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Enabling gratitude habits within email and Slack

Express instant gratitude to anyone within your company by using a digital platform (integrated w/email & Slack) and build gratitude habits.

Photo of Jenny Podewils
16 21

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Gratitude doesn’t happen enough in the workplace as it is generally not yet part of the work culture and the daily routines and habits. We believe that we need to change both. Ensuring that gratitude becomes part of the workplace culture and making expressions of gratitude part of daily routines. We are therefore building a dedicated communication channel for gratitude and also feedback enabling employees to express gratitude to anyone within a company independent of hierarchy or division/ team. 

Expressions of gratitude are currently one feature & use case within - Leapsome - the platform that we are building. It is already used by companies in Europe. We are currently working on developing the feature further and triggering expressions of gratitude more regularly (weekly at least). We are convinced gratitude builds trusts in teams, which is the foundation for the peer feedback and peer learning that we also facilitating with Leapsome. 

In order to actually trigger expressions of gratitude in the always busy workplace, we have built the entry point for expressions of gratitude directly into the interfaces where most of our communication at work happens - the employee’s email account and team communication channels (such as Slack). 

  • Email & Slack: Whenever I (the user) receive or write an email from/ to a colleague my colleague’s name and image come up on the right side within my email inbox, alongside a small open text box where I can send him/ her some words of gratitude. Similarly, I can also directly send a colleague some words of gratitude from within Slack. 

  • Private & public: I can select if my expression of gratitude should remain private (between just the sender and the receiver of gratitude) or if it will also appear in a public team feed (on the platform and pushed into a dedicated Slack channel). 

  • Signal & trigger: Introducing Leapsome in my team (often at the leadership level) sends the important signal to the team that expressions of gratitude matter and are actively welcomed in my team. The extension of my email inbox always reinforces this signal and is a visual reminder I see whenever I open my inbox. 

  • Entry point & convenience: We lower the entry barriers to expressions of gratitude, as a dedicated way to communicate gratitude is always there and available to the user directly where the user communicates with his/ her team. Expressing gratitude becomes easier, as it is now done in within a couple of minutes. 

  • Dedicated channel: Gratitudes are not just lost within an email, but they occur in a specific channel dedicated to expressions of gratitude, peer feedback, and peer learning. Notifications and reminders alongside the visual triggers help users to builds habits.

  • Profile & gamification: All expressions of gratitude are collected by the user in a personal profile only visible to the user himself/ herself (alongside peer feedback). Gratitudes are celebrated using elements of gamification, such as e.g. streaks. Think Snapchat for gratitude. 

  • Insights & biases: We are currently working on developing insights that help the user to better understand his/ her gratitude and feedback behavior, e.g. do you always express gratitude towards the same people, who do seldom express gratitude towards (and is this by choice or does it follow from some unconscious bias)? We want to use the generated data to help the user understand his or her gratitude behavior and recommend learning resources to reflect on own behavior.   

  • Implementation: To kickstart implementation we always encourage a workshop for the leadership team (we work with professional trainers to facilitate these). The participants are encouraged to build a vision for their gratitude and feedback culture, and brainstorm personal triggers for expressions of gratitude. The (visual) outcome of the workshop is shared with the rest of the team or sometimes even put up in the offices to create further visual triggers. 

  • On- & offline: We believe that digital expressions of gratitude will not fully replace face to face interaction, nor that they reduce the amount of face to face gratitude. On the contrary from the evidence we are getting from our teams using the platform, the digital platform helps to build habits and thereby triggers more online and also more offline expressions of gratitude.

We used the Refinement stage to ideate, prototype, and test concepts to move further from simple, yet important appreciation into authentic internal and expressed gratitude. Our process and our finding are collected here. 

Our three key findings are: 

  1. We trigger employees to reflect and express why they are grateful to a colleague and thereby create more authentic gratefulness due to the added self-reflection on the sender's side and the added level of depth to the message received by the receiver. 
  2. We visualize gratefulness and the connectedness of expressions of gratitude in visual individual, team and company Universes of Gratefulness.
  3. We develop further ways to link the online and offline expressions of gratitude and add visibility of what happens online offline. 

Again, review our refinement progress here

Idea Title

Leaping into gratitude habits

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

We help users build new habits by (1) generating triggers, (2) lowering the barriers to action with a dedicated channel for expressions of gratitude always visible within your digital communication channels, and we (3) trigger reflections on gratefulness that help to train the 'gratefulness muscle'. We generate notifications, reminders and use gamification elements to nudge the user to build new habits and kick-start a learning process around gratitude and peer feedback.

Who are you innovating for?

The individual employee, who collects gratitudes in his/ her private profile and receives help to build a habit of expressing gratitude as well. Trust is built that also allows peer feedback and learning to help the individual grow with the support of his / her peers. The leader, who receives help to build a habit of expressing gratitude and receive feedback on & detect biases in their gratitude behavior.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

We currently cater to workplaces where employees regularly use email and other forms of digital communication.

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

We remotely support organizations to introduce the platform, we work with professional trainers, coaches and consultants to support organizations on the ground in this process.

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

As not every company and every employee will have access to the trainers who support the implementation, we need to digitize the experience of a gratitude workshop & training to make it available to all.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

We work with fast iterations and closely collaborate with our partners/ customers to build the best possible solutions for the users.

