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

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
23 21

Written by

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.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tony Vasquez

Are you not tired of poverty?Why
your mate are enjoying life.
Did you want to be rich and
have famous. Come and join
the brotherhood member
today now. Once you join us, we
are going to buy you one
duplex in any country you
wish to stay with a new car
and you will also be receiving
$250,000 dollars annually .. We
are going to turn your life with
different kind of things you wish
in your life. Do you
want to promote your
business? We can help you by
bringing you more customer
into your business. Are you a
musician? did you want
to be at the top in the world, like
make you rich like these men.
If you are in need of joining the
brotherhood, Email us
now: (
you can easily contact us now:
+1 628 236 3086

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!

Photo of Jenny Podewils

Paul VG Lauren Ito Rob Kaye Han Marie Frei Elena Mahno We just updated our contribution with our refinement phase findings (went back to do quite a bit of prototyping and interviewing) and we would love to hear your feedback and thoughts?

Photo of Lauren Ito

Jenny Podewils , a post you may find a helpful example in formatting your idea is

Photo of Jenny Podewils

Great, thank you Lauren! A very helpful hint. We're working on an updated format of our prototype in an attached open Google Doc at this very moment and will upload it latest by tomorrow.

Photo of Jenny Podewils

Rob Kaye Han and Lauren Ito - would you be willing to give some initial feedback on our story board and prototypes? It is work in progress though, just want to share some of the things we are working on already before the final submission.

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Jenny Podewils ,

Great to see your updates and photos that provide a glimpse into your process! I'm ciurious about the question on the platform, "How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?"

I love that your prototype describes how it would be used. But I'm curious about what would encourage adoption? What is the specific type of organization who would use this, how would they generate momentum internally to use Leapsome? Who/what resources would help facilitate implementation?

Excited to learn more!

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Jenny Podewils and the Enabling gratitude habits within email and Slack Team!

A friendly reminder the Gratitude in the Workplace Storytelling Workshop is tomorrow, November 30th at 9:00 a.m. PT! This workshop is designed to help your team present your Refinement Phase work and core concept with clarity. Hope to see you there!

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Jenny Podewils ,

Congratulations on advancing to the Refinement Phase of the Challenge! Please tag me in the comments @Lauren Ito with any questions and for feedback on your user experience map, evaluation questions, and prototyping. We recommend updating your post throughout the phase to allow for our community to engage, collaborate, and share feedback on your post.

Excited to see how your idea develops in the coming weeks!

Photo of Jenny Podewils

Hi Lauren Ito 
Thank you for your message and the very helpful webinar this week. We are currently conducting additional user interviews and doing some prototyping & user testing based on those prototypes. Will share results of our current work here asap.
On the webinar you mentioned that you discussed some of the refinement stage concepts and ideas at the event on Nov. 17th. Are the findings of those discussions documented somewhere and accessible? We would love to also review those.
Thank you and best wishes,

Photo of Jenny Podewils

And a second question Lauren Ito :
Should we also adapt our answers to the initial questions (based on our findings from this further prototyping & user testing) or shall we only answer the refinement questions?

Thank you very much for your clarification and your help!!!

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Jenny,

We will be sharing general takeaways from those sessions via email. I would recommend adapting your answers to initial questions to fully articulate the entirety of your concept. A great resource for formatting is in the Refinement Phase Toolkit, where you can reference examples from past challenges for inspiration on how to best format your submission for clarity!

Excited to see the continued evolution of your concept!

Photo of Marie Frei

Hey Jenny! Your team's Idea caught my eye because of the integration with Slack. Does the product have a way to take into account when someone isn't receiving (or giving) enough gratitude and send reminders?

Photo of Kajetan v. Armansperg

Hi Marie,

thanks for your question! Yes, our algorithm does analyse interaction and gratitude frequency in the background, both on our platform and (at the meta level) within Slack. We use that information to send out weekly reminders to users, suggesting interactions with people that (a) we think you work closely with and (b) you haven't shown gratitude to in a while.

I hope that answers your question :)

- Kajetan

Photo of Kaye Han

Great work, Jenny & Team!

I especially like how you've 'met the people where they're at'. By inserting the gratitude triggers into their regular workflow, it makes the experience a lot more seamless. As it is, there's already a lot of resistance to adopting more tools/software.

Here is some feedback:

1. User Journey. It'd be great to see an exact user journey or user case scenario.

2. Systems/Culture Building. Ultimately, the best ideas are going to be the types that make a long term change. How will Leapsome build a real habit that will lead to a culture change. Authentic expressions of gratitude is what the challenge focuses on. So while software is good, it has a tendency to become 'one size fits all' so I'd think about answering this.

3. Start From The Top. As mentioned in the challenge brief's research, it's important to address the dynamic between leadership and team members. How does leadership interact with your software, and how are you getting them to 'buy in'. The fastest way to make change, unfortunately, is still to have it come top down. One question that I had in my mind was whether or not employees would 'game the system' and use this platform as a strange way to do internal politics. The 'private' and 'public' feedback in a way gives off a bit of that feel.

Photo of Jenny Podewils

Hi Kaye,

Thank you for taking the time to comment and give such valuable feedback!

