It's difficult to come up with an excellent creative idea. We don't fully understand how this process works, but certain strategies, such as mind mapping, brainstorming, and setting conditions for free experimentation, have proven to be effective in boosting creativity. Many large firms (such as design agencies) have adopted these methods as part of their daily operations.
The video game industry has exploded due to the rapid advancement of digital technologies. Many people are curious in what makes games so engaging, and they want to try it out in non-gaming situations. This is referred to as "gamification" (not to be confused with game theory).
Playing games is a strong approach to encourage creative thinking because it can break through the barriers of established behavioural conventions and routines by introducing new rules and, in some cases, new realities.
The concept was immediately adopted by business, with big predictions made about the benefit of gamification when applied to business processes such as innovation management — overseeing the process of developing and commercialising an idea. However, many businesses remain sceptical of the concept of gamification or are confused how to apply it to their specific needs.
The goal of ideas management is to involve people who already have ideas and help them go through the "innovation funnel," which is the process of finding, choosing, and implementing new ideas. Our research demonstrates how gamification may be used to create a platform where people can share their ideas.
An organisation might do this by creating a platform, such as a website, on which people can post and share ideas. Every week or month, employees are given points to "invest" in presented ideas that they appreciate. Following the selection of the finest ideas, successful "investors" get dividends in the form of points, which can then be re-invested. The points don't have a monetary worth, but they do have a social value. Playing investor is both entertaining and educational.
This might lead to unforeseen good side effects such as informal competition among employees for the status of their departments. When employees browse the platform, for example, they gain a better understanding of what is going on in the rest of the company. They meet new individuals and build a sense of community as a result.
Such projects can be quite successful at first in large organisations, but they eventually become overwhelmed by the volume of ideas streaming through the funnel. The initiative must then evolve into something different at that point.
But, more importantly, a gamified environment allows individuals to think and act differently, and here is where the magic begins.
Another option is to make the actual process of idea generation a game. This incorporates anything that appears more like a real game and seeks to affect cognitive processes — the mental processes that help us understand, respond, and react to any given circumstance. This makes it more difficult to put into practise because it necessitates the creation of a more complex notion. Simple investment points will not suffice here, and this is where unique ideas can truly blossom.
Alternate reality games (ARGs) and live-action role-playing (LARP) are two examples of how this might be done. Players behave as themselves in alternate reality games, while the reality around them shifts. Jane McGonigal, a gamification expert, demonstrated how it can work in a game called World Without Oil, in which participants were presented with a scenario in which the world is running out of oil.
Participants were given daily information on prices, shortages, and new oil strikes to inspire them to consider what it might mean to them. They shared their predictions on how their lives might alter with others. These were then grouped by "change signals." Different people could then employ this collective thinking.
As the name implies, in live action role play, the players take on different roles while the reality around them changes or remains the same. What counts are the players' interactions and the insights they receive from taking on different roles or observing others.
A new role frees the gamer from social conventions and allows them to explore their personalities and the world around them. Researchers from the University of California, for example, used a LARP named Battlestar Galactica to study smart social wearables (wearable gadgets that aim to improve real-life interactions).
The participants pretended to be survivors of an alien attack on their home planet, and they had to adapt their communication with one another based on physical and mental health indications from the clothing they were “wearing.” The researchers acquired insight into how wearable technology can mediate human interactions after analysing the data.
Gamification for the good
As a means of growing and enhancing their business processes, many firms are likely to use gamification for idea management. It's a more engaging, playful approach of giving every person a voice and allowing them to be innovators, even if it's not in their job title.
However, gamification should not be viewed as a simply instrumental method to making the process of managing ideas easier. It is more difficult and resource-intensive to use it to develop creative thinking, but it is also more rewarding because it may help us explore and envisage future challenges and opportunities.
It's also not a strategy that should be limited to the obvious creative industries, such as design. This strategy can be used by more traditional sectors to reimagine their future and unleash their creative potential. Games, for example, might assist the bottled water sector in determining how it should look in light of current plastic waste worries. What mechanisms does it use to adapt? Gamification encourages creativity, which leads to innovation and reinvention.