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

"Gamify" Career Exploration and Business Start-Ups

Young people today have grown up in a completely different world than those of us over 40. "Gaming" is the way they interact in both the social media arena and in their connections. "Gamifying" their career exploration speaks a language they know.

Photo of Jeff Lee
7 9

Written by

Thanks for taking a look at my Concept and as you review my ideas I want to give you a little frame of reference.
  • "Language": Anyone under 35 has grown up with some exposure to gaming and it is a language that they speak and the way that they have been trained to interact.
Young people today are accustomed to the concept of gaming and there is a huge "gamify" movement sweeping the social media scene today. 
  • Motivation:  The reality is that young adults today have witnessed the career struggles of their parents and they have experienced first hand the global economic downturn.  This "shared experience" at a critical time of their emotional and psychological development has cause many in this generation to conclude that "they might never achieve the kind of economic and career success that their grandparents or their parents achieved.  There has been a major shift away from our "consumer driven, need more stuff" mentality that plagued many countries over the last 30 years.  Young people today are about "simplicity", "making a difference in the world", viewing a career as "a long series of contract project driven work encounters" where they will never work for a company for very long and the mindset is "multiple streams of income" in case one of my "contract jobs" gets eliminated or the company goes out of business.
  • Platform for Connection/Collaboration: Young people today are and will be throughout their adult lives the most connected generation in history.  These young adults view the internet and gaming as ubiquitous to their interactions and not just a novelty.  Many of the concepts submitted for this challenge are very creative and could easily be turned into a "game" as a means of facilitating collaboration, feedback and support as part of their career exploration/business launch or simply for networking.  I believe that some of my ideas have some merit but also view the other concepts that have been submitted through the lense of "gamification" because many of these very creative ideas could be made into a game on a company website or hosted as a game in a local community as a means of helping with networking, training or mentoring in the realm of career exploration.

Think of "gamification" not as a concept in and of itself but rather as a "mechanism to help foster and facilitate career exploration and business innovation" and think of "fun" as the fuel that fosters this kind of playful, collaborative interaction that the "20-30 something's" already speak.  Almost all of the concepts submitted so far could at least have some portion of the idea turned into a game that would allow a continuous feedback loop and support from thought leaders, innovators and business leaders all over the world.

  • High Schools, Colleges and business could utilize a gaming platform such as as a means of creating virtual and real world engagement between students, mentors, business leaders and other business coaches who can help guide their career exploration from the time they enter high school all the way through their early career. was developed by Dave Buck a professional life and business coach and has several powerful incentives built into the gaming platform.

  1. Internal Motivation System:  The game has a "leader board" that is based on a point system that is connected to specific behaviors.  The philosophy is based on the idea of "play" and fun as powerful social and behavioral influencers of human behavior.  For inspiration on the concept see this TED talk by Dr. Stuart Brown
2. Based on "Best Practice" Research and Proven Success Strategies: Game players "earn points" for engaging in specific behaviors within the game that can be tied to "best practice" strategies for success in the classroom or student retention in college or successful job search strategies or ways to successfully launch a new business.
3. Rewards Pro-social Behaviors: For high school students the leader board could be tied to simple incentives such as earning school tee shirts, discounts on music or even real money.  One of my concepts is to tie pro-social behaviors to earning time with successful business leaders.  Imagine having a 16-18 year old sitting in a board meeting with corporate executives or just a local business owner giving "consultation services" to the owner about how his/her new product or service might be perceived by the youth market!
4. Teaches the Value of Collaborative Contribution to the Greater Good: Another powerful aspect of the gamify idea is that it helps people recognize the "power" they have such as "play power" (actually trying out an idea, "social power" (giving positive and supportive feedback to other game members) and other types of Emotional Intelligence skills that are vital for success in the corporate and business world.
5. Affirms the Importance of Positive Feedback as a Powerful Force for behavioral change and stimulator for innovation:  Game participants are also "given points that must be given away to other players" in the form of "positive feedback" (i.e. that's a great idea, you inspired me etc.)  The game itself teaches players the vital skill of giving and receiving feedback in a positive manner, again skills vital for success in today's business world.  It could teach young people principles around the "360 Degree" model of feedback.  Players learn to give affirming and encouraging feedback to peers and receive feedback from mentors as part of a continuous feedback loop.
6. Teaches the Critical Skill of "Adding Value" to all encounters:  Another key component of the game is players are taught the importance of "adding value to the lives of others" (Return on Investment) through ideas, support, collaboration and "fun" is the catalyst for these interaction.  Players learn not to fear failure as in "tried that and it didn't work so now I am one step closer to figuring out how to solve this problem".
7. Gamification become a Powerful Repository for Best Practice Results and a tool for continual innovation: Information is abundantly available about "best practices" for success in the classroom, college success and successful businesses.  The entire gamify concept would be build around these best practices.  Points and leaderboards are just the small incentives for players but can be tied to real world items or more powerful incentives like "power lunches" with business owners, leaders or other influencers in the community.  The idea of "rubbing elbows" and including successful people in the circle of influence of young people is a very powerful social motivator especially if they have not been exposed to these type of individuals.

