Game Changers: How Citizen Science and Gamification are Transforming the Business World (Part 2)

Ever heard of Citizen Science? Before reading, check out Part 1 of this article!

How Citizen Science and Gamification Can Unlock Human Potential

Fundamentally, citizen science addresses two core concerns that many companies face when approaching innovation. Managers want to gain ideas from engaged, forward-thinking staff who are not boxed into a restrictive corporate mindset. They also want to glean potentially groundbreaking ideas from external thinkers, but don’t want to open their innovation workshops to unreliable or mavericks whose ideas could prove disastrous. A well-regulated citizen science initiative can help to both engage internal and external staff, as well as refine external ideation efficiently.

An example of citizen science unlocking human potential is epitomized by the Earthwatch Institute. This organization engages external researchers by ‘demystifying’ the scientific process, making it accessible (thus eliminating the chance of receiving unreliable feedback), and then incentivizing citizen scientists worldwide to tackle the environmental challenges most relevant to them. In 2015, citizen scientists associated with Earthwatch gathered crucial data that assisted the Canadian parks department in applying more effective forest fire treatments – thus protecting native grasslands and wildlife populations. By making scientific methods less obscure and distant (siloed off) from the general population, Earthwatch thus secured the data that drove significant change.

Citizen science is also proving effective for innovation in the medical sector. Zooniverse – the world’s largest people-powered research hub – presents a prime example of this. Currently, the company has more than 1.5 million registered citizen scientists from around the world. Thanks to these contributors, researchers from various organizations have made important new discoveries and published numerous research papers.

Zooniverse’ Worm Watch Lab project, launched in 2013, demonstrates how citizen science can rapidly yield major results that would take excessive amounts of time within a traditional (or purely internal) research paradigm. Essentially, the project entails citizen scientists observing online videos of worms in a laboratory and hitting a key on the computer whenever they observe a worm laying an egg. The research gleaned from this provides greater insight into the workings of the human brain, as well as how genes effect behavior.

The Zooniverse Worm Watch Lab project engages citizen scientists by adding a gamification component. Gamification can prove to be a powerful strategy for garnering greater participation in innovation and research projects.


A major reason for the success behind the Worms Watch project is that it adds a gamification component to citizen science. As the name suggests, gamification is the process of adding game-play elements to non-game scenarios. In the case of Worms Watch, the citizen scientist is engaged with a particular challenge (to click the right key whenever a worm lays an egg), an approach that Zooniverse staff identified as being “strangely addictive”.

So how can corporations, government departments, and research organizations use gamification to unlock human potential – that is, without expending excessive time and resources? The most efficient way is to implement open innovation management software that offers built-in gamification capabilities. For example, Qmarkets’ products include flexible gamification functionality, which incentivizes participants to contribute their ideas in exchange for rewards. These rewards can range from online points to tangible prizes for the best ideas submitted.

Addressing Fundamental Needs – The Power of Open Innovation

Today, leading global companies use open innovation methods to gather input from different groups of people. Open innovation can be used to crowd-source trending ideas, as well as keep up to date with incremental product innovations. Often, companies with an open innovation focus do not leverage gamification the way open science organizations do – that is, in a participatory democracy style, with direct, committed, meaningful input from volunteers motivated by gameplay elements.

Breaking down restrictions and opening research to non-professionals can prove invaluable for driving crucial data.

A good example of this is Nestle’s Henri project, which is driven by Qmarkets’ cutting-edge innovation management software. The project gives the public a chance to join various projects, without offering any monetary incentives and with subtle (yet effective) gamification elements.

Part of what makes the Henri project so effective is that it taps into the human need for recognition and prestige via creative pursuits (top-tier factors in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). Well-designed gamification can speak to such needs and substantially increase people’s motivation to join in large-scale projects, however large organizations are not currently employing gamification as effectively as the citizen science community.

How can Corporates Harness the Power of Citizen Science?

Although citizen science can present a host of challenges, it also offers the chance to reap major ROI by involving your staff and/or clients in meaningful, value-adding activities. Companies must also take into account confidentiality, security, and integration requirements when implementing citizen science to their open innovation strategy.

Implementing the citizen science methodology to your open innovation strategy is an excellent way to tap into the wisdom of the crowds. By spearheading projects that will allow regular people to get in touch with their inner-scientist and contribute data about the things that most matter to them, you can drive results and discover new ways to overcome strategic challenges. All you need are the resources, a clear focus, an innovation management platform to serve as your mission control, and gamified elements to incentivize contribution. With those elements in place, your citizen science project will be ready for blast off.

To learn how Qmarkets can help your organization harness the power of open innovation, click here for a free demonstration.

About Qmarkets

As an established leader on the idea and innovation management landscape, Qmarkets has developed a reputation over the last 10 years for delivering the most comprehensive crowdsourcing software solutions in the world. Recognized by leading analysts such as Gartner, Forrester, and Info-tech, Qmarkets offers unmatched technical and design flexibility to their extensive list of leading global clients; including Nestle, Ford, Lufthansa, Ab InBev, Phillip Morris International, UniCredit, and many more.

Qmarkets’ software offering extends beyond innovation management to include products focusing on process improvement, continuous improvement and operational excellence; open innovation with customers and business partners; technology scouting for enterprise M&A opportunities; and digital employee engagement.


This article was written by Eran Tsur, VP Marketing at QMarkets.

We’ve partnered with Qmarkets to provide clients with a well-organized process that will allow for improved change management, targeted leadership, real-time employee engagement, and collective goal-sharing. Leveraging their suite of collective intelligence solutions, clients of our Project WOW program will be able to virtually tackle a variety of business challenges, including innovation management, process improvement, new product development, talent identification and incubation, and hackathons.