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Innovation Gamified: A Lesson from the XBox Generation

With the seemingly endless possibilities that virtual worlds present, gaming aficionados are no strangers to crowdsourcing, mechanizing ideation and innovation, and the pressures of a perpetually changing market. It’s because of the video game industry’s organic expertise in this arena that more and more companies are turning to the ‘gamification’ of other processes, like innovation and marketing.

Gamifcation is a fancy way of saying that we’re taking the things people expect from games — points systems, scoring, level graduation — and applying them to business processes and customer interactions, in order to increase engagement. But what’s the point?

Crowdsourcing and Innovation Management

Though upping customer participation is a common goal for companies, the real question is whether or not it translates into tangible business benefits. Innovation management — though it sometimes sounds counterintuitive — is one way to gamify crowdsourcing and idea graduation to create an engaging environment that’s not only active, but even profitable.

A study conducted by Findlay and Alberts found that, once a gamification strategy had been applied to a business process, the percentage of contributing customers (as opposed to merely observers) in a given community increased almost immediately. Before implementation, just under 70% of the community members were active contributors. Post-gamification, that number rose to 83%, and the average number of posts per user went from 1.5 to 2.3. As crowdsourcing becomes an increasingly popular method of procuring ideas to take to market, companies must ensure that it’s a viable approach that can be counted on to generate regular results. The systematic structuring of the process allows for repetition and data projection; gamifying it makes it measurable and manageable.

The Idea Market

There have been more than a few thought leaders who’ve discussed the notion of ideas as currency. To take that a bit further, companies with an eye for innovation must recognize the necessity of idea markets — communities that are formed through the gamification of processes, specifically those centered on ideation and innovation.

“What better way to get all of your employees thinking about how to solve the challenges facing your company,” says Adina Kaufman, Sr. Editor and Storyteller at TSSS, “than by motivating them to do so through a process of fun and play? As more and more people engage in the ‘marketplace’ of ideas, the power of the ‘crowd’ becomes apparent. Good ideas evolve and grow, weak ideas quietly disappear from the debate, and great ideas rise to the top and assume a dominant role in the collective discussion.”

Gartner Research VP Brian Burke calls this “architecting” behaviors, but notes that, because many gamification platforms are afloat on novelty and hype, they may not be sustainable. “The key to sustainability,” he says, “is ensuring that you are positioning a game with the proper motivation, so that we’re motivating people for collaborative behavior.” He cautions against the over-use of rewards that are simply extrinsic, like gift cards, and encourages companies to offer more meaningful incentives, like community recognition.

In the end, truly innovative companies know that their greatest resource isn’t money, or location, or even a legacy of success — it’s their people. Engagement is more important in today’s impacted market than it’s ever been; creating value for and from our customers is the gateway to repeatable success.

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