Possible Applications:

Create" IDEOlike" Innovations Centers.....Make the IDEO Process go Viral
  • Imagine if every university, business incubator or town of any size had an IDEO inspired Innovation Center with a trained "IDEO Process Facilitator" who could help guide innovation of both products, services and ideas.
  • By gamifying the process, smaller communities could benefit from the Process Facilitators in a virtual game as in "hey look what we made" and upload a picture and the Ideo facilitator could give feedback and suggestions.
  • IDEO= innovation and so many smaller areas don't have this kind of spark of creativity but gamifying in an online format would give anyone on the planet the ability to be in an IDEO "think tank" and get feedback about careers, ideas and products.

The "Gamification" of Career Exploration is Developmentally Structured based on the age of the person:

  • In their early years of high school students could utilize various personality/trait tools to begin to identify their unique gifts and talents.
  • Our educational system needs to move to a more "individualized learning" approach to identify and highlight the unique capacities of each student and to maximize various learning styles.
  • Students are enrolled in a "game" during their entire High School career which allows for them to have more interaction with teachers, guidance counselors and even business leaders in their communities.

  • Once a student graduates they could be enrolled in a college or vocational game depending on their needs.
  • Freshman Retention Game
  • All incoming freshman are assigned to a resident assistant on campus and included in the "Freshman Experience Game".
  • R.A's could use the game to highlight campus support services (counseling, tutoring, upcoming educational events etc.)
  • R.A's could see which students are "engaged" in the game and then focus attention on those who might be falling through the cracks and be more at risk of dropping out of school.
  • Career Counselors could put links to career assessments that the school offers like the DISC or various career inventories you use. Students would earn points for taking these and then based on the results, Career Counselors and faculty advisors could provide ongoing coaching and feedback about potential majors, emerging career trends etc.  The fact that the information is available online for both faculty, students and Career Counselors significantly increases the changes for engagement in addition to the limited in-person interactions that may occur.
  • The benefit to R.A.'s is that the more they are engaged in the game the more interaction they are likely to have with their students and they can actually see who is engaged and better focus their efforts on the students who seem disengaged and may be more at risk for dropping out.

Basic Structure of all Career Exploration Games:

  • "Dream Up”- having a person think about an idea/business/initiative etc. that they would like to launch.
  •  “Act Out”- encouraging people to try out their ideas, take a risk etc.
  •  “Check Up”- in this section people would do self evaluation of how their “Act Out” action succeeded or failed and they could get feedback/suggestions from other game members or even suggested resources to help with their Dream Up idea.
  •  “Move Out”- this section would be where the person re-launches his/her idea with modifications or completely changes the idea.

Focus on Small Business Development which is always the engine of economic development.  Many in the 20-30's age group will become "Solo entrepreneurs or part of small businesses.  Make "Gamification" both Global and Local:

“Business Start-up Game”

  • Create a platform where potential business owners can give their business “a trial run”.
  • From start up to launch to working out the kinks to success.
  •  Challenge potential business owners to identify “the value they will add to our community by launching your new business” and what they will give back to the community.
  •  Helps a person streamline their ideas, develop a business plan, address unforeseen challenges etc.
  •  Gets potential customers and business leaders engaged in a “pre-business launch game” that could generate excitement about launching new businesses in the area, develop parterships for new business owners.
  •  “Consultants” can offer real-time feedback to the potential business owner.
  •  Involved business students from area colleges in a “real life business launch” as part of their course work so that they can see the real struggles that entrepreneurs face as well as having them do some of the “grunt” work of researching/canvassing/gathering forms/editing business plans etc. which might save the new business owner money and give the students valuable experiences in launching a business.

