Rui Patricio is a lecturer and researcher at IADE Creative University as well as the founder of Digitalflow, a spin-off boutique-consulting firm from University of Porto in the area of Innovation Management. He is an innovation advisor, auditor, project evaluator, trainer, speaker and also a creator of gamification tools (e.g. ideaChef®), having received an award for one of the top 10‐innovative ideas from the ‘Born from Knowledge’ competition launched by the Portuguese government in 2016.
Rui is the GamFed Ambassador (Portugal)
Rakshith: Thank you for agreeing to participate, Rui. To begin, what would you say is unique about your work in gamification?
Rui: From our perspective, I think my work is unique in that, I am gamification to innovation, and more specifically to the early stages of innovation. Besides doing conceptual research – which I have published in several relevant and high impact journals; in fact my latest article on creativity innovation management was selected by the editors for the best paper award – I am also doing empirical research with companies that are implementing a gamified approach to innovation based on a tool I developed called IdeaChef.
Rakshith: Congratulations on your paper. Can you elaborate a little bit on it?
Rui: Yes. It is a conceptual paper. It explains not just how to use different game approaches and gamification tools along the process, but it discusses different kind of tools. You know, you have heard of card sets, Lego Serious Play, IdeaChef, and other such tools, right? So, we did a comparative study about the use of different tools on the early stage innovation process. We then mapped this to a method that is like a matrix which has been in use for a long time. And that allowed us to clearly see and explain how gamification works.
Rakshith: What is IdeaChef? Can you share how it was developed and how it is implemented?
Rui: IdeaChef is a method and a tool. It is based on creative problem solving, design thinking, and gamification. Those are the three pillars that constitute the IdeaChef approach to innovation.
It enables teams to develop, test, and even validate ideas. I want to clarify it is not an idea generation tool but something that people can use to further develop, test, and validate ideas that already exist in some form. But what our clients find, and what is interesting is that it provides an engaging, safe to fail environment than a typical brainstorming workshop would.
It was basically created to close the thinking and doing gap in idea development. From the findings of our empirical study, it clearly provides very interesting insights and views from participants. It enables people and facilitates management of what is otherwise the most fuzzy and difficult stage of innovation. It helps you overcome the lack of structure, contextualisation, and a lot of other issues that are particular to early stage innovation. And gamification can be a powerful tool in enabling that.
Rakshith: How do you incorporate gamification into your approach and how does that add value?
Rui: That is an interesting question. In fact the research I am doing currently is how gamification can complement and support design thinking practices. And so, this is like one of the focus areas I have for the next year. I am still working in this area. In fact some of my fellow researchers and peers who are also working with me in this area are also experts in design thinking. So we are working together in order to understand how gamification can enhance design thinking practices because there are a lot of issues that we have identified. But we are hopeful that there is a very good fit between design thinking practices, managing the messy nature of early stage innovation, and gamification.
Rakshith: But did you choose early stage innovation because that is where you feel design thinking and gamification can be best applied in the innovation process? I mean, why not choose any other stage of innovation?
Rui: No, it was basically because we tried to extend the research field into other areas; to add value to other researchers that have investigated and examined the early stage of innovation. So our research was grounded on other research for sure.
But, we realised from our practical experience with innovation and ideation workshops and through our work with companies that the early stage of innovation is the fuzziest and messiest of all stages. It is a very confusing and uncertain process and people typically have difficulties with it. Sometimes, there is no process at all, you know. And so this environment provides a very interesting opportunity to apply gamification because gamification has the power to overcome some of these issues. The game approach enables people to work in a more coordinated way and obviously in a more engaged way.
Rakshith: As someone who is involved in both academia and business, how do you see one influencing the other?
Rui: This is a very tricky question. I will say that it is very important to create a positive feedback loop between practitioners and researchers. However, I don’t suppose that all practitioners should be involved in research nor vice verca. Doing research is a very time consuming activity that does not deliver immediate revenue. So my suggestion is that practitioners should follow the work of researchers and update themselves with the latest findings. Also, they can contribute by publishing findings from their empirical research working with companies.
Rakshith: What were the top projects and learning for you in the last 12 months?
Rui: Like we discussed, primarily it has been the application of gamification into early stage innovation. The paper on creativity innovation management that was awarded is a result of that work. I will expect to have more papers published this year and those are with more empirical data. It means that I will publish more papers based on the projects that I have been doing with companies like implementing IdeaChef and other gamification tools. Those will probably be published in the second term of the year.
Rakshith: Would it be safe to assume then that those will be your focus areas in the next 12 months?
Rui: Well, I have some news in this regard. I am continuing to research in the area of gamification for design and innovation. But I will also be exploring the implementation of other game approaches in other stages of the innovation process, not just early stage.
At the same time, I’m planning to launch a research centre at my university in Lisbon in collaboration with Design School of Polytechnic, Milan. This will be a very, very interesting for myself and the community because we will be able to bridge the gap between academia and businesses in relation to design and innovation practices. So bringing all capabilities from our partners in Milan and joining forces with people in Lisbon – a lot of digital skills and digital marketing expertise – I think we can provide a really good offer in terms of research and practical projects for students. That should benefit the gamification, design, and innovation community because we have quality faculty and an international pool of students.
Rakshith: Lastly, how might a forum like GamFed contribute to the growth of gamification?
Rui: Besides doing a lot of knowledge sharing and collaborating with other people, I would like to explore the possibility how the platform can make gamification approaches more credible to companies. That is very important because sometimes the right approach is not used and at other times communication is not clear. And gamification loses credibility because of a lack of clarity among practitioners. For example, the emphasis is sometimes too much on fun and not so much on results. And we need to make companies understand that they can get very good business results from gamification.
Rakshith: Does that mean there must be a common framework or a common set of terminologies by which gamification must be communicated to companies?
Rui: I think no matter the type of framework that people use, the communication should be more professional. It should be more focused on the business results i.e. the outcomes and not so much the fun element. Fun is an inevitable by-product. It is not the result. The results are much more important for companies.
Rakshith: Thank you so much, Rui. This has been wonderful. Any final thoughts you would like to share with the GamFed community?
Rui: Well, I have a suggestion for an initiative we might take. Nowadays, it is easy or at least not very difficult to create online events. So my proposal is that joining forces with the other members, we may create a special online event that we can promote as a community and deliver to potential people of interest worldwide. It will be a great way to share different perspectives.