Accidental gamification and the unpredictable nature of product development

Here at Lighthouse we’re always helping product teams bring well-thought out products to market.

These tools are frequently complex, and our aim is to try and predict how users will interact with them as best we can, through plenty of user research and testing.

However, we’re often surprised by how things change once people actually start using the tool for real.


When working on Connect, a tool for digitising the workflow of research company Revealing Reality, we added a simple metric for showing the progress of a task.

This wasn’t given much thought by us – a straightforward traffic light system with arbitrary numbers for each stage.

It was something that we imagined the management team would use to check in on how things were going from a top-level perspective.

But when we spoke to the researchers who were using the tool, the progress feature came up a lot in conversation. It was now being seen as a target to meet and everyone wanted to make sure their projects were ‘in the green.’

People who managed to achieve this across the board wore the status like a gamification badge of honour .🏆

Unplanned but effective

A feature we’d included without much extra thought had increased productivity through inadvertently triggering the researchers’ natural sense of competition.

We didn’t just learn how powerful it is to incorporate elements of gamification into the workplace though.

We were reminded that the way a product is used can never be dictated by its maker.

Discovering users behaving differently and placing importance on features we didn’t expect them to gives us the ability to develop these features into first-class experiences as the product continues to develop and grow.

When it comes to innovation, research has suggested that customers can sometimes bring about more creative and useful concepts than a company’s own professionals.

Kalle Lyytinen and Michael Fisher
Entrepreneur Magazine