Icon - Fast, Powerful, Free Way to Crowdsource Insight

By Hutch Carpenter | May 1, 2012

Today marks the official launch of Icon by Spigit. What is Icon?

The platform for fast, easy and powerful engagement with your crowd to gain insight.

Icon will deliver a completely different experience than anything you’ve seen. It employs a new voting mechanism, and game mechanics are part of its DNA. It’s pleasingly lightweight, and good for more than just ideas. Icon is built for employees to solve problems and get answers.

Oh, did I mention it’s free?

While using is believing (click here to get your company’s Icon), let’s highlight some of what makes Icon tick.

Simplicity is the new Powerful

Time was, the measure of software’s power was its number of features. The more the better, because that meant the application could do so much . Fast forward to the consumerization of enterprise software. What have we learned? That software that relies on social principles works better with a tight, focused feature set and a compelling user experience.

Icon is built to do these three things:

  • Get solution-seeking challenges up and running fast
  • Lightweight submission of responses
  • Dynamic, real-time ranking of top submissions

The UI and the UX both reflect this focus. For example, look at the idea submission form. Overall number of fields is kept to a minimum, and only the idea title is required.

Notice also that insight requires an economy of expression. Character limits on the title and description necessitate focus on the core parts of the idea. The description is a text-only field, without the ornaments of HTML formatting.

For community members, this makes an idea quite consumable and ready for the new voting mechanism.

Pairwise comparisons elicit value judgments

Up-down votes and rating systems have become a pervasive part of our web experience. With Icon, participants are introduced to a new form of voting: pairwise comparison.

For each challenge, you are presented with two of the submitted ideas. Here’s an example:

You are asked to select the idea that you would rank higher, by clicking either ‘This’ or ‘That’. In keeping with the concepts of cognitive diversity, Icon is not prescriptive as to the basis of making a decision. Rather, people are free to use their own criteria for determining which idea ranks higher. The value here is accessing different perspectives, heuristics, knowledge and experiences of the crowd.

When done by a large number of individuals, these value decisions generate a ranking system for ideas. Icon also ensures that each idea gets multiple pairwise comparisons from the crowd, providing comprehensive coverage of all submitted ideas.

As comparisons are made, the ranking of ideas updates dynamically, in real-time. You can literally see rankings change as the crowd makes judgments about the different ideas. These dynamically changing rankings are part of the game mechanics that draw people to Icon.

Gamification spurs engagement and gets results

More and more, gamification is showing up in our online experiences, both on consumer sites and in enterprise software. Dachis Group’s Dion Hinchcliffe recently observed:

Although gamification can be successful without crowdsourcing, tapping into a diverse audience increases innovation, scalability, elasticity, and capacity of the gamified business process.

Key here, of course, is that gamification must be intelligently applied. Icon delivers game mechanics in a way that keeps participants coming back. Several of these gamification elements are described below.

Idea pairwise comparisons : Aside from being a mechanism for capturing value judgments, the pairwise comparison certainly brings a fun element to the voting process. You sit in judgment on two ideas, and make a call. And the dynamic updates to rankings as voting occurs bring to mind the real-time feedback one receives from a video game.

Front and center activity leaderboard : Integral to the experience is the Leaderboard. Each challenge, and the overall Icon site, shows the individuals who have contributed the most, via ideas, comments or votes. Points update in real-time, giving each person instant feedback on how much they are contributing to help answer different challenges.

Spend points to set up challenges : In Icon, it costs points to set up a new challenge. This has the effect of putting a value on a challenge, helping ensure the quality of a question asked of the community. Quora recently instituted a similar game mechanic. In addition, each challenge carries with it a specified payout. Top three ideas earn a level of points, as do the top three participants. The larger the “booty” associated to a challenge, the more incentive others have to participate.

Send gifts to other people : If someone does something that you find valuable or helpful, you can recognize that with a gift. Beside each person is a gift icon, which when clicked provides that person with an additional 10 points.

Not just for ideas

Here’s a quick way to distinguish invention vs. innovation:

Invention creates. Innovation changes.

In both cases, ideas are the core fuel. But Icon also works well with much smaller, less ambitious challenges that aren’t part of a company’s innovation efforts. For instance, Spigit CEO Paul Pluschkell posted a challenge asking in what location we should hold our customer summit. Not ideas in the innovation sense, but responses to a business question for sure.

While he could have done a survey, the problem there is that all the choices would need to be preset. This challenge allowed employees to come up with suggestions, and let them decide which ones were the best.

Think of Icon as a crowdsourced way to get answers.

Integrated with your existing Yammer network

Signing in to Icon is easy with your Yammer account. Both in initial registration and for all subsequent log-ins, you can simply click the Yammer icon. You confirm with Yammer that you give permission to Icon to use your Yammer credentials, and you’re on your way.

Dead simple.

Once you’ve established your Yammer credentials, several Icon activities are published into Yammer. In the main message feed, new challenges are posted. In the activity ticker, new submitted ideas and comments are published. This integration into your Yammer network expands the potential input that business challenges receive.

All of this is available for free. To get started, simply sign up for your company’s account here. Drop us a line, and let us know what you think.