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Building a habit of gratitude with mobile technology

A habit building app that helps employees cultivate and express empathy and gratitude in the workplace.

Photo of Lindsay Sanders
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Receiving and expressing gratitude has numerous proven benefits - from improving self-esteem to building trust to increasing productivity. But in today’s fast-paced and competitive business environment, it can be challenging to know when or how to do this. Some might feel that an attitude of gratitude doesn’t align with the existing corporate culture. Others may not know how to fit intentional acts of gratitude into their already chaotic schedules.

This is why I want to develop "Little Gives", a mobile app aimed to help employees build a habit of gratitude in the workplace. This app would inspire regular acts of gratitude by simply eliminating common barriers, such as time constraints or not knowing how to best support your colleagues. This platform would allow you to build a flexible gratitude habit schedule, receive push notification reminders, track your progress, and celebrate wins through gamification techniques.

Here’s how the app would function: 

Like most habit building apps, users (in this case, employees), would start by creating a basic profile, where they indicate their role in the organization, level of seniority, location, and other basic information. After you complete your profile, here's what happens:

  1. Build a gratitude schedule: Indicate how many acts of gratitude you can complete per week (acts could be organized in 5 min, 30 min, or 1 hour, increments). Flexible scheduling lets you plan habits by morning, afternoon, or evening and creates a low-stress routine that is easy to commit to.

  2. Select your preferred acts of gratitude: There will be a list of 30+ suggested acts of gratitude that you can choose from, such as buying a colleague lunch or saying thank you to someone who doesn’t get much appreciation, or coordinating a team happy hour. The acts of kindness could be tailored to the individual's seniority at the company. For example, managers might have different prompts than interns to increase relevance.

  3. Easily connect with your colleagues: You will have easy access to a list of all other employees in the organization, and their bios. You can either pre-select individuals you want to give special attention to or choose “random” mode to connect with new people across the company.

  4. Get reminded: Push notifications are available to remind individuals to stay on track. You can also sync your calendar to the app to have it remind you to follow up with an act a gratitude after meetings.

  5. Track your wins: To keep employees motivated, they can build inspiring streaks within the app when they follow through with acts of gratitude.

  6. Celebrate: Every month, the app will algorithmically determine who invested the most hours of gratitude and who invested the most acts of gratitude. An award will be give to each of these two individuals.

  7. Journal: Ability to write down one thing you are grateful for each day, with the option to share with other registered employees on a social board within the app.

Idea Title

Little Gives

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

This idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude by leveraging existing technology to help employees build a habit of empathy. Most people want to experience and express gratitude, but they either don’t know how to or don’t have enough time to. This app empowers employees to create a culture of gratitude through daily, weekly, or monthly acts of kindness. The technology itself reduces the time and effort it takes to perform an act of kindness as it automates scheduling, reminders, and suggestions for whom and how to give.

Who are you innovating for?

I am innovating for the individual. The Little Gives app empowers employees to: - Build stronger relationships and trust with their colleagues - Strengthen their empathy muscle - Embrace curiosity and connect with new individuals in the organization - Improve self-esteem and confidence through gamification and rewards system - Increase productivity

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

This app would be useful to any organization that is growing their HR program and wants to improve their company culture. The technology is easily scalable, which makes it suitable for large, multinational corporations. The technology itself would have low fixed costs; this would allow us to sell the product at a reasonable rate and make it viable for organizations with budgetary restrictions.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

Step 1: HR leaders at organizations purchase the app through the Little Gives website. After they purchase the app, additional training, education materials, and off-site tech support will be provided to ensure a smooth implementation. Step 2: HR leaders then work with managers to train and implement the technology within their respective teams. Step 3: HR leaders can generate monthly reports through the app to measure impact. Impact metrics would include: most popular acts of gratitude, demographic trends, usage trends, etc. Step 4: Little Gives team and participating companies meet on a quarterly basis (or earlier if needed) to check in on progress and address any issues.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

Some users might think that the technology component creates inauthenticity, and, as a result, could hinder uptake. I would overcome this issue by communicating clearly that the mobile app is just a platform to connect people in the real world, and that the “suggested acts of gratitude” are all geared towards helping individuals connect in person. Another obstacle is that users must be tech savvy to use the app. We can overcome this by developing a simple app interface and by training users.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

Stage 1, Strategy: Conduct user interviews to understand unique needs. Conduct a design session with HR professionals to understand the company (buyer) perspective. Stage 2, Prototype: Develop and visualize wireframes for how the user will interact with the product. Work with an app developer to build a basic prototype. Stage 3, Feedback and Analysis: Test for 2-3 weeks with HR leaders and managers who interacted with the digital prototype. Stage 4, Design: Build the visual UX design

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

1. Conduct user interviews and run a design session with HR professionals to understand the company (buyer) perspective. 2. Get feedback on app features from the Greater Good Science Center. Collaborate with Greater Good Science Center to build a visual framework for app. 3. Hire an app developer to build a basic prototype that could be tested quickly.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

In 2015, I met "Little Bit", a homeless ex-felon who couldn't find a job and had to panhandle to feed her children. I wanted to help her in a meaningful way, but didn’t know how, so I share her story on Facebook, and quickly collected names of dozens of organizations that help ex-felons find jobs. All it took was a few minutes of my time and a platform to help her in a meaningful way. Ever since then, I’ve been brainstorming how to leverage tech to bridge the empathy gap through "Little Gives".

Tell us about yourself

My name is Lindsay Sanders, and I am a full-time MBA student at Babson College, focused on Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I studied documentary film production in undergrad, and since have built a career designing communications strategies for companies in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. I am an entrepreneur at heart and an advocate for social change fueled through tech.

Where are you / your team located?

Boston, MA

Company / Organization Name


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jake Porway

Very smart idea. I think most people want to give gratitude at work but don't have the right nudges or structures to speak up and do it. I think the more that you can gamify this, the better it could be. Good luck!

Photo of Lindsay Sanders

Thank you for your feedback!

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