Six common mistakes and one advice for innovation challenges

Operational efficiency is clearly ahead in idea implementation, while sales and marketing, sustainability and better customer experience count for more than half of all the ideas implemented. By dissecting the innovation challenges that performed the worst – and excluding extrinsic factors such as a weak system of incentives and feeble, meagre or uninteresting communication – we note that these challenges tend to be:

a. Unfamiliar or distant from people’s everyday work and needs;
b. Detached from current business strategic alignment: This may happen, for instance, if you launch a challenge focused on anticorruption, social inclusion or ecosystem protection, but your company has never, in your daily practices and initiatives, really shown interest in such themes;
c. Too technical for the target audience: Both technical and business jargon has the power to dismiss and demobilise larger parts of your audience;
d. Too abstract: Remember that, the wider the scope, the more people tend to submit ideas that are irrelevant for your business;
e. Too narrow: Yet, if you completely limit the scope, you may miss some relevant insights;
f. Ambiguous or difficult to understand: Linguistic complexity, such as unclear or complex sentences, may make you lose your audience’s focus and attention.

One of our clients suggests as well that “communication is important, but, if you find it is too important, then all the rest is poorly structured. You cannot feed a fire just with straw. . . Guidance on how to write a good idea must go well beyond mouseover suggestions.”

Also, remember that, even if you map the right tools and needs, other factors can still undermine the success and participation in your innovation programme. For instance, you should not expect highly engaging initiatives without first planning and rolling out an appropriate communication plan, as well as adequate awards, recognition and implementation mechanisms. In the next posts, we seek to give you a hand in establishing and structuring your innovation challenges.

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

READ MORE:
A step-by-step guide to defining your innovation challenges

FROM THE START:
Your ultimate innovation challenge – what works and what doesn’t

There is a clear winner theme in ideas’ implementation

When tracking challenges’ specific results, the same themes to which management gives more relevance are exactly those most important in implementation, as we´ve seen. After ideation and crowd discussion, followed by improvement and approval, management and leadership embrace innovations more easily, as the higher rates of implementation show.

Operational efficiency is clearly ahead in idea implementation. It is followed by several more general, corporate culture-related proposals. Together, sales and marketing strategy, sustainability goals and better customer experience count also for more than half of all the ideas implemented.

ultimate innovation challenge

But why is this? Here’s one client insight on the matter:

‘More permanent themes are those that generate more implementations, especially “operational efficiency” and “organisational culture”. This is understandable since, of our main themes, these are the ones for which it’s easier to suggest incremental improvement and to which everyone can have something to say about, whatever their specific line of work.’

These new ideas, regularly coming through your pipeline, work together and continuously to make your business evolve every day. They become the engine of your company’s growth – constantly creating real value. Taking as an example one of our clients from the telecom industry with challenges focused on sustainability and cost savings, we see that they managed to:

• Reduce paper consumption by 20%
• Save 12% in their lifts’ electricity costs
• Take 14,000 fewer calls a year in the customer service department
• Save 300,000 euro a year by rationalising their buildings’ use
• Save 2 million euro with a new, eco-friendlier packaging system
• Save 25 million euro with process-optimised service.

One single idea – be it more disruptive or incremental – can have the power to increase your sales, decrease costs, improve your returns or even change your business.

(to be continued)

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

FROM THE START:
Your ultimate innovation challenge – what works and what doesn’t

Which innovation challenges are more easily implemented?

By analysing 164 real innovation challenges, we’ve seen how people more easily relate to – and want to have a say in – questions that are closely tied to, and disrupt, daily work routines. These are, for instance, ‘How can we develop innovative products and services at cash desks?’, ‘How can we capture younger audiences?’ and ‘How can we increase safety during installation processes?’.

Yet, when tracking challenges’ specific results, the same five macro themes to which management gives more relevance are exactly those most important in implementation. After ideation and crowd discussion, followed by improvement and approval, management and leadership embrace innovations more easily, as the higher rates of implementation show.

CHOICE > ENGAGEMENT > RESULTS

ultimate innovation challenge

This may also relate to the fact that these challenges are, by their nature, more incremental. So, management can execute the resulting ideas more easily without causing major disruption or creating higher risks, by promoting:

• Positive changes in operational efficiency, routines and techniques to improve the way things are done;
Open idea challenges, such as motivational initiatives focused on teamwork and workplace relationships;
• Ways to encourage better customer experience;
• Daily practices that cumulatively contribute to more sustainable business, with respect to the environment and corporate business strategy;
Marketing initiatives to build on brand strengths and trust perceptions, increasing sales results.

