Innovation Inducement Prizes


In my A to Z of Gamification, today’s ‘I’ post looks at the gamification of Innovation.

To answer the human challenges of a specific era, innovation contests or inducement prizes have been used in areas as diverse as; finding a practical and precise method to determine a ship’s longitude (the Longtitude Prize), challenging the first aviator to fly non-stop from New York City to Paris (Orteig Prize), or perhaps, one day, demonstrating a commercially viable design to permanently remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere (Virgin Earth).

I’ve talked previously about how, done well, these events sit in the sweet middle spot of the 3 Cs we see in games that motivate us to play together: competition, collaboration and creativity. Games can provide a competitive spark that brings teams together and sets up challenges that require our greatest leaps of creativity. In other words they are a breeding ground for innovation.

Do you need collaboration to innovate?

From the challenge centre at, a community of 300,000+ ‘solvers’ are solving problems posted by individual firms or research establishments in return for prizes or recognition. In 2011, an analysis of this sites challenges and solvers found: Teams with more diverse expertise are more likely to come up with a solution with teams with more expertise but only on the topic of the problem.

Do you need creativity to innovate?

The same study also found that the more different the solvers expertise was from the problem, the more likely they were produce a winning solution, due to the fact that being “outsider” increase the chance of a fresh look and innovative solution.

Do you need competition to innovate?

Mapping the Innovation Landscape

Spurring Innovation Through Competitions, Fall 2013 Sloan Review MIT

In the innovation landscape, on a matrix of the problems (“needs”) to be solved and the solutions (“capabilities”) required to solve them. Competitions help organisations to explore the unfamiliar parts of the matrix, i.e. everywhere outside the Home space of familiar problems and solutions.

However, competition does not necessarily mean winning is the singular or overriding motivation.

A third finding within InnoCentive community was that “career and social motivations are more important than cash prizes.” and this is supported by a survey of more than 100 teams registered for the 2010 X Prize, a $10 million challenge to develop a vehicle with breakthrough efficiency. Researchers also found here:

“winning the prize” was only the fifth highest ranked response; more important was their desire to “gain publicity,” “enhance their reputation” or “address environmental concerns.


Spurring Innovation Through Competitions, Fall 2013 Sloan Review MIT

The Impact of Innovation Inducement Prizes, Nov 2013 Nesta


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