Gamify your product or service to drive user engagement

Many ideas fail in the marketplace, even if they come from leading innovators such as Google or Amazon. Consider using the market insight to ideate for everything around customer experience – packaging, delivery, pricing, support, and now gamification.

Early Market Engagement

Early market engagement is a strategic exchange of information with the market. You’ve built the minimum viable product (MVP) and ready to test with some early adopters or beta users. It is imperative to keep in mind that the product at this stage is just a bunch of ideas, assumptions and some data. It is pretty much all invention and creativity. Taking it to the market to create value for consumers and to generate revenue will potentially make it an innovation. You need to work through various aspects for it to be sticky in the marketplace. 

Consumers care how they receive products and services. The product delivery model includes, packing, shipping, handling, setup, training, etc. and all that happens between the product leaving the manufacturer/retailer and buyer using it. Service delivery is a lot about transactional experience, communication, ambiance, and handling of an unhappy customer.

Consumers have varied perception of value received. Business model is about setting the price, payment terms and billing, sell vs lease vs subscription, financing options, warranties, returns, trial period, bundling, and now mobile engagement…

Market positioning is making the customer think about your product through advertisements and social media. Naming and tag lines are probably the difficult ones but have significant impact.

Market testing is when the manufacturer/developer wants to get an early indication of how the product or service will be received and accepted by the end-user. It might include focus groups, beta tester, pilot programs, and even up to the first few customers providing feedback.

As an innovator, we must also think of how to support the product in service and at the end of its useful life. What are the possible business models, in terms of ability to service, recycle, salvage? …

Product Packaging to improve Consumer Engagement

Packaging is no longer just a box. Almost every consumer product invests heavily in innovation in packaging. There are so many examples of packaging innovation to capture market share. Toothpaste companies reduced vanity shelf space by making broad caps and going standup mode. Pomegranate and lemon juice are packaged in bottles that look just like the fruit by shape and color to make it easily recognizable and to give the feel of the real thing. Plastic water bottles are shaped to reduce plastic materials and handling. Ketchup caps and nozzles were designed so that they do not drip.

The box for Amazon Kindle oasis and Google Pixel Buds double up as chargers.  Cardboard box for a 12-can-pack went from 4×3 to a 6×2 for ease of stacking in the refrigerator, and then a designer cut to create a dispenser. Many small electronic products use packaging to act as transportation, handling, shelf display, marketing, … purposes as well.

Service Delivery to enhance Customer Experience

The service industry is highly competitive as well. Coffee shops, aircraft interior, sports bars, amusement parks, holiday resorts, etc. go all out to make the experience memorable for you. They are all very innovative about creating customer experience through novelty, thrill, comfort, ambiance, security, safety, sanitization, etc. which are all of value to consumers.

Gamification to build Consumer and Employee Engagement

Think about how to turn your service or product into a game-like experience. It is easier said than done. In product design and development, we can focus on user needs and goals to deliver meaningful experiences people value. Every goal has a motivation, and the key is to develop ways to help motivate people to reach their goals. What better way to motivate people than in a way that is engaging, rewarding, grounded in behavioral science, and even a little bit of fun for them to learn, explore, and use? All the while continuously giving them reasons to engage with your product.

The five principles of gamification are …

principles of gamification
  1. Autonomy: Urge to direct our own lives (I want to control).
  2. Mastery: Desire to get better (I want to improve).
  3. Purpose: Yearning to be a part of something larger than ourselves (I want to make a difference).
  4. Progress:  Desire to see results associated with mastery and purpose (I want to achieve).
  5. Social Interaction:  Need to belong, be connected to, recognized by, and interact with others (I want to engage others).

Take eBay as a prime example. Buyers and sellers rate each other. The more they buy, sell, and accumulate good ratings on the platform, the higher they rank in the community. Their ranking is represented with status flair, i.e. Power Seller, Trusted Seller etc., on their profiles and listings to build marketplace prominence and garner buyer and seller confidence.

For more learning, read Innovation Value Chain

Has anyone ever built muscles by taking a tour of the gym?

Really?

Bringing innovation into an organization culture is like building a mental muscle. You cannot learn it online or through watching panel discussions amongst thought leaders. It requires sustained effort for long period of time, and painful learning.

Has anyone ever built muscles by taking a tour of the gym

Basic Physics behind an Organizational Behavior

Organizations seem to follow some basic principles of physics. For example

  • Friction: Opposing force resisting relative motion.
  • Inertia: Tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.
  • Gravity: Left to themselves, unsupported objects will fall to the ground.
  • Energy: The capacity for doing work.
  • Momentum: Impetus gained by a moving object.

