Design Thinking Gamification for Accelerating Innovation

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The Game has Changed

Are REAL Players Thinking Differently?

While visiting several Smithsonian museums in Washington DC, I was awestruck by this Nation of Innovation.  Extraordinary innovations from seemingly ordinary people.  These great innovators (creators of print, electricity, human flight, …) are actually very similar to people we see everyday.  So, what makes a great innovator?  Were these innovative players design thinkers?  Did they accomplish these great achievements by leveraging science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), core technological underpinnings of an advanced society, and apply Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Design Thinking

Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking is a creative process based around the “building up” of ideas. There are no judgments early on in design thinking. This eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation in the ideation and prototype phases. Outside the box thinking is encouraged in these earlier processes since this can often lead to creative solutions.  An example of a design thinking process could have seven stages: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement, and learn. Within these seven steps, problems can be framed, the right questions can be asked, more ideas can be created, and the best answers can be chosen. The steps aren’t linear; they can occur simultaneously and can be repeated.

Teaching design thinking through gamification

Design Ethnography is  a discipline which teaches you how to observe what people do in order to identify hidden needs for which you can design new solutions. It’s one of a group of skills that have never been part of the early educational curriculum before. Recent experiments in imparting these skills using “game dynamics” show that it’s astonishingly easy to quickly turn places where learning motivation is often almost unattainable into a hive of surprisingly self-motivated promising design-thinking innovators.

Mickey McManus is president, CEO, and principal of MAYA Design, Inc.  He shares examples of STEM SEL Design Thinking in the video.

5 Discovery Skills of Great Innovators

So what makes innovators different from the rest of us?  Innovators engage the following behavioral skills more frequently:

  1. Connecting. Innovators connect fields, problems, or ideas that others find unrelated
  2. Questioning. Innovators are consummate questioners who show a passion for inquiry.
  3. Observing. Innovators are also intense observers.
  4. Networking. Innovators spend a lot of time and energy finding and testing ideas through a diverse network of individuals who vary wildly in their backgrounds and perspectives.
  5. Experimenting. Finally, innovators are constantly trying out new experiences and piloting new ideas.

8 Pillars of Innovation

Google’s Susan Wojcicki says the key to innovation is, “Nurturing a culture that allows for innovation”.  She went on to share these foundational 8 Pillars of Innovation.

  1. Have a Mission that­ Matters
  2. Think Big but Start Small
  3. Strive for Continual Innovation, not Instant Perfection
  4. Look for Ideas Everywhere
  5. Share Everything
  6. Spark with Imagination, Fuel with Data
  7. Be a Platform
  8. Never Fail to Fail

What if Problem Solving was Fun?

The Gamification of World Peace

Most people think their problems are a world crisis.  What if solving real problems was fun?  John Hunter shares his experience of the world peace game in this enlightening video.

Tools and Resources

Social Innovation Toolkit

The Innovator’s Toolkit provides system-level change strategies, tips and tools culled from the experience of innovators driving change in communities across the country.  The Innovator’s Toolkit is also based on a framework for advancing innovation.

Mozilla Open Badges Project

Today’s learning happens everywhere, not just in the classroom. But it’s often difficult to get credit for it.  Mozilla and Peer 2 Peer University are working to solve this problem by developing an Open Badges infrastructure.  Learn more here.