Enter The Era Of Collaborative Innovation Why Innovation Needs Gamification More Than Ever Before!

Rajiv Vaid Basaiawmoit, Gamifi cation Architect, Aarhus University

It wouldn’t surprise anyone if today one claimed that era of Innovation is upon us. However, human beings have always been credited with their innate ability to innovate from decade-to-decade and century-to-century. What then has changed? What has changed is the pace and the way we innovate. From what used to be individual achievements that then made way for corporate innovation, today Innovation is a product of networks, distributed knowledge and most importantly collaboration between multiple partners

"The future for collaborative innovation fueled via gamification and both new and old technology is quite bright"

This historic rise of distributed innovation is, of course, the result of an exponential increase in connectivity and technology. The levels of connectivity that we are now experiencing are unprecedented in the history of mankind and are increasing on a day-to-day basis even. The International Data Corporation (IDC) has predicted

that by 2020 we will over 4 Billion connected people on the planet using over 25+ Million Apps and exchanging over 50 Trillion GBs of data (IDC, Intel, McCafe2012). These levels of unprecedented connectivity also mean that we are not only entering an era of rapid innovation but an era of Collaborative Innovation. However, are we ready to reap the benefits of collaborative innovation? I think we first need to understand collaboration and train in the art of effective collaboration if we are going to unlock the true potential of collaborative innovation at scale.

Collaboration vs. cooperation

 In principle, any activity, when framed in the right context, may lead to collaboration. However, collaboration unlike cooperation, cannot be turned on with the flick of a switch. There is a fundamental difference between collaboration and co-operation. In collaboration, partners have a mutually shared goal with a high-degree of trust and a high level of inter-dependency. Cooperation, on the other hand, the partners might be inter-dependent, but they undertake the partnership with individual goals in mind. Thus, cooperation might deliver a shared outcome but is built on individual goals whereas true collaboration delivers on a mutual goal and shared value. Cooperation is comparatively easier to achieve which is also why more examples of cooperation can be found than of collaboration.

True collaboration is a process (and thus can be learned), it is a mindset (and thus can be inculcated), and is essentially dynamic (i.e. it requires flexibility). This is where Games and Gamification set in. Games designed with collaboration in mind require one to spend time with others engaged in an activity towards a common goal. This allows for trust-building which is an essential ingredient of collaboration. Another important ingredient is a level-playing field within a safe environment where players exchange ideas, opinions, strategies, perspectives, etc. without fear of judgement gaming often creates this.

Often these exchanges continue post-game and lead to real-world boosts in collaboration.

Games for Collaborative Innovation

According to traditional Game Theory, games have historically fallen into two categories: Competitive (e.g. Chess & Checkers) or Cooperative (E.g. Settlers of Catan – where players focus on their own goals and may co- operate with one another to advance their own goals). But, there is a third genre – that of Collaborative Games (E.g. Pandemic). In collaborative games, collaboration as a team differs from cooperation among individuals such that cooperative players may have different goals and payoffs whereas collaborative players have only one goal and share the rewards or penalties of their decisions. The challenge for players in a collaborative game is working together to maximize the team’s utility.

In the award-winning, collaborative game simulation that I have designed called “ESHIP: Navigating Uncertainty” (a board game that aims to train entrepreneurial thinking under conditions of uncertainty), the game design specifically focused on the end goal, i.e. what is it that I wanted players to learn at the end of the simulation as a precursor to all in-game design decisions. Indeed, the popularity of the game and its uptake amongst students, corporates, and the startup world can be traced back to the early-stage design decisions. The game gets you to talk (even to strangers), take leadership roles, take action and react to the in-game effects that an uncertain world throws at you. The learning goal is that uncertainty cannot be controlled but only navigated and that action is better than inaction.

In yet another simulation game that I created for the Pharmaceutical Industry - called “OI- Are You Ready!”, the board game tried to test the readiness levels of Pharma executives for engaging with Open Innovation (OI). Whilst being engaging the game also revealed that over 80% of the “players” were not able to act on OI opportunities despite believing (erroneously) that the reason for being unable to implement OI in their organizations was lack of support from the leadership or lack of resources. Playing a game in a fictional setting safely showed that collaborative innovation is a different ball game altogether and emerged as a great learning experience that neither a lecture nor reading a book/manual would have achieved.

It is important to realize that Innovation has traditionally relied on play and some of the greatest discoveries can also be attributed to play (playful experimenting). Furthermore, games are not the end-all but rather a medium /tool with which one can achieve a desired goal - be that of better collaboration or better innovation. The future for collaborative innovation fueled via gamification and both new and old technology is quite bright. New technologies such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality (Pokemon anyone?), Holograms etc. will become more accessible, immersive and playful. This can only boost your Innovation simulation to higher levels. Game On.