Mr Potato Head

using gamification to improve information management


the background

I previously worked as a technical writer for simPRO Software, a fast-growing, Australian trades and services job management software company.

For every fortnightly release, I and my team were required to produce a variety of content that needed to be reviewed by in-house subject matter experts and our product team.

This meant information needed to be passed between five members in our team alone. We were also growing our team from three to eight members, meaning some did not feel confident in how to complete their responsibilities in this process.


The problem

Our team needed a way to correctly and confidently perform each part of the content review process, as the current process was incurring:

  • inefficient communication
  • wasted time and resources in revising and re-producing incorrect content
  • anxiety within the team about making errors.

the solution

To address this problem, I collaborated with my team members to design a gamified process of information management that used a Mr Potato Head toy as a prop.

The process

I documented and assigned every step in the current flow to a part of Mr Potato Head:

  1. During a release sprint, Mr Potato Head was passed between team members according to this flow.
  2. Team members could only pass Mr Potato Head on when they had completed all tasks within that part of the process.
  3. If work needed to be re-done due to an error in a specific part of the process, the relevant part would be removed from Mr Potato Head.
  4. When the sprint was complete, we would check in with Mr Potato Head, and post a photo of him and his remaining parts on our professional social network for the company to see.

This process enabled:

Each team member had their role to play, but if an error was made, attention would be lightly directed to Mr Potato Head, not the team member.

accountability, not blame

If Mr Potato Head was mostly bare at the end of a sprint, it meant the team as a whole needed to take greater care in each of their responsibilities; if he was mostly complete, it meant the team overall had done a great job.

success through teamwork


The outcome

Release sprints became a significantly less stressful and more organised process, with the amount of work needing to be redone each sprint reducing.

By the time I left simPRO Software, Mr Potato Head was rarely losing a part during a release sprint, and had become a morale-booster for not just our team, but for the rest of the company when his photo would appear on the social network.

Great news for my team, and life and limb-saving news for Mr Potato Head.