The basic idea is that a vocational school, college or university provides a great opportunity for young people to tryout various career paths, business opportunities and gain real world feedback from professors who are aware of coming changes in various industries.  Universities all need to have business incubators which allow students to quickly develop and launch new business ideas.  Even if they fail, the process of learning from these ventures is invaluable.  These business incubators could also serve the local business community by providing a rich source of new and innovative ideas that could spark new businesses or initiatives in a community.

The question is not "will the gaming idea catch on" because with hundreds of millions of people already involved in on-line and virtual games that questions has already been answered.  The real question is whether we will utilize this very powerful tool as a means to create stimulating "real world think tanks of innovation" that can help young people invent a new kind of work model. 

For many the idea of a "career" is obsolete and the idea of work needs to be redefined as a question of "how can I add meaningful value to the lives of others as I engage in challenging initiatives that address real world problems in a collaborative manner that enables me to provide adequate support for my family."

How will your concept support young people as they transition into the world of work?

Having been exposed to the "gamify" idea through high school and college, young people will be used to the continual feedback loop that is part of a "real life game". Dream up and idea, get feedback and additional ideas support, quickly try things out, evaluate the results with supportive feedback from business leaders, mentors etc. and then re-launch or start over. One of the dynamics of the "under 30" generation today that social scientists have identified is the need for ongoing and constructive feedback which is missing in many business today and one of the reasons that young professional often flounder.

What online or in-person components of your concept will best support this transition?

The power of "gamifying" career exploration is that it can be done from anywhere in the world but would best be done with business leaders, influencers and mentors in the local community where the young person lives so that they could receive both in person coaching as well as virtual coaching. Universities could have trained "gaming gurus" who can help faculty and university officials set up various games related to course, career fields, business "start-ups" etc.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Francisco Machado

I think you are spot on with your idea! I agree with all of your rationale and I think that gamifying education will do a great deal to enhancing it, considering the characteristics and needs of our youth. But that would be the case because I'm currently developing, in Portugal, with my research team in my university, a similar platform with the same use, in Portuguese and adapted to our reality in terms of offer and demand of our work market. We are also in the process of developing it between psychologists and game developers. It's an ongoing project and we would be delighted to keep in touch with you and exchange some ideas if you want.
But, besides all that, great idea!! Best of luck to your project!!

Photo of DeletedUser


It's like playing life in 'sandbox mode' to get used to it and learn more about it before you actually get out there and try stuff. Amazing Idea.
Also, I totally agree with how the youth of today approach a 'career'. Being a member of the community in question, I can tell you you've got it spot on!
Looking forward to seeing this up and running. Cheers!

Photo of Sana Altaf

Oh very cool Jeff, and very thorough. Good job :)

Photo of Meena Kadri

Interesting thoughts, Jeff! You might like to rethink the IDEO Labs name as it's already being used here:

Photo of Jeff Lee

Thanks for the comments. I will update my concept and was simply trying to capture the essence of the IDEO concept. As a therapist I am trained in "systems thinking" and there is great potential for using the type of "innovative design process" that IDEO employs to help generate ideas for new businesses and to expose young people who are full of creative ideas to this type of "out of the box" thinking while at the same time showing them that even with innovative ideas, there has to be some structure and a process to make sure that the "creativity is captured" in a meaningful way.

Photo of DeletedUser


Interesting idea, Jeff - the question I would have for this is what actually encourages players to keep coming back to the game? Do you have any other incentives in mind aside from the nebulous "better career"?

Photo of Jeff Lee

Imran, thanks for the question. I updated my Concept to further clarify the internal and external motivation system of this type of game. Make sure to see the section about the leaderboard and the various types of "power" within the game.