When an individual or a team tries to get innovative, to change a process or product, essentially trying to move it from its current state to a different state; it encounters both friction and inertia. The team has to put in a lot of energy to get it moving, and to build and sustain the momentum.

Overcoming Inertia and Friction

Organizations have inertia and internal friction that will hold them back from a successful positive transition. But, if you can build momentum through proper infusion of energy, you can make a lasting enterprise-wide change.

Start by sending the right message to the 13% early adaptors, and they will join the 3% innovators already working in that direction. The 34% of early majority will need some kind of objective and training to follow through. The 34% late majority would need incentives and tangible rewards in addition to the objectives and capability training. Never mind the last 16% laggards and CAVE people, they will find a different role.

Building Momentum

In Volume-3, we discussed 4 tracks of activities to build an innovation profile. Consistent execution will help build the momentum.  Leadership needs to think of the following steps as a wheel

  1. Be clear about the Innovation Purpose, and the vision of success.
  2. Create, communicate, and use the two sheets of music, the Innovation Strategy (Roadmap), and the Dashboard to track the progress.
  3. Build the Innovation Capital, by investing in talent and knowhow.
  4. Inspire talent to engage in Innovation Activity to realize the roadmap.
  5. Keep Innovation Lean by aligning people, products, and markets.
  6. Recognize and reward teams for performance and learnings.
  7. Update the roadmap and dashboard annually and go back to step 2.

Keeprotating this flywheel and build a momentum that would be hard to stop. Purpose, strategy, and rewards provide the willingness to innovate. Capital and activities build the capability. Lean reduces internal friction. Collectively, they build the culture of innovation, over a few years. It is a mental muscle.

Just like a few workout sessions at the local gym won’t build your body muscle, a few successful projects won’t build the mental muscle of your organization. You will have to go through many projects, over the years, and slowly change the basic behavior. I get into conversations with senior leaders who think that a 2-day workshop on ideation or innovation is all they need, and after that, it will happen on its own. A 2-day workshop is just like taking a tour of the gym.

Lesson from the Coronavirus Pandemic

In March 2020, within 2 weeks, America went from business as usual to a complete stop, except essential services. The markets were shutdown, social distancing put in force, almost everyone working from home, no more parties, weddings postponed, no access to beaches, bars, or nightlife. The level of change that would normally take a decade was visible in a blink of an eye. Situation updates and restrictions were being brought into the workforce by the hour. What was at stake? Life. No one asked you to think or act Out of the Box. Your box was just crushed by the tiniest invisible life form, leaving everyone scrambling to find a new box to think in. Innovation was seen all across from primary life-saving equipment, to communication, to support structure. Innovation was not a struggle at all. Organizational leadership was open to all sorts of ideas to keep their employees safe and the business afloat. They were willing to quick test, follow any successful option, and learn.

Where did that innovation muscle strength came from? Life saving rush of Adrenaline!

In Summary,

There are many reasons, excuses, and myths about why innovation does not succeed. I concur with Bill Fischer that it never gets started or supported by leadership even if it starts. The primary struggle is a leadership mindset, which slowly erodes employee morale to innovate. In some sense companies have successfully managed to promote productivity performers to the leadership roles, putting innovators and innovation on the back seat. Will the pandemic change that? Will it mark the start of an innovator’s era with a very different form of struggle, the struggle to let innovators lead, for a while.

If you like this blog post, you will like my book series “Inspiring Next Innovation ….” available on Amazon and summarized in these book launch webinars on YouTube.

For Leaders –

Inspiring Next Innovation Purpose,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube                               

For Innovators –

Inspiring Next Innovation Value Chain,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube  

For Managers –

Inspiring Next Innovation Framework,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube     

For Leaders –

Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube

To engage with the author – please register for upcoming virtual sessions.

Are you Managing or Leading Innovation?

Really?

I like the statement – “Manage process and lead people”. But what about innovation? We still struggle to understand if it is process, or people mindset, or some combination.

We know innovation is a lot about exploratory action and Leadership that empowers action. There is still room for managing it particularly in corporate setting, which must manage risk.

