Playoff meets up with: Rui Patrício. Gamification to the early stage of innovation.

Rui Patricio, a  Portuguese project evaluator, trainer, speaker, advisor, auditor, and also a creator of gamification tools. He received an award for one of the top 10‐innovative ideas from the " Born from Knowledge" competition launched by the Portuguese government in 2016. Prior to that, Rui held management roles at leading Portuguese and global companies (ContinueToGrow, Digital Partners, Sonae Group, Air Liquide and PKH). He took part in many consulting and training projects in Portugal, Angola, Brazil, Cap Verde, France, UK, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Sweden and Italy. 

We have had Rui Patricio, tell us about it and his projects and his vision of the gamification sector, as researcher at IADE Creative University and a lecturer and as well as the founder of  Digitalflow, a spin-off boutique-consulting firm from University of Porto in the area of Innovation ManagementWe asked him in particular, his opinion on how the use of gamification elements could support the generation of ideas for developing new product concepts or entering new market. 

Where did your passion for gamification come from?

It comes from the moment that I started to explore the gamification approach to innovation. I immediately realized the potential of  gamification in engaging teams with the innovation process and coordinating different tasks. Obviously, I understood how powerful it was in many other corporate process settings as well as in the  academia ( e.g. running classes with students and addressing company challenges). The excellent feedback received from users also motivated to further develop my approach and examine a significant number of related methods and tools.

In your opinion, how could the use of gamification elements and tools support the generation of ideas for developing new product concepts or entering new markets?

The  early stage of innovation is by nature very messy, diffuse and complex. In this type of scenario is quite hard to manage innovation teams, mostly interdisciplinary and project based. During this stage, iteration is critical to guarantee the consistency of the outcomes. However, most of the time is very difficult to have teams engaged with the process for longer periods of time. Other approaches like design workshops provide a huge enthusiasm but the interest falls apart as soon as it is required to go deeper and spend more time connecting the dots and getting consensus around the key issues.

Innovation takes hard work and designing and the validation of the innovative concepts is not a single step, but rather an iterative process (with several ups and downs) that requires high levels of engagementcoordination and focus on the challenge. Gamification approach to innovation helps innovator to improve their concepts with every iteration by encouraging collaboration with others (internal team members and external experts) and facilitating consensus.

Another advantage is the development of soft skills and innovation capabilities such as promoting debate and accepting opposing viewpoints, explaining things in a different way, collaborating in a more open manner, competing fairly, taking risks, questioning assumptions, getting everyone on the same page, gaining valuable insights and taking action in the same direction. Thanks to gamification approach teams are able to generate actionable concepts by enhancing, enriching and developing the initial ideas and addressing the challenge in a more structured manner.

Which ones are your preferred "gamified" methods and tools that can help teams get committed and engaged?

In fact, one of my  research topics is unlocking the way companies are applying gamification methods and tools throughout the innovation life cycleI have learned a lot from other studies and researchers that explored different gamification methods and tools.
On top of the learning from the research findings, I was very fortunate to conduct several projects with companies and business schools that applied different methods and tools to the innovation process and collect further insights on what approaches are more appropriate to use in innovation. Besides gamification digital tools such as web‐based applications and virtual reality/augmented reality, innovation teams can also use non‐digital tools, such as board games, card decks and lego bricks to support the innovation process.
In one the articles that I published ( Gamification Approaches to the Early Stage of Innovation) you can understand the value of these gamification methods and tools to innovation. For instance, digital applications can be applied to fully support idea generation, providing higher levels of engagement and motivation throughout time. Yet it seems more appropriate to use physical tools (e.g. board games) to support the development of chosen ideas/concepts since it can lead to more utilitarian outcomes in the form of creative thinking and cognitive/knowledge building as well as to more social outcomes in the form of team spirit and 
consensus building. In the case of prototyping, methods and tools like lego bricks can be applied to make concepts more tangible. Observations from projects conducted with companies support the key research findings and also show that using a good combination of digital and physical gamification methods and tools provides a more comprehensive and effective approach.

You have tried Playoff. Now what do you think about it?

Yes, I’ve just completed the tutorial. I found it very interesting and easy to set up. I am pretty sure that Playoff has the potential to be applied in many business and societal settings. Besides innovation, it would be very interesting to explore Playoff in areas such as marketing, employee engagement, skills development, among others. 

Do you think that for a gamification consultant like yourself, using an agnostic rules engine like Playoff, could be of help in order to be free in designing a custom engagement strategy?

Right now I am much more involved in academia and most of the projects that I have with companies are conducted with the scientific method, following the good practices of research. I am also advising companies in the area of innovation management and incorporating gamification methods and tools every time that we need to engage the teams with the process.

Finally, can you tell us about one of the gamification projects you’ve developed?

Actually, I am coordinating an innovation project that is addressing a concrete challenge from a company. By collaborating in a gameful environment, innovation teams were able to unleash their creative minds and generate valuable concepts for this real-life complex problem. Gamification physical tools are being used to create a more engaging and collaborative environment. These tools are doing a very good job by supporting the development of concepts, which were generated with traditional innovation methods and tools. No matter the advantages of using board games to support the concept development, during the project I identified the opportunity to provide digital applications to help interdisciplinary and self-organizing teams in the process of individual ideation and collecting evaluation of ideas.

It was a pleasure to have Professor Patricio as our first international guest. His words helped us to clarify the relationship between gamification and the early stage of innovation and his interest in Playoff encouraged us to explore the field of "management of the frontend of innovation activities", particularly the ones related to the process of turning ideas into products and services and supporting the underlying decision‐ making process.

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