You’ve probably already heard that Gartner predict that over half of businesses who have an innovation management process will gamify that process by 2015. The underlying concepts seem to be around suggestion box style innovation initiatives, and gamification as an engagement tool to get more ideas through the process. But is this a flawed line of thought? Let’s take a look…
The Innovation Management Process as Product Development
According to Insead, the innovation process is all about trying to discover, create, and develop ideas, to refine them into useful forms, and to use them to earn profits, increase efficiency, and/or reduce costs. If you look closely you’ll notice they use a product development cycle to do this (I paraphrase):
1. Sit in your ivory tower and strategise
2. Risk manage your portfolio of innovations
3. Research some opportunities where innovation is needed
4. Have some lightbulb moments of insight
5. Product development (engineering, testing, distribution, marketing and other high cash burn activities)
6. Market development (try to explain to customers why they should want this)
7. Ask for some money
Steve Blank has the best explanation of why this approach will fail 9 times out of 10. Essentially, by validating your business model last you commit yourself to a series of educated guesses before finding out what you need to change (in response to your customer). Change is expensive at this stage. Hence the failure of this paradigm for 9 out of 10 business ventures.
Innovation as a Suggestion Box
Lots of other innovation management process models seem to work around a funnel concept, with suggestions going through a number of filters before finally being developed and taken to market, the one below shows the process quite clearly (I took this from Urenio, here):
It looks nice, but does it actually work? Again, I am not convinced. Apart from falling into the product development trap, programs like this also build in long feedback cycles and high levels of idea judgement.
Can Gamification Help?
Businesses like Nosco and Spigit have gamified the innovation management process in a number of ways. Trading platforms, popularity based points systems, competitions and other tools are variously used to amp up the fun and encourage employees to submit their ideas into the machine. But is this enough. A quick look at the Spigit example will show how 263,000 people in 97 countries came up with 4 ideas. Maybe they were really good ideas but it doesn’t sound like much.
They say that a great game is built on a compelling storyline, with challenges and rewards that make players really want to play. Maybe it’s time to move the innovation process away from a product development cycle with a centralised evaluation mechanism and into a more distributed approach that uses customer development and empowers individuals to implement their ideas without management intervention. Now that’s something worth gamifying.