The Institute for the Future's Foresight Engine (formerly known as Signtific Lab) is a platform to help large organizations or groups generate ideas by thinking about a variety of possible future scenarios. Participants communicate their thoughts in short, 140 character messages. These messages can be new ideas, thoughts on someone else's ideas, questions, etc. Players are rewarded for creating value with points and badges, the classic tropes of game mechanics. It's not terribly different from many enterprise innovation management platforms.
IFTF Research Manager Rachel Hatch says she can't disclose the names of corporate clients that have used the Foresight Engine for internal use. But Hatch shares some lessons learned from running these corproate forecasting games on her blog. These lessons can be applied to other applications of game mechanics in the workplace.
- Game mechanics can encourage employees to dip their toes into new activities
- Anonymity lets employees feel free to think outside their usual hierarchical boundaries. Hatch notes this is especially important for when a game needed to cross cultures.
- Lightweight interfaces and small time commitments yield the best results.
- The foresight games help employees realize that they are not alone in thinking about certain issues. This is a useful insight to remember when considering innovation management software.
We've expressed a certain amount of skepticism in the past about game mechanics in the enterprise. Not because we think it's a bad idea in general, but because we don't want to see it poorly implemented. Gaming for work is relatively new, and we hope to see best practices come to light soon.
One particularly interesting application of game mechanics to workplace issues can be found in Rypple, which we've covered here. It's worth considering Hatch's advice when considering a system such as this.
More information on the Foresight Engine can be found on the Myelin Repair Foundation website, which used the engine as part of an externally-facing ideation initiative.
As an example of how it could be used internally, Hatch told us about a global company that wanted to understand the implications of a world with looser intellectual property law. The company invited to its research and development staff to participate in the game. Over 7,000 "micro-predictions" were made. IFTF took these results and worked with the company to design plans for R&D in an environment with less strict IP laws.