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Thresholds of Gratitude

An App that enables every company to take full control over how gratitude operates within their organisation

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A gift is the act of giving freely by someone, who through their intentional effort accepts a loss, responsibility or forbearance so that another can obtain a benefit, profit or right. In this regard then, gratitude, as a response, is the act of appreciating such gifts. 

If we accept this definition then we instantly face 2 obstacles in our attempt to promote acts of gratitude in the workplace.  Resolving such complexities is fundamental to any design solution.

  • Company Complex – one of the most reoccurring detraction to gratitude is that an employee is simply doing their duty, to which they are paid and therefore gratitude is an unnecessary dimension in the workplace. Unfortunately a large number of organisations hold such beliefs. So unless this can be addressed in our solution, any approach to promote gratitude will either be resisted or, if enforced, will be inauthentic and insincere. The first obstacle then is to somehow enable organisations to see an act as a gift compared to those efforts which the organisation considers part of an employee’s duty. This of course is subjective according to each organisation’s culture.  An employee offering to stay behind after work to help move stock at a shop may be seen as a gift whilst for a law firm it may be expected of employees to work 20 hours a week over their contracted hours as part of the corporate culture. The design challenge then is how to enable organisations to define their own thresholds that allow itself to recognize specific types of acts as gifts. 
  • Employee Complex - People have different ways in which they wish to receive gratitude with some wanting a quiet moment alone while others want public recognition.  The same can be said about those who give gratitude with some wishing to express themselves with words and others through actions.  For gratitude to be promoted in the workplace, any design solution must be sensitive to the various ways in which people give and take gratitude.


We wish to design an App that enables every company to take full control over how gratitude operates within their organisation.

The app has 3 important settings that we believe will help overcome obstacles to gratitude:    

1. Thresholds of Gratitude - Every organisation would first set the thresholds of what it constitutes as a gift according to its organisational culture.  There are many popular options listed in the setup page e.g. some organisational cultures choose to define the giving up of any personal resource for the benefit of the other as a gift e.g. time, money, skill and support etc.  Other cultures might set the threshold whereby any effort made beyond ones contractual duty is a gift. Another may focus on any task that is irregular or one-off that takes an employee away from their normal duties as a gift. Another organisation may go further and state that it will only recognize efforts as a gift if they reflect and promote those core competencies that are in line with the company’s overall strategy e.g. efforts that help promote cost cutting or greater customer services etc.  The organisation firstly establishes the threshold of gift-giving by setting conditions and limits on all app users to know what constitutes as a gift. Our approach then is not an attempt to change deep rooted beliefs regarding gratitude.  Rather we seek to find the minimum common ground in which efforts made by employees are recognized and appreciated by others.  

2. Profiles – The next step in the app setup will allow employees to create their profiles that allow others to know the 2-3 different ways in which they wish to receive gratitude e.g. public recognition or a private conversation alone etc. Every employee has the app which will thus contain a list of all the other employees to which they are connected. It is up to the company to decide which profiles are connected to one another. Some companies may wish to only have employees connected directly and exclusively to their manager because they wish to optimize how gratitude is given by managers to their subordinates.  Some organisations may want directors to have access to the manager’s profile so that they can monitor how managers are responding to employee efforts as part of their strategy and performance management. Some companies may desire to connect all employees to one another so that it creates a more horizontal and egalitarian atmosphere.

3. Notifications – The final setting allows the company/managers/employees to set when they wish to be notified about all the gifts they have received from others. This can be notifications given instantly, hourly, daily, weekly or even monthly.    

Let us imagine that an employee has undertaken an effort to give a benefit to their manager which the organisation has designated as a gift-giving effort e.g. they volunteered to assist a manager in a one-off task that took them away from doing their daily duties. The employee would then access the app, tap the manager profile who benefited from their effort, click (+) and a small box will open that allows the employee to write a single line detailing their effort, the amount of personal resource that they gave up e.g. 1 hour as well as a time stamp of when it happened.  Upon completion the manager’s app will automatically update so that a small number (1) will appear next to that employee representing the number of gifts they received from that employee.  The manager can open the profile anytime and read the details of the effort made.  Usually efforts done by an employee are often frequent and such efforts are saved in the employee profile making them easier to repeat the process rather than typing them out again.