On 3. / Starting with your last point "Start from the top":
Our experience is that the platform is generally introduced by the leadership team. The best practice that developed so far is: Once a decision is made to go forward with implementing the platform, the platform is introduced to the overall team by the leadership team at e.g. a company all-hands meeting. The leadership team then also commits to taking a particularly active role in the first months to kickstart interactions and lead by example. In addition we recommend the leaders to select decentral change makers "gratitude heros" that also commit to being particular active in the first months and thereby also trigger interactions. So our experience is that executive level sponsorship plus executives commitment to be particularly active in the first months plus also dedicated active gratitude heros distributed throughout the company is what gets the process started and triggers engagement.
On the challenge of politics entering the game. I believe this is a challenge with all forms of public gratitude or recognitions. We can actually make biases and patterns (that might be triggered by politics) somewhat more transparent, which could kickstart relevant discussions around those. We will very carefully iterate on what are valuable "analytics" without making everything measurable though, as we want to nourish intrinsic and authentic expressions of gratitude. We are aware that the platform is one (powerful) tool to build gratitude habits, however, it will not be able (and this is not the objective) to resolve all human tensions.

On 2 / Systems & culture
We are very much inspired by behavioral research on building habits and nudging, and are building this into the platform. We work with industrial and organizational (I/O) psychologists and learning psychologist, and this feeds significantly into our design. We are convinced that in order to effectively change culture, we need to create new consistent and continued behaviors and habits, as this will ultimately change the culture.
We use software to open a communication channel that is flexible enough to cater to different personality types. However we also don't aim to trigger all expressions of gratitude via the platform (see online & offline above in our contribution).
We actually receive the feedback from our customers that they now experience more online AND offline expressions of gratitude & peer feedback within their teams.

On 1:
A potential user journey could look as follows: Tom from the product team is attending the company all-hands meeting, where Laura from the sales team is spontaneously deciding to speak up and share her experiences in the market and long-term vision for the company. Tom is inspired, but right after the all-handy has to rush into another meeting. He realizes that he is actually very energized by the vision that Laura drew in the all-hands. But he forgets to tell her. Two days later he sees a post from Laura in the company slack channel. And he remembers the new energy Laura's pitch at the all-hands had. He triggers a Leapsome command in Slack and sends Laura a "thank you" and a comment on how she re-energized him. Laura receives the note on Slack and is very thankful, she only now notices how valuable her comment in the all-hands meeting was and she makes a note to herself that this is valued by colleagues (initially at the meeting she wasn't sure if she should even speak up). She notices how valuable it is to express gratitude, and this triggers her to send a thank you note to another colleague, from whom she just received an email (via her Leapsome Gmail extension). ...
A couple of months later Laura is scrolling through her personal Leapsome profile, where she rereads Tom's note, it reminds her of the insight it triggered for her, that her customer insights help other colleagues with less exposure to customers and how the experience with Tom motivated her to become a lot more active at expressing her gratitude.

Photo of Paul VG

Hi Jenny,
this is a really great approach to have an impact on peoples workplace experience.
I congratulate you on your courage to bring this project to life, it even seems like you already have some traction with companies/customers using your product? What is there experience with it?

You also mention that you want to help employees with their (continues) leaning process. This is hugely important during times where software and machines take on a lot of tasks that were originally done by people. So life-long learning is a big issue.
If I understand you correctly, you will help with that by encouraging people to give more and better structured feedback through implementing habits of gratitude in the workplace, is that right?

I hope you get a lot of valuable feedback from this community, too ;)

- Paul

Photo of Jenny Podewils

Hi Paul,

Thank you for your comments and feedback.

Yes, the purpose of Leapsome is to enable employees to develop a growth mindset and continuously learn and develop. We believe learning in companies is triggered by establishing trust & gratitude as a foundation, and enabling peer feedback and peer learning on top of this foundation. We aim to built new habits in the workplace so that gratitude, feedback and learning actually happens and also becomes part of a workplace culture.

Continuous learning and a growth mindset become incredibly important as accelerating technological change leads to faster job disruptions, and we want to empower individuals to navigate this change.

We get good initial feedback from our partners/ customers, and email & Slack integrations are strong engagement drivers. We however continuously iterate to improve the value to the user and connect gratitude, feedback and learning behaviors by individuals and within teams and companies in a smart way.

I hope that answers your question, let me know what you think!


Photo of Paul VG

Hi Jenny, thank you for your response.

I have looked at your description and the demo again and it looks like you already have a very nice product.
So, I wonder what your current obstacles are? Are you maybe looking for advice on the product vision and customer value (user perspective)? Or are you rather looking for industry experts to get feedback from companies and decision makers that would implement your platform?


Photo of Jenny Podewils

Hi Paul,

Yes, we have a working product that is being used by different companies in Europe. We are continuously improving and expanding the platform though.

Improving the user journey to give an receive gratitude and build strong habits of expressing gratitude by tweaking and building the right solutions to achieve this is very high on our agenda.

Therefore we invite feedback by experts and others on the user journey and further raising the value to the user / teams / companies.

And we are also always looking for companies that would like to test and implement the platform in their organizations.


Photo of Elena Mahno

Dear Jenny and team,

What a wonderful initiative you got there - congratulations on pushing through with it and actualizing it! The wireframes made it quite real for me and I can totally see this as an implementable prototype!

In your description, you mention "The extension in my email inbox always reinforces this signal and is a visual reminder I see whenever I open my inbox." One thing I couldn't help but wonder about is our brains' desensitization to common signals in our environment with extended use overtime. An example of this has been witnessed with banner advertising (see a heat map of visitor eye focus here: It is possible that over time the constant Leapsome signals will be treated as default/baseline information and may no longer promote attention.

How might Leapsome gauge the appropriate context and learn when to prompt a user to provide some gratitude?

Overall, great work and good luck!

Photo of Jenny Podewils

Hi Elena,

Thank you for your feedback and taking the time to comment!

Yes, that the analogy to banner ads and that users become blind to them is an interesting point.

Do you have any suggestions or success stories on preventing this?

We obviously work to built something with more direct value to the user than a banner ad ;) - Would be interested to hear your thoughts!


Photo of Paul VG

btw I also like that you chose to integrate with Slack :)