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CEO Challenges Part 2: Incentives, Scalability, and Overcoming Barriers

16 07 2014

grand-challengeIn my previous blog post, I discussed the effects of emerging social technologies, and what it means for leaders to execute CEO challenges — top-down initiatives that solve a high-level business problem — through managed innovation, collaboration, and employee engagement.

These types of collaborative challenges come in many forms; a necessary approach considering the multitude of variables that exist from company to company. And, as expected, each brand of challenge comes with its own unique hurdles, benefits, needs, and potential outcomes.

The Grand CEO Challenge

When working within the confines of an innovation management program, it’s important that the type of challenge be selected based on what issue an organization is trying to solve. A popular type is the CEO Grand Challenge, where the purpose is to rally the company around a significant stake in the ground or a specific barrier to overcome that will prove meaningful to the company. The CEO sets a barrier, with a race ensuing to be the first employee to overcome it. You’ve probably seen or heard of similar Challenge mechanics in popular mechanisms like the Ansari X-Prize, which stimulated the race for commercial space flight.

stevenotembaOne such challenge, and famous one, revolves around Apple’s Steve Jobs. Walking into the developer’s office space one day, he simply laid a manila envelope on top of their desk and said: “Make me a computer that fits in that.” The result? The Macbook Air. Steve later delighted in using the manila envelope example when presenting the resulting product to the press at the launch event.

The CEO Innovation Prize

The CEO Innovation Prize approach is increasingly becoming the most popular and successful challenge type. As CEOs leverage advanced gamification techniques to engage their crowd on multiple levels, they provide participants with more than just a goal — they also create a journey to get to that goal. It’s especially popular because a well-designed Innovation Prize can rally the company around the concept of innovation, and drive employees to embrace it on a cultural and emotional level.

citiideas_thimbOne well-known example of this is the award winning Citi Ideas Challenge, which we at Mindjet developed in partnership with Citi’s Innovation team. Over the course of four months, Citi’s then CEO, Vikram Pandit, launched a challenge to all 266,000 Citi employees across 94 countries around the world, asking them to re-envision the future of banking.

The Challenge effectively engaged employees, who quickly began submitting and developing leading-edge concepts for what that future could look like. They did so in teams that spanned multiple business units and geographical locations. At the end of the Challenge, four finalist teams were asked to pitch live to five of Citi’s top executives, as well as the company as a whole, in order to decide which idea would be the winner.

The result of the challenge not only identified some great concepts for incubation, but also heralded the entrance of a new, collaborative work style at Citi.

A Call to Arms

The CEO Call to Arms is a fairly normal type of challenge. It’s a call from the top to solve a significant strategic problem. These come in many shapes and sizes, but always revolve around addressing a particular business problem that is close to the CEO’s heart.

sER_clark306102x004_r620x349Andrew Clark, CEO of Bridgepoint Education, ran one such challenge to solve one of his biggest issues: maximizing customer and student retention. As a major educational institution, the challenge of not just attracting new students — but then also retaining them all the way through to graduation — is absolutely key to their survival. Leading the way, Andrew launched his CEO Challenge to all 7,600 employees, back office and academic staff alike. This resulted in 465 ideas from all parts of the organization, aimed at targeting this key problem — many of which have been implemented to great effect since.

In addition, the Challenge established new collaborative benchmarks for Bridgepoint that broke down organizational silos, setting the scene for further collaborative events at Bridgepoint.

Having reviewed 3 different CEO Challenge types, let’s look at some of the Issues to consider when running a successful CEO Challenge.

Issues to Consider: Sponsorship, Scalability, and Globality

There are many elements that differentiate even the simplest of CEO challenges from your standard, run-of-the-mill collaborative challenge. For example, there are:

– Issues of Sponsorship. As many of you experienced Innovators know, sponsorship is a key element to any innovation challenge. However, when your sponsorship comes from the very top of an organization, it brings some unique hurdles with it. As with any other messages coming from the CEO, the employee base takes messages from the very top as guidance for how they should be behaving and approaching business problems. As such, extra care needs to be taken around getting the goals, execution, and communications that go into a CEO challenge just right, because the risks associated with getting them wrong can reverberate exponentially across the organization.

– Issues of Scale. With large numbers come some unique problems to overcome, including communication challenges to rally the participant base. It’s important to ask the following:

  • Do we need to prepare line managers with enough information to answer their charges?
  • Do we need to engage in silo busting activities to ensure even participation across all parts of the business?
  • Do we include contractors? Do we need to provide people with ‘permission to participate’?

Hourly workers or call center reps, for example, will frequently need time codes or some other allowance to enable them to take part.

– Issues of Globality. The CEO Challenge is the most likely to engage colleagues across multiple countries in a single activity. With that global reach come global problems. For example:

  • Are there IP/legal issues to overcome? Some countries have draconian IP laws that require special attention. And depending on the countries you involve, there are also data privacy and export laws to be wary of.
  • Will there be any obstacles surrounding language? Do you intend to run the whole challenge in one language, or should you attempt to handle multiple languages? If you decide to use multiple, how will you handle the translation issues involved in order to enable everyone to interact?
  • The value of specific incentives can change massively between one economic entity and another. What constitutes a small gift and incentive in the US could be a massive, taxable event in Sri Lanka. And, what’s appropriate in one country could be inappropriate, or even illegal, in others!
  • Collaborative styles also differ around the world. Some are more individualistic, some are more team-oriented, and others flourish in anonymity. You need to find the perfect medium between all of these styles so that you can successfully engage the largest number of people.

