The craft of incentive prize design
Lessons from the public sector
Incentive prizes, deceptively simple in concept, are often challenging to construct in a way that drives the desired outputs and supports the desired outcomes. How can prize designers get it "right"?
In the last five years, incentive prizes have transformed from an exotic open innovation tool to a proven innovation strategy for the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. Incentive prizes seem deceptively simple: Identify a problem, create and publicize a prize-based challenge for solving that problem, sign up diverse participants, and offer a reward to the winner. In practice, designing prizes that target the right problem, attract the most capable participants, and capture the imagination of the public to successfully achieve a desired outcome involves a complex set of design choices.
This report aims to help prize designers organize and master those choices. In the past, designers thought of prize types as distinct tools, often seeking to match the right tool to the problem they were seeking to address. Now, prize design has become a craft. Experienced designers help their organizations achieve a range of outcomes by building highly customized prizes and deploying them in concert with other problem solving and public engagement strategies. They focus less on what type of prize to use and more on how to assemble the fundamental elements of prize design through a series of integrated design choices informed by research and analysis. While this approach is understandably more complex than simply pulling a prize out of a toolbox, it also enables more sophisticated prize designs, allowing organizations to more effectively get what they need. The craft of incentive prize design offers practical lessons for public sector leaders and their counterparts in the philanthropic and private sectors.