As employees or managers continue to benefit from one another through such gift-giving efforts the list of gifts will build up for each recipient.  At the designated moment chosen by the recipient (or company), a notification (stated in point 3 above) will be sent to the user’s device which will give the user an info-graphical breakdown of all the gifts they have received. The recipient will have the option to break this graphical data into a number of different categories including individual employees, types of gifts, total amounts of each gift, the timing of such gifts, the areas of work they were tasked on, the normal duties they couldn’t do because of it and how they wish to be appreciated according to their profiles etc. Upon receiving this information it will be up to that individual to demonstrate their appreciation in the manner in which others desire it.  Upon giving those gratifications the manager will side swipe those profiles which will log the data and remove it from the current list of gifts received.  If the recipient fails to act in gratitude a series of further notifications will occur i.e. firstly a simple analytic summarizing the results to the recipient will be received e.g. stating that the efforts made by an individual or a team were higher than last month or that person X spent a Y number of hours helping you etc. If the recipient continues to ignore the notification then other notifications will occur e.g. a series of humorous random quotes about how showing gratitude is a good thing to even further notifications advising how, based on the results, gratitude can be shown in specific ways e.g. “15 employees who have helped you this month wish to be thanked in a group setting, maybe you could thank them all in your next meeting”.    

Idea Title

Thresholds of Gratitude

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

We believe that when an individual sees an effort made by another that is in line with their own belief of a gift; it will lead them to appreciate such an effort. The key task of this app is to provide employees with a visual representation of all the benefits they have made through the efforts of others so as to induce in them, a very real sense of appreciation. And this has only been possible when the efforts presented to them are in line with what the organisation/managers understand as a gift and what employees individually understand as expressions of gratitude. It is through this method that we can ensure that the expressions of gratitude are both authentic and meaningful.

Who are you innovating for?

(1) Directors who incorporate gratitude as part of their strategy. Done by enabling them to decide the thresholds it wishes to set as acts that are recognized as gifts. (2) Managers as notifications can be in line with their management style. Some will set their notifications to daily so as to allow them to thank people as quickly as possible. Others may be more strategic and may express gratitude in line with productivity or during turbulent change. (3) Employees who are the end benefactor.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

This app is for all companies because it is sensitive to the different cultures/beliefs of each organisation. Also, because the app will produce a large set of data, it can be a helpful tool in different departments. Operations can use this data to better understand their daily operations e.g. by assessing the opportunity cost of an employee being taken off their work to cover another job. HR can use this data to see how many tasks are occurring beyond the normative contractual roles etc.

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

The app has preset thresholds however in the initial stages we may need to work directly with directors to help them make decisions regarding what they believe are the Thresholds of Gratitude in their organisation. Most organisations have never discussed this topic and so working closely with a company may be a necessity in the early stages. The ideal however would be that in the future, any company without our help should be able to download the app, go through the setup stages and set the thresholds on their own. Based on working with directors during prototype, additional setup tools may be added to the app to ensure companies in the future can make such decisions on their own.

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

Most people have smart phones so the availability of the apps is not a problem however many individuals are still unfamiliar with using apps. The highest demographic of people that struggle to understand and use apps properly are people over the age of 50. This could be a major obstacle as many senior managers in companies are highly experienced individuals who may be at an age where such technology is unfamiliar to them. Success of this app is dependent on them being able to use it.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

Test the app in 2 companies that have different thresholds of gratitude. Company A perhaps an organisation that designates as a gift those efforts that promote core competencies in line with strategy e.g. cost cutting. Company B perhaps a project based company where helping others complete tasks is a gift. Success is dependent on receivers responding to their notifications through expressions of gratitude that are desired by the giver. This test is evaluated through simple questionnaires.

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

We would like to create a prototype of the app and test it. We are not app developers however using our UX experience we have designed the user interface of the app as well as the basic cloud server system onto which all profiles will be stored and exchanged. We would like to gain mentoring in finding and working with app developers as well as mentoring in launching enterprises.

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

As change consultants we have had the opportunity to examine pre-existing structures and processes of many companies to see why things are not working. A common problem in our experience is that organisations have deep-rooted beliefs that are often in stark contrast with what employees demand from their employment. Feeling underappreciated by one’s employer is a consequence of such differences and has been at the root to many larger problems that have required our services.

Tell us about yourself

We are freelance consultants that specialize in socio-technical analysis, design thinking, UX and organisational/process design. Individually we have worked with a number of large well known public and private and 3rd sector organisations and are now in the process of forming our own organisation.

Where are you / your team located?

London, UK

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Hi Imran,

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