Overcoming these and others become the key to a successful CEO challenge. However, the benefits from doing a well run CEO Challenge are immense, enabling you to rally your workforce and make massive cultural leaps in addition to the obvious benefits from crowdsourcing on a grand scale.

The Keys to Success

So — if you do decide to rise to the task of running a CEO Challenge, let me leave you with these 5 tips for success:

  1. Engage your CEO early. They’re already thinking about this — help them understand the implications and the benefits.
  2. Choose the right model. What are we trying to do, and what’s the best path to get there?
  3. Plan your communications carefully. Be all encompassing, be transparent, and be mindful of localities.
  4. Give permission. Make sure to clear the barriers and actively ask for participation from the masses. Exemplify the actions you’d like them to take.
  5. Celebrate hard. The CEO Challenge doesn’t end with the end of the challenge — it’s the spark that lights the cannon of employee action. Beyond a single challenge, you’ll need to ensure you follow up with transparency, and a well received celebration of the employees and actions that led to a successful result.

At the end of the day, choosing a challenge type, understanding the barriers, and following the keys to success are integral for running a successful CEO Challenge. 

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Gamification in Innovation

23 05 2012

A few months ago I wrote a post on the promise of Gamification in the Enterprise. You can read the whole piece but as a recap, here are some of the more salient points:

1) Gamification in the enterprise is not about trivializing business processes or activities, but rather about embracing a design methodology that taps into an inherent “addiction” inside all of us to the engagement mechanics and format of  “good games”

2) Games surround us everywhere, if we choose to see them as such. Just because we don’t envision the business (and other) systems around us as games; just because we don’t design them as games; doesn’t mean they’re any less of a game – it just makes them bad games that no-one wants to play.

3) The ultimate expression of engagement is the human feeling of enjoyment – where we actively derive pleasure from engaging in a specific activity. What if we could bring that level of engagement into a business process, like Innovation for example, that would have people actively choosing to give up their free time to create new value for the company?

As in the past, a company’s Innovation process has become the best testing ground for new ways to engage the broader crowd – not least of which the history of corporate innovation becoming ever more successful with the increasing size of the crowd they’re able to tap into.  Gamification is no different – and already companies like Citi, Cisco, Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt and others have embraced Gamification as a way to redesign systems to drive a new level of engagement within their crowds.

For example – at Citi, we were able to engage more than 263,000 employees around the world in 97 countries in a collaborative innovation challenge that incorporated Gamification techniques to drive a unique process that collected over 2,300 raw ideas, developed and refined 10 of those into full on business cases with accompanying video pitches, and then further refined those into 4 top quality concepts complete with prototypes that were pitched in front of Citi’s top 5 executives to be funded for development.  The amount of collaborative builds was incredible – with each of the top ideas all-receiving input from multiple business units and geographies – something previously unheard of at Citi. And the most amazing part of all? There were zero incentives used to drive that high level of engagement  beyond the gamified design of the challenge enabled by the Spigit tool.  (You can read more about the Citi Ideas Global Challenge here)

But Gamification has impact in every part of the organization and has the potential to revolutionize the way we do business as a whole.  For example – another technique we pioneered here at Spigit is the use of Gameboards – which effectively change good old fashioned process charts like this:

Into this:

The game board approach not only conveys the same information as a process chart does – but also the critical engagement elements of story line, goal orientation, levels, emotions, and more. It enables us, as social strategists, to at any one point in time look at the game board and ask ourselves “Would I play this game”? – a engagement perspective that we never consider in normal design. Why would you ever do a process chart ever again?

As always, there is much more to this concept – but I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!





Getting Inside the Game – The promise of Gamification in the Enterprise

15 03 2012

[tweetmeme]You’ve probably started hearing the terms “Gamification” or “Game Mechanics” in increasing frequency in your corporate hallways of late. This is especially so if I’ve been working with you, as Gamification theory and practice (not to be confused with the Economics based “Game Theory”) is quickly becoming a cornerstone of the next generation of highly engaging collaborative Innovation programs.

I probably get asked about Gamification (aka the application of Game Mechanics/Game Design to a particular system, process, or program) at least once a day now – Spigit has quite the reputation for incorporating Gaming Mechanics into its product design – and the Collaborative Innovation consulting practice I run at Spigit has now also pioneered the development a host of new techniques and methods to apply Game Design techniques into the successful design and execution of various types of challenges, communities and collaborative competitions with some quite astounding results.

Done properly, it’s probably one of the greatest tools in a Social Strategist’s arsenal – giving great insight into that hallowed (and much overused) word “Engagement”. Yet as a topic it’s rarely understood – and even more rarely applied – properly by most including those claiming to be in the field.

