Gamification for Innovation Management

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.


7 thoughts on “Gamification for Innovation Management

  1. Dear Steve

    You should read the Spigit case study on Citi a little closer – the 266,000 people generated more than 2,500 ideas actually – what we did that was unique was run a gamified process that then took those people through, not only the divergence phases, but also the convergent phases. We used voting techniques and idea team building to go from 2.5K+ ideas to 10 ideas. The 10 ideas were developed further and then a stock market approach was used to engage all 266K people in deciding on the 4 finalists (the 4 ideas you mentioned above) for the final stages where the ideas were again further developed along with prototypes, models and more to present to Citi’s top 5 Execs in a Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank type of approach. The execs were so impressed with the finalists that instead of choosing one winner as was originally intended, they insisted on picking two ideas to win – both of which are now in development by the Innovation team.

    By any definition, the Citi Ideas Challenge was a huge success – for both participants and for Citi itself and was the birth of an entirely new and innovative approach to these kind of challenges.

    All the best,


    1. Why wait until the finals before prototyping? Perhaps the concept was to use a multi-phase approach to weed out the high risk ideas so that by the end the investment team are certain the idea is worth prototyping. A different approach might have been to encourage very early prototyping in a much rougher form so that participants could start learning form the market right away. I’m sure Spigit was a huge success, and it would have been extremely exciting to be a part of it all. I also expect the cultural benefits would have been significant, and the ideas which were approved in the final stages may well have gone on to achieve greatness.

      However, my intention was to use this as an example of a product development led approach to innovation and introduce the concept of a customer driven approach. Perhaps I will revisit the innovation process in another post and go into a bit more detail.

      Thanks for your coments. As with all posts my aim is to explore not judge.


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