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

READ MORE:
There is a clear winner theme in ideas’ implementation

FROM THE START:
Your ultimate innovation challenge – what works and what doesn’t

Lessons learnt on 164 real innovation management challenges

To see more clearly what has worked better – or hasn’t worked – with our own clients in recent, real innovation management initiatives, we’ve selected 10 with different size dimensions, from different countries and continents and a variety of sectors, including utilities, banking, health care, energy producers and telecom operators. In total, our clients have presented their communities with 164 challenges, all of which we’ve studied in detail, focusing particularly on the engagement levels and results achieved.

What works best
We’ve started by identifying the macro themes most commonly chosen by management and then looked for those that have generated more ideas and interactions. The table below shows what we found has happened.

MANAGEMENT CHOICES vs. ENGAGEMENT LEVELS

ultimate innovation challenge

Challenges that are more tangible, related to themes such as ‘operational efficiency’, ‘cost savings’ or ‘product and service enhancements’, appear to have captured people’s attention and participation more easily. Although not usually among management’s top five choices, ‘quality-focused ideas’ is also a quite attractive theme.

Understandably, these findings mean that people more easily relate to – and want to have a say in – questions that are closely tied to, and disrupt, daily work routines. These are, for instance, ‘How can we develop new products and services at cash desks?’, ‘How can we capture younger audiences?’ and ‘How can we increase safety during installation processes?’

Here’s one client insight on the topic:

‘The themes that work best are those to which the employees can relate to, reflecting their life experiences and involving solutions from which they themselves benefit from or other issues where it’s easier to have an opinion without needing deeper expertise. This includes, in our context, themes such as family, children, services at home, corporate and social responsibility, new offers and solutions and communication campaigns – our teams love this one. But this excludes issues such as more specific business services – since the business world appears a bit far away, which may not be the case in a company where customers are exclusively from this sphere – and overly technological subjects.’

But how does it relate to challenges’ specific results? We’ll see that next.

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

READ MORE:
Which innovation challenges are more easily implemented?

FROM THE START:
Your ultimate innovation challenge – what works and what doesn’t

Your ultimate innovation challenge – what works and what doesn’t

How much time do you spend thinking about your company’s problems? Probably too much, you would say. Yet, when it comes down to planning and developing your collaborative innovation initiatives, the way you identify, frame and share your organisation’s challenges with your targeted community is a key determinant of the success of your initiatives.

A strategy consistently used by leading companies for over a decade, collaborative innovation has proven to be more than a fad: it’s why these companies remain leaders despite disruptive and increasingly competitive business environments. Collaborative innovation has conquered management structures and innovation departments worldwide by its capacity to engage people and deliver results over time.

Idea management software has become a well-recognised and actionable tool for facilitating and enabling innovation initiatives. This software allows you to present your company’s most relevant challenges to communities and focus their cumulative expertise and know-how on solving problems by submitting, improving and evaluating ideas – individually and as a crowd.

The software works with you, whether you seek to improve performance, find new products and methods or develop a widespread, collaborative culture of innovation. But what are your most relevant challenges? Which themes are more common or more easily embraced by your employees? And what techniques can help you both choose and define your challenges?

At Exago, we’ve decided to revisit our clients’ challenges over past years, to understand what has and hasn’t worked in the field in different realities, as well as collecting wisdom from this experience. In the first chapter, we analyse these data and identify some trends and best practices. Based on these findings, we next share samples of our new Idea System Launch, a step-by-step procedure to help you set up your challenges and enhance overall initiative effectiveness.

Read more:
Lessons learnt on 164 real innovation management challenges
Which innovation challenges are more easily implemented?
There is a clear winner theme in ideas’ implementation
Six common mistakes and one advice for innovation challenges
A step-by-step guide to defining your innovation challenges
First, ask what your innovation purpose is
How to pick useful and feasible ‘fights’ for innovation challenges
How to mobilise the right audiences for innovation challenges
Are you building your innovation challenges right?
Set the timing right for your innovation challenges
Five key dimensions for building your innovation challenges

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