First and foremost, let’s tackle some of the misconceptions:

–       Gamification is NOT the same as Social Gaming.  Whilst popular games like Farmville, Cityville, etc incorporate gaming techniques and could in themselves be the end result of the Gamification process – Gamification itself is a much bigger subject matter.

–       Gamification IS a Social process

–       Gamification IS a design methodology – it’s about how you incorporate Game Mechanics into a system to make it more ENGAGING .

–       Gamification is NOT about specific technology features and functions. Buying Bunchball, Badgeville, or any of a host of new companies cashing in on the Gamification trend and blindly incorporating their software into your website does not make you a Gamification King.

The key to comprehending why Gamification is so important to businesses in the future – is understanding that that there is something incredibly and intrinsically addictive about a well-designed game that engages us as humans at the very core of our beings.

At some point in our lives, we’ve all been deeply engrossed in board games, video games, or what have you – looked up at the clock, seen it was 1AM and uttered the words “Crap, how did that happen?”

A good game not only engages us, but it physically and emotionally satisfies a part of us.  Left alone we will create games from whatever we have around us (“I spy with my little eye…”).. We actively WANT to, and some might even say need to, play games.

Given options, we will choose to spend time playing games above all other activities We will even PAY to play a good game – and we have whole cities designed to cater to our desire to play games!

What if we could capture the mechanics that make a good game so addictive to us, so engaging, and bring those into a business system that actively creates value for the company? THAT’s the real promise of Gamification.

Games come in many forms though – some very obvious (Monopoly, Blackjack, World of Warcraft. etc) , and others not so (political games, dating games, etc).

In fact, if you think about it – we are actually surrounded by games all around us everyday, although most of the time we don’t necessarily perceive or think of them as being games.

For example – take your morning commute – you get up and leave the house with the aim of getting to work on time.  There’s a path to follow, and there are choices along that path:

–      Do you decide to drive or to take the train?

–      If you drive, which route do you take?

–      Do you go the direct route over the hill that can be slower but has less traffic or do you go around on the main road that can be quicker but is more prone to traffic jams?

–      How fast do you drive – do you increase your speed when you hit the highway to make up for your lateness but also increase the risk of getting a ticket that would make you even later? (and poorer financially..)

–      And so on…

You make decisions and take actions to beat your fellow competitors (other commuters) to get to your ultimate goal – getting to work on time. It is, in essence, a game.

Of course, we don’t associate it as a game because it’s not structured and presented to us as a game – but essentially it has the same structure: A goal, a story, a reason to act, and multiple actions and decisions to get to that goal which ultimately delivers you a reward – in the example above, not getting told off by your boss for being late to work.

Almost everything else you do during your day could also be reframed as a game:

–      Lunchtime: When do you leave your desk to avoid the lunchtime rush/get the best grub?

–      Airport Security: Which queue do you join to get through as fast as possible and not miss your plane

–      Travel – Whom do you fly with? Do you go with the most direct flight, or do you go with the one you fly the most in case you can pull off an elusive upgrade?

–      Sales Reporting: What percentage certainty do you report that elusive deal you’ve been working on in your CRM system? Do you raise your boss’s expectation and hope not to disappoint? Or do you low-ball it and aim to surprise?

–      At Work: Which order do you attack your workload to be the most efficient with the least amount of pain (and most acclaim from your peers and bosses!)

–      At Home: How do you get your child to eat the brussel sprouts that they hate?  Cue the airplane game!

Consider that all of these activities you choose to engage in during your day have the same elements as a good game:

–       They have a clear start and end to it

–       There’s a pay-off for “playing” it well and achieving a “win”

–       There’s a clear storyline/reason to play that’s clearly communicated

–       A good activity isn’t repetitive

–       A good activity doesn’t throw complexity at you all at once, but rather in stages with mini-pay-offs to keep you interested and wanting to “throw the dice” until you finish.

And so on.

We play these games, and we “game” these games (incidentally – people “game” every game out there – given the option of two routes with an equal reward, we will always pick the shortest/easiest route to the prize – maximizing the prize wherever possible), and ultimately we win/lose the games we play.

The problem (or opportunity) with most business systems though, is that, as we don’t envision them as games, we don’t design them as games. That doesn’t make them any less of a game; it just makes them “crappy” games that no one wants to play!  

They’re “crappy” for the participants because they’re tedious and unrewarding to play/participate. They’re “crappy” for the business because participation is low or non-existent, compliance to the task at hand is minimal, and because ultimately the system is being gamed for the participants’ benefit and not the company’s benefit.

Instead by building and designing business systems with the mindset that we’re really creating a game, with a specific outcome, and incorporating the same rules and mechanics that naturally engage us in games – we actually end up building a system that is a win-win for all.

The net effect? Imagine creating systems that are so addictive that people will gladly spend their own free time to participate in something that is adding value to the company – and enjoying the challenges involved in doing so.

That they will even give up their own time on the weekends to submit ideas into your innovation system.

Sound impossible? It’s not – we’ve been able to achieve this effect at companies like Citi, Cisco and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as we applied these new design techniques to the practice of Collaborative Innovation at each of them. More on this to come…








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