Do Gamified Communication Systems Increase Employee Innovation?

In today’s hyper-connected world where consumers have more purchase options than ever before, businesses face a wide array of new challenges. One major challenge is a noticeable change in consumers’ online buying behavior. Sujata et al. (2016) maintain that as online shoppers are bombarded by more and more websites and selection, they are demonstrating more indecisive purchase behaviors.[i] Another challenge is competition at extreme levels; with so many competitors in the online marketplace, keeping a customer’s attention is now more difficult than ever before. In fact, according to a number of experts the single most important determinant of success in today’s business environment is the ability to attract consumers’ attention.[ii]

Given the realities of today’s business environment the question that comes to mind for me is: how does one organization differentiate itself from the rest? To keep consumers’ attention, you have to be doing something special on an on-going basis that other competitors are not. I believe that only the most creative and innovative organizations will be able to do this and prosper in the digital business world.[iii] Innovation is no longer a “nice to have” activity owned solely by the R&D division. Rather, it has become one of the primary strategies for most organizations and leaders need to know more ways to foster innovation. As a PhD student in your program I’d like to develop knowledge to meet this demand. I believe I can do this by looking at organizational innovation through an information systems lens. I’d like to investigate how the design of workplace (employee) communication systems may affect the generation of new innovations, and the current IS literature does support the idea that this may be possible.

Althuizen & Reichel (2016) acknowledge that organizations must focus on creativity and innovation in order to successfully compete in tomorrow’s economy,[iv] and at the same time, Cui et al. (2015) claim ICT may be used to enhance a firms’ knowledge sharing and collaboration capacities,[v] practices which are thought to spur creativity. Assuming that creativity is in large part a socially-driven process, such as are sharing and collaboration, I’m taking the ideas presented in these two articles and hypothesising that if organizational communication systems are more collaborative, then more creative ideas will be generated. As for how to develop a more collaborative system, there could be multiple ways to do it but I’m specifically interested in the concept of gamification.

Evidence in the IS literature suggests that gamification may be a feasible pathway to achieving higher levels of organizational innovation. Authors such as Bajko et al. (2016) report that gamification in the classroom environment increased the performance levels of undergraduate students,[vi] and Kuo & Chuang (2016) claim that gamification is effective at motivating and engaging people.[vii] Motivation and engagement are critical human elements leading to the generation of new ideas which precede innovations, as suggested by Gichohi (2014).[viii]

Lyons et al. (2015) suggested that the gamification of a group’s communication system could lead to more discussion and idea generation among group members,[ix] which I believe are possible antecedents to the formation of creative ideas.  Support for researching my question is also provided by Blohm et al. (2013) who point out that gamification facilitates social interaction, positive emotions, and stimulates new types of behaviors among participants,[x] factors which may positively affect creative idea generation in organizations.

My overarching goal is to test the effectiveness of a gamified communication system on organizational innovation. An example of one hypothesis I could test in such a study would be:

Gamifying a team’s communication system increases idea generation

Other questions I may be able to answer with this research are:

·         Which gamification elements lead to greater idea-generation?

·         In which business contexts is gamification most useful?

·         Is gamification an effective HR strategy for motivating, engaging and retaining millennial employees?


[i] Sujata, Joshi; Arjun, Padman; Kadambari, Bishnoi; Rucha, Upadhye; Menachem, Domb. (2016) Online brand communities and their impact on brand equity of indian telecommunication industry. International Conference on Qualitative and Quantitative Economics Research (QQE). Proceedings: 16-24. Singapore: Global Science and Technology Forum.

[ii] Davenport, T. & Beck, J. (2001) The attention economy: understanding the new currency of business. Harvard Business School Press. Boston. Pp. 272.

[iii] Friedman, Thomas. (2014). The globalization of higher education (Conference). URL:

[iv] Althuizen, N. & Reichel, A. (2016) The effects of IT-enabled cognitive stimulation tools on creative problem solving: a dual pathway to creativity. Journal of Management Information Systems. Vol. 33, No. 1. Pp. 11–44.

[v] Cui, T., Hua, J., Hock, T., Jizhen, L. (2015) Information technology and open innovation: A strategic alignment perspective. Information & Management 52, 348–358 A

[vi] Bajko, R., Hodson, J., Seaborn, K., Livingstone, P., Fels, D. (2016). Edugamifying media studies: student engagement, enjoyment, and interest in two multimedia and social media undergraduate classrooms. Information Systems Education Journal. 14 (6)

[vii] Kuo, Ming-Shiou and Chuang, Tsung-Yen. (2016) How gamification motivates visits and engagement for online academic dissemination – An empirical study. Computers in Human Behavior. Vol. 55 (IssuePart A) Page p.16To-27

[viii] Gichohi, P. (2014) The role of employee engagement in revitalizing creativity and innovation at the workplace: a survey of selected libraries in Meru County – Kenya. Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal). Paper 1171.

[ix] Lyons, K. et. al. (2015) Gamification of collaborative idea generation and convergence. CHI 2014.

[x] Blohm, Ivo and Leimeister, Jan Marco (2013) Gamification - design of IT-based enhancing services for motivational support and behavioral change. Business & Information Systems Engineering: Vol. 5: Iss. 4, 275-278.