Innovation Managing and Leading

Innovation, Managing, and Leading

There is a lot written around managing vs leading, as applicable to people, processes, and business. Some of that when viewed through the innovation lens, looks like:

InnovatorsInnovation ManagersInnovation Leaders
Solve complex problemsControl complexity in developmentTransform company, industry & ecosystem
Develop new products & servicesDeliver to the roadmapCreate vision, strategy, and roadmap
Create future they conceivePredict the future based on trendsPrepare for the unpredictable future
Deploy their expertise to resolve situationsOrganize, staff, and manage resourcesAlign expertise and offerings with markets
Create new outcomesPrevent negative outcomesPromote positive outcomes
Be creative and exploreControl creativity and experimentationEmpower people to experiment and learn
Develop their expertiseAssess the expertise and fill the gapsProactively fill gaps to required expertise
Build relationships of valueRe-structure to accomplish goalsCreate relationships to be highly effective
Do it the way they know bestDo it the right wayDo the right things
Defend their viewpointSell solutions to get everyone on boardAcknowledge & surface healthy conflict
Collaborate, learn, & produceMotivate but control collaborative practicesInspire collaboration and learning
Strive for excellenceMaintain a Center of ExcellenceBuild a Network of Excellence
Want to feel importantWant to look importantMake others feel important
Compete and collaborate as requiredCreate competitive strategies to winCreate collaborative strategies for win-win
Focus on Innovation Value ChainFocus on Innovation FrameworkFocus on Innovation Purpose and Mindset

In Summary,

An innovation focused organization needs all three roles – leaders, managers, and innovators. I emphasize the term ‘ROLE’ and not ‘TITLE’. I have seen CTOs actively engaged in technical discussions and engineers creating vision and collaboration with competitors for a win-win. 

A successful innovative organization allows a bit of all three across all its staff – from technician to the C-suite. That cross over through working meetings and casual chats, in person or virtual, promote sound teamwork, transparency and integrity, and internal empathy; so much needed to be adaptive and agile.

If you like this blog post, you will like my book series “Inspiring Next Innovation ….” available on Amazon and summarized in these book launch webinars on YouTube.

For Leaders

Inspiring Next Innovation Purpose,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube                               

For Innovators

Inspiring Next Innovation Value Chain,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube  

For Managers

Inspiring Next Innovation Framework,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube     

For Leaders

Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube

To engage with the author – please register for upcoming virtual sessions.

Why everyday workbench innovations matter?

Really?

Safety and Innovations are both an outcome of mindset or a cultural issue. They both require constant situational awareness, creativity, ideation and risk reduction at operational level, and management commitment at the top levels. That mean Heinrich’s triangle for shop floor safety should also be applicable to enterprise innovation.

Corporate Innovation Triangle

Heinrich’s safety triangle model in a workplace states that for every accident that causes a major injury, there are 29 accidents that cause minor injuries and 300 accidents that cause no injuries. His theory, given in 1931, was an empirical finding based on actual data from the 1920s. Today the numbers may be different for different sectors, but the concept of the triangle or pyramid is still valid.  Frank Bird’s analysis in 1966, based on over 1.7 million accident reports from over 300 companies depicted similarly, but with 600 incidents at the base and a single death at the top.

I believe the same triangle law applies to innovation. For us to get one disruptive innovation, we need to get a few breakthroughs and trendsetters, many evolutionary innovations, and a continuous improvement in business processes, all supported by widespread workbench innovation.

In some sense, companies like 3M and Google are where they are today because of this very fundamental cultural aspect. They encourage a widespread innovation mindset. Almost everybody is encouraged to engage in novel value creation most of the time. Multiple things go into building a mindset. It all begins with questioning the well-known wisdom around the business (status quo).

Strategy, roadmap, capital, tools, and processes discussed in the first three sessions are necessary, but not sufficient, to be a consistent innovator. Having the right mindset is what brings success.

Some workplaces respond to safety issues only there is an accident. Others build it into the mindset through everyday discussions. During my corporate career, we used to have “Safety Minute” which was a one-minute discussion in every staff meeting around how an employee has improved safety in their workplace.

Some companies try to launch innovation projects when they are losing customers or falling short on deliverables. Others build it into the mindset through everyday discussions. I have successfully copied the safety concept   to “Innovation Minute” which is a one-minute discussion in every staff meeting on what someone might have read about innovation outside of the company/industry and may have relevance to their workplace.

The ‘Innovation Triangle’ needs an innovation mindset at the bottom, like safety mindset in the industry built over the years. This requires some unlearning and reprogramming at the leadership level, which ignites creativity, encourages exploration, and accepts failure while exploring.

In Summary,

Just like cost of accident prevention is lot less than cost of serious injury or death. Cost of innovating is lot less than cost of not innovating. We all talk about ROI. We rarely talk CONI “Cost of Not Investing”. How much will it cost you, if a competitor launches a product or service before you do and you are now forced to respond, rather than forcing your competitors to respond to your great ideas?

If you like this blog post, you will like my book “Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset” available on Amazon

If you wish to engage with me in a conversation on innovation mindset, please register for online session scheduled on April 01, 2021 from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM ET (-4:00 UTC) co-hosted by Nerac.