How to pick useful and feasible ‘fights’ for innovation challenges

Here’s a simple but essential tip when establishing your innovation challenges: pick ‘fights’ that are useful and bring attainable value to your organisation. This means you need to guarantee your programme is relevant both to your people and company, namely:

• Make sure challenges have business relevance: Don’t solve problems you don’t have. Key business challenges make the most relevant innovation challenges.

• Also, remember to have problem sponsors: International idea management programmes have triumphed by negotiating innovation challenges with particular business unit leaders. Take leaders’ challenges and label them innovation challenges. This way, you’ll have your own champions. Understand, as well, what your champions’ motives are for solving the problem, since this builds you a stronger base from which to negotiate.

• Engage fully your C-level and innovation team: Prioritise those challenges that are useful to your C-level and make sure these leaders approve and support your initiatives. Leadership’s active involvement is key for programme success. Also, make sure that your innovation team is truly dedicated, embracing the tasks at hand.

• Identify key problems that need solving and can be solved: Look for discrete barriers to progress or opportunities within your innovation portfolio of projects. These can be articulated in a way that others, even those from diverse areas of expertise, have a chance to make important contributions to your progress. Also, be sure that your problems can be realistically solved. You need to raise the stakes, but you can’t afford to misuse resources.


‘Sponsorship’s impact is enormous, and we can clearly see this in the number of average market users. In years with higher sponsorship from the CEO and space in internal communication, as well as more attractive prizes, we have many more active users.

‘A staff of committed people must be present in the back-office. No leader can do things alone.’

‘The feasibility of an idea is mostly a function of one’s capability of elaborating, processing and developing it. Newborn ideas are neither good nor bad. They are just ideas (usually very raw). As a matter of fact, the final implementation is always very different from the original idea. Instead, good problem setting is very relevant.’



Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO/ dnc@exago.com
Francisco Bernardes, Exago’s head of Innovation Services/ fmb@exago.com

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