When putting your innovation challenges together, make sure you have a complete plan with clearly defined, targeted audiences, across cultures and business units, as well as key messages, frequency expectations and a communication and incentives strategy. The overall point is to know and hit your targets:
• Target your skills and expertise first: Within your organisation, you almost certainly have people with different types of expertise, from several areas of knowledge, studies and work fields and with different conceptual and practical know-how. It’s this diversity and richness that you want to connect to, and focus on, real business problem-solving. Still, according to your challenge’s specificities – more or less technical and more or less field-related – you may have to engage more restricted groups within your organisation, such as engineers, lab technicians, machine operators and analysts. You may also need to look outside your company’s walls to include suppliers, external experts and other stakeholders. Your innovation tools should allow you to do just that.
• Ask yourself what you are mostly looking for: The framework shown below may be of use to identify your challenge goals and target community.
• Remember innovation challenges do not capture all individuals’ interest in the same way: You have to create empathy, establish almost an emotional commitment. This is also of critical importance in geographically spread-out organisations. For example, inefficiency in a headquarter compound’s energy use in Switzerland is probably completely irrelevant to the same company’s Peruvian employees. Although corporate challenges need to intersect your entire organisation, remember to align them to local reality, also making room for more explicit priorities within specific industry and geographic focuses.
• Seek some balance: Use both specific geographic or know-how groups (i.e. targeted groups), if needed, but always launch more broadly-based innovation challenges, to increase the sense of community and improve transversal collaboration.
• Take into account again that, across geographies and cultures, people are different: Individuals can be more social or insightful, more creative or more logical and critical thinkers – skills that you also want to leverage. The most typical behaviours can be connected with four profiles used in the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology:
– Achievers participate the most with ideas and comments to gather as many points as possible. They become huge contributors.
– Explorers, who love to look around, are great at helping the community discover other potential contributions. They submit insights and diversify overall participation by doing everything.
– Socialisers stimulate others to enhance their contributions. They submit many suggestions for improvement and love to check out what is going on, as well as watch leaderboards.
– Killers love to compete for the sake of competing, and they are very active in the selection and evaluation process of ideas. They are great at differentiating what is good from what is less good and even greater at clarifying those ideas that are no good at all.
Participating has to not only be attractive and entertaining but also inclusive of all these types of players. Idea management software can help you do this as long as it allows several types of participation, such as idea and insight submission, comments to improve ideas and individual and crowd evaluation. From the beginning of the initiative and over time, gamification techniques also will prove helpful to engage your audiences in the innovation challenges.
• Make sure also that you have an appropriate system of incentives and recognition in place: This meets your audience’s different aspirations and motivations, stirring idea generation and added-value contributions. Periodic cycles of incentives – connected to challenge cycles – will ensure people want to improve their participation and remain involved over time. Remember as well to align the incentives with your publicly communicated purpose.
• Communicate continuously, from the beginning and as the process evolves: Good communication will play a part in making the challenge attractive to those who are called to participate. The more individuals see the success of projects to which they have contributed, the more likely they are to remain mobilised. For this undertaking, involve your communication teams – on a country and business level as well – in developing more detailed and well-oriented plans.
HERE’S WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY ON THE SUBJECT:
‘The innovation challenges we launch for particular groups are typically more narrow because we are communicating to a target very familiar with a given topic or reality. We can then start from a more specific point and ask for answers that are more concrete. In more general challenges, we always chose more open questions, although we also guide these groups with insights to lead them and frame the challenge’s scope (explaining what exists, what is already being done and what has been tried without success).’
‘It’s important to match needs and competencies. Also, it’s very important to deliver feedback. Always.’
FINALLY, TRY THESE ACTIVATION QUESTIONS:
- To whom is this innovation challenge useful, and who can benefit from meeting it? (This question supports you through alignment with country and department priorities.)
- What incentives and messages should I use to engage my different teams?
- Does it create empathy with the target?
- Is the challenge being communicated in an attractive way?
- Do I need specific skills or knowledge to meet this challenge?
(to be continued)
FROM THE START:
Your ultimate innovation challenge – what works and what doesn’t