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Gamification, Brainstorming Come Together in ‘Academy of Ideas’
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Gamification, Brainstorming Come Together in ‘Academy of Ideas’

Gamification is a hot topic these days – books are being written about the trend, and The Economist predicts it to permeate our everyday lives as soon as this year.

At its core, gamification is about “motivation of the masses,” wrote Claudia Pelzer in a piece on the rapidly expanding trend, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many crowdsourcing platforms use it to drive participation.

Consider InfoArmy, which uses badges and ranks to motivate users to create research reports on companies. Wikipedia, the poster child of crowdsourcing, also uses badges to recognize particularly excellent contributions – in hopes of encouraging more such fine work. Gamification is also frequently used in citizen science initiatives, like the games on Zooniverse that tap into the crowd’s talents to help scientists analyze and categorize raw data. Leaderboards, which fire up our desire to compete, are common, too.

Gamification is now being used in the ideation process, too, and some companies are creating immersive platforms that aim to not only get users to participate, but truly want them to have fun while solving a company’s challenges.

One such site is the Academy of Ideas. Created in 2011, the Latvian platform runs as both an internal brainstorming tool, as well as a public, crowdsourced one. To access the public at large, the Academy of Ideas team built a Facebook app for users to host open crowdsourced contests.

The users, “students” in the Academy, compete to come up with the best ideas or solutions for challenges, which include anything from new product suggestions and logo designs to surveys and ideas for catchy slogans.

Once users turn in their submissions, they can vote on others’ ideas. The voting is in the form of head to head battles, where points are rewarded for both participation (one point for each vote, presumably to encourage more activity), and winning battles (two points to the user who comes up with the better of two ideas). Academy of Ideas’ CEO Andris Čeksters claims that an average challenge receives 200 ideas from around 50 users over a three-day period.

As users accumulate more points, their ideas float up the leaderboard. In addition to the points earned, contest creators can choose to award monetary prizes to the winners. Unlike some other competition-based platforms which only reward the top one or few users, Academy of Ideas recognizes up to 50 individuals for coming up with good ideas. The payout bracket dictates that the winning idea gets ten percent of the total award money, second place gets seven percent, third place five percent, and so on.

As users complete more challenges, the points they receive act as credits toward earning higher degrees and honors from the Academy. Players work their way up from a baccalaureate degree, through professorship, all the way to becoming a Nobel Prize laureate.

All of this, according to Čeksters, helps solve what he considers to be three common problems in crowdsourcing: that to drive participation, high monetary prizes must be awarded; that only the best one or few participants are recognized for their efforts; and that voting tends to favor earlier ideas.

First, because users build rank and reputation when they earn points, monetary prizes are not as important to drive participation – crowd validation helps to keep the best users coming back. Second, as all ideas can get points, and up to 50 individuals can earn money, more than just a handful of participants are rewarded for their efforts.

And, finally, since the voting happens in a head to head setting (instead of a chronological list, for example), the best ideas have the greatest chance of rising to the top, regardless of when they were submitted. To help improve quality, the team built in an automatic filtering process – an idea has to win at least a certain number of head to head battles to keep fighting ahead.

Academy of Ideas also offers some other nifty features, like individual “rooms” for teams to work in. The team licenses out its technology on a monthly basis, offering different tiers for different-sized companies, though larger companies can also buy access for an unlimited time.

Academy of Ideas has been used by the Latvian government, as well as non-profits and SMEs. Looking to the future, Čeksters says his team is working on improving its gamification mechanics, as well as better integrating the external and internal competition offerings.

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