting, voting etc.
  • Leaderboards show most active users or org-units
  • Badges can be earned for fulfilling certain tasks or passing certain thresholds
  • Shares can be bought for points or virtual money and traded on an idea stock exchange
  • Contests on submitting the best solution or idea to a given challenge theme

Three years ago, Gartner predicted that “by 2015, more than 50% of organizations that have managed innovation processes will gamify those processes”. From our experience with over 170 clients at HYPE, we can confirm this trend. Integrating these game-elements into an innovation platform however, doesn’t necessarily mean that they also help increase the ROI. Despite all the fuss that is being made around gamification, there is still quite a lot criticism on it, dismissing it e.g. as marketing bullshit.

In the following, I would like to share with you some arguments for the use of game mechanics and some against it. My intention is not to state my personal opinion here, but rather bring up a number of pros and cons that I saw from my personal experience and from the experiences shared by clients and other subject matter experts. I would be happy to see you adding arguments to the list and to describe your personal story where gamification proved to be working well, or where it failed.

Arguments FOR the use of gamification in collaborative innovation

  • Recognition, given through badges, votes and leaderboards, is a strong motivator and reward

  • Competition, as driven by contests and leaderboards, spurs engagement and may result in more ideas, comments and votes

  • Trading ideas like shares is fun and helps pre-filtering ideas: since participants only have a limited budget, they have to spend it wisely and think twice how innovative and feasible an idea is

  • More engagement means more ideas. That increases the chance of having a big nugget among all the gravel

Arguments AGAINST the use of gamification in collaborative innovation

  • Gamification elements aim at increasing the level of engagement, not at creating better, more valuable ideas

  • Users are not intrinsically motivated to innovate, think outside the box and be creative, but to improve their rank, earn badges, points or virtual dollars

  • Provokes gaming - users may submit ideas and comments of no value but just for the sake of improving their ranks

  • Derogates seriousness of innovation program. and makes it look like a playground

  • It doesn’t help to build a sustainable corporate innovation culture, but  often just creates a temporary peak of engagement which drops after a while

  • Being on top of a leaderboard isn’t always seen positively, as it may suggest that users are spending more time on the innovation platform than doing their daily work

In August 2013, Gamification was on top of the Peak of Inflated Expectations of Gartner’s Hype Cycle on Emerging Technologies. Being there undoubtedly shows that it is a hot topic. However, according to Gartner’s logic, gamification is now facing the Trough of Disillusionment. I am curious to see how gamification, especially with regard to collaborative innovation, will develop during this period and what it will be like once it hits the Slope of Enlightenment.

What do you think?

Are the aforementioned gamification functionalities on innovation platforms bringing real value? Does it increase the total number of high-quality ideas? Or does it just create a lot of noise, i.e. ideas and comments of low value? What does the future of gamification for collaborative innovation platforms look like?

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Christoph Sohn

Christoph Sohn

Christoph is part of HYPE’s Enterprise Innovation Consulting Team where he advises and trains organizations on establishing the right processes and culture for their collaborative innovation programs.