Ep 015 with Dr. Marigo Raftopoulos, inspiring gamification by life itself

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Dr. Marigo Raftopoulos is a strategic business adviser specializing in innovation using games, gamification and experience design. She is the founder and CEO of Strategic Innovation Lab and is also an adviser to several technology incubators and technology start-ups. She is also an advisor on the European Commission’s Advanced Digital Gaming and Gamification Program.

Marigo works with a wide range of global clients on accelerating innovation using the tools of engagement that are fundamental to game-design and gamification. Her focus over the last few years has been on transformation projects applying gamification in the fintech, banking and insurance industries. Marigo holds a Ph.D. in enterprise gamification and has widely published her research on gamification frameworks and methodologies. Her research identified design, taxonomic and capability elements of gamification that have contributed to exemplary project developments. These findings have enhanced critical understanding of the effective design and best-practice implementations of enterprise gamification.

Every day is so different with Marigo! She travels a lot in her work, but otherwise, she’s normally meeting and engaging with people, she also runs a lot of workshops. Other times she is in deep analysis, as a Ph.D. she does a lot of research into gamification. She recently had a chat with a game design firm, that told her they don’t quite understand why does gamification pull from games since they as game designers actually pull from everyday life… Interesting thought for sure!

Her worst experience with gamification was an innovation project for a company. The client was pretty fixed into using a car racing game to improve innovation. She felt it was not necessarily the best way to approach it, but left the client drive some of the agenda. This certainly reduced the possibilities of design, but everybody loved the game at the beginning. The problem was… nobody understood how it led into gamification. It is important to really understand what is the problem to be solved, opposed to finding a problem for a solution you have in mind. For Marigo it is fundamental to manage the internal expectations of the organization referred to what the solution could be.

Her biggest challenge approached using gamification is actually ongoing and it involves a cryptocurrency. Since there is a lot of misunderstanding around the term and this is really new, understanding the user is really difficult and has been a fantastic challenge!

The process that Marigo follows, developed throughout her Ph.D., is called the Gamification Design Sprint. It is similar to design sprints of companies like Google but adapted for gamification. Instead of running a single workshop and the participants are off to use them, she rather takes several sessions along perhaps two weeks. The idea is that sessions end with “homework” that builds into the next session. It involves systems thinking as a central way of approaching projects. Building visual representations is what she finds that gets an additional level of engagement when creating a project, as its something humans started doing even before talking. It helps to look at things that were not considered.

The best practice currently in gamification, for Marigo, is systems thinking. Her favorite game is certainly World of Warcraft, it has thought of everything: the virtual economy, the visuals, the engagement, the leveling system, etc.

Marigo would certainly like to listen to someone from the systems thinking rather than gamification or game design, as she finds this is an area of development currently growing strongly. Also because a game is a closed loop! She would go for Peter Senge. A book that she would recommend is “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge himself. It is centered around the systems about how people learn, certainly recommended for the Engagers! She would also recommend reading “Digital Game-Based Learning” by Mark Prensky.

Marigo feels her main superpower is exploring, she delves quite deeply, asks why and uses her intuition to understand the problems better. Her final advice is to embrace humanity, truly engaging with people will provide the impetus to actually solve the problems that arise. so start with humans first!

We can find Marigo through her email: marigo [at] strategicinnovationlab [dot] com! She’s on different time zones so it might be the best way to reach her!

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