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

We would be able to put more focus on building the gratitude feature alongside great experts and our partners/ customers in further fast iterations in order to help users develop individual and authentic feedback habits, and build a gratitude culture in their teams & companies.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Full-scale roll-out: You have developed a pilot, tested, and analyzed the impact of that pilot as it pertains to the problem scope. You are ready to expand the pilot significantly and begin to scale.
  • Operating Concept / Startup: You have fulfilled the stages of testing, undertaken a full scale roll-out, and are currently operating this concept/idea as a business.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

The idea emerged as we were frustrated with existing workplace cultures where gratitude and also learning-oriented feedback don’t happen enough.

Tell us about yourself

Leapsome was founded by Jenny Podewils and Kajetan Armansperg in 2016. Both co-founders are impact-driven and passionate to build people-centric organizations where people can develop their full potential. Monika Jiang, independent consultant and Millennial activist, is supporting Leapsome in participating in this OpenIDEO challenge.

Where are you / your team located?

The team is based in Berlin, but also regularly visits the Bay Area.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Leapsome GmbH is a legal entity incorporated as a GmbH under German law.

Company / Organization Name



Tell us about your experience

Kajetan has a background in product. He led the product team at Funding Circle. He has previously built a venture to help individuals achieve their personal goals with the help of their peers. Jenny has a background is business development and sales. She has build successful sales teams and led strategic projects - always for impact-driven companies. She spent five months at Singularity University to immerse herself in the challenge of how to build people-centric cultures.

Please describe, in detail, how you will test and get feedback on your concept.

Throughout building the Leapsome platform we have always started with initial user interviews, rapid prototyping and again interviews based on prototypes. We constantly collect feedback from our existing users on the Leapsome platform to rapidly iterate to better serve existing needs and build greater value for the users. For the refinement stage of this challenge we have conducted additional interviews, rapid prototyping and interviews to focus on the question how we can further support building gratitude in companies with Leapsome and what further directions the existing appreciation features could take. The big objective was to explore how we succeed to move beyond simple (yet important) appreciation into authentic gratitude.

Please describe specifically how you plan to scale your idea. What are the key next steps you will take, and how will those steps inform the evolution and growth of your concept?

The Leapsome platform with its existing simple appreciation features is already actively used by different organizations, mainly tech companies, communication/web agencies and even teams within big corporates. We used the refinement phase to test new, additional ideas and prototypes, and generated important learnings in this process. See above or here ( While we conducted interviews throughout the refinement phase five companies among Leapsome's customers in particular expressed interest to actively test further new prototypes and the resulting new features. After testing with this initial group of organizations - that differ in size and structure, two of them are self-organized or operating under holacracy - we then have the capacity to roll out the gratitude “features” to all of our other and new customers, which will allow us to reach much wider populations of employees. We would also be interested in working with some of the other challenge participants and sponsors, as they could also be interested in testing this. We would also like to collaborate with the Greater Good Science Center on further developing the gratitude feature and measuring its impact.

As we have seen in the Challenge, there is a tension between authentic expressions of gratitude and mandatory gratitude. How does your idea inspire truly authentic expressions of gratitude versus mandated ones?

We create strong triggers (public feedback, notification, gamification elements) and significantly lower the entry barriers (Gmail & Slack integrations) to expressions of gratitude while keeping everything voluntary and catering to personal differences, as described above. We are very intentional to make expressions of gratitude simple and fun, yet at the same time still authentic and valuable enough (e.g. clear expression of what thankful for). This is built on significant user research.

Gratitude often thrives when opportunities for connection are created. How will your concept create new opportunities for human connection?

The added depth of the expressed gratitude thanks to the reflection question (finding 1 from the refinement research), the visual representation of connectedness with our Universe of Gratitude (finding 2 from the refinement research) and by linking the on- and the offline (finding 3 from the refinement research). See further info in the external document linked above with all our refinement phase outcomes.

Who (specifically) will benefit from your concept, and how they will interact with it? What design considerations have you included to ensure easy and intuitive interactions? 

The individual employee, who collects gratitudes in his/ her private profile and receives help to reflect upon his/ her feeling of gratitude and builds a habit of expressing gratitude with an impact beyond professional life. Trust is built that also allows peer feedback and joint learning to occur and which helps the individual grow with the support of his / her peers. The team receiving a visual image and a feeling of connectedness. The leader, who receives support to reflect on gratitude and build a habit of expressing gratitude and receive feedback on & detect biases in own gratitude behavior. We are designing incredibly close to the user, changes are made rapidly thanks to the user feedback we receive. We always aim to reduce complexity and work to create maximum simplicity for the user. Reducing the need to move into a different interface to a minimum is a core design priority for us, hence the deep integrations with Gmail and Slack. Everything should be simple.

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Top Idea. Be specific.

We will build the findings from the refinement phase into the Leapsome platform after doing some additional testing with existing and potential users. We would use the funds to hire an additional freelancers or temporary team member to help us design and implement this feature. It’s our aim to then launch the gratitude feature in spring 2018 and help increase gratitude in the workplace.


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Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Jenny Podewils ,

This is a final reminder that the deadline for all submission materials is 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time TODAY--that's in less than 4 hours. Excited to see your final post on the platform!

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