Set the timing right for your innovation challenges

Now that you have identified your key innovation challenges and built them properly, remember to set the timings. Not only does the commitment to a deadline make participants focus, but this also helps you when defining goals with realistic deadlines.

Still, this does not mean one-time, finite initiatives or efforts. As one of our client says, ‘Innovation requires a lot of work, not only to describe ideas well but also to develop them.’ This is true from ideation through to collaborative idea improvement and implementation. For optimal results, you also have to roll-out an appropriate, ongoing communication plan, as described before, establishing medium- to long-term commitment to the project and implementing top ideas as you move forward.

Each cycle end further gives you the time you need to concentrate on implementation, evaluate the initiative, make improvement, tweak ideas and prepare to launch the next cycle of challenges.

THESE ACTIVATION QUESTIONS CAN HELP YOU:
  • How much time do we need to address this challenge?
  • Is a solution reachable within a two to three-month challenge? Or should we break down the challenge further?

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

READ MORE:
Five key dimensions for building your innovation challenges

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

Are you building your innovation challenges right?

Having identified your key innovation challenges – aligned with your company