OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Gratitude in online communities

Through connections & community already available through a social intranet, we can prototype how an intranet can be a channel for gratitude

Photo of Deborah MacKenzie
0 3

Written by

Creating a culture of gratitude and cultivating it as an active mindset means incorporating the practice of gratitude into your your everyday worklife. So why not make use of a system that is already integrated into your workspace?

Many companies employ an intranet to serve as an online community space, communications channel, and collaboration platform, which employees access every day. It's a system designed to connect people within an organization and so can serve as a powerful channel for experiencing and expressing gratitude.

Some intranets already provide recognition and shout-out capabilities. How well do these features work to actually create a culture of recognition, and how can they be made to be more effective?

How can an intranet help?

Providing drivers and reminders for expressing gratitude

Example ideas:

  • Gratitude badges on users intranet profiles
  • Pop up reminders (optional) to use intranet features to express gratitude

Making gratitude visible

Example ideas:

  • Featured staff of the month that highlights their accomplishments and encourages others to share good experiences with them
  • Visual representation of thanks and shout-outs, such as a graph connecting givers to recipients

Tools to express gratitude

  • “Shout-out” feature (enabling employees to publicly post thank you messages) that is designed to make people feel special, an engaging view of the shout-outs that's personalized to the recipient
  • Providing "non-text" based ways to express gratitude (e.g. stickers, music, pictures, etc.)

Source of information

  • Hosting materials for learning about gratitude and incorporating it into your life
  • Create and embed entertaining video series to give examples of gratitude and remind staff to express it

Personalizing gratitude

  • Have a gratitude section with preferences for receiving gratitude on employee's profile
  • "Get to know" each other via an employee profile highlighted each week

What would we like to do with it?

Recognition and gratitude mediated through software is different than through other mediums (e.g. 1-1 meetings, group meetings, in writing). We would like to understand the benefits and drawbacks of using software tools to express this recognition, and identify ways (both from a process and technology perspective) to improve it.  

We develop ThoughtFarmer, a social intranet. We would like to make use of our platform to explore how an intranet can be harnessed to inspire and facilitate expressions of gratitude.We plan to take some of the ideas in the categories above and prototype them in our platform to serve as a testing space. We would first test them internally and then share the results.

While we will be evaluating these features in the context of a specific software product, the findings and the recommendations will apply to all systems that seek to improve the ability to mediate recognition and gratitude inside organizations.

Idea Title

Gratitude in online communities

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

Using software already ingrained in the culture of the workplace (an intranet, particularly one with social features) to provide employees with tools, incentives, and information to enable expressions of gratitude. By making gratitude visible and a natural part of employees’ day, we can make expressing gratitude habitual and inspire those who see it to copy the behaviour.

Who are you innovating for?

Employees who find it difficult to express their gratitude, whether because of shyness, lack of time, forgetfulness or misconceptions about how to express gratitude.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

This idea is applicable to any organization that has (or wants to have) an intranet that is integrated into their everyday work culture. The technical implementation of features would vary with other intranet platforms; however, the guidelines and proposed functionality would remain the same.

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

We plan to prioritize a top three to start implementing right away, with and a backlog for future ideas. We will then work on creating guidelines and developing any new features on ThoughtFarmer. We can introduce these ideas through our intranet ambassadors - people who will nurture and encourage adoption of gratitude on the intranet.

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

This exploration is focused on the channel of an intranet for learning about and expressing gratitude. Once proved effective, the same content could be delivered though many alternate methods (e.g. email, in-person training, phone app). One of the common issues between traditional use of an intranet and cultivating gratitude is encouraging adoption. Initiatives for encouraging adoption of the intranet could also be used to increase adoption of gratitude, and vice versa.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

We will build this context / these features into our own intranet software, Thoughtfarmer, for prototyping.

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

Prioritization and final selection of functionality to prototype. We currently have a list of suggestions on what we can SCAMPER (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, Eliminate, or Reverse). These ideas are currently untested.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

We have recently implemented a "shout-outs" feature into our intranet and a set time of month for employees to give thanks to their co-workers. In evaluating this functionality as part of our gratitude research, we came up with many other ideas on how the intranet could be harnessed to improve gratitude in our own workplace. These ideas can be expanded on to apply to similar workspaces.

Tell us about yourself

For this project we assembled a small internal team of individuals passionate about gratitude and making the workplace better. Designers, project managers, developers, and staff worked together on research, co-design, and ideation to produce our submissions.

Where are you / your team located?

Vancouver, Canada

Company / Organization Name

OpenRoad Communications


Tell us about your experience

OpenRoad is a professional services firm dedicated to designing and building compelling websites, web applications, and intranets for our clients and their customers. Our services include user experience, interaction and service design, as well as visual design and end-to-end digital work including strategy, web development and analytics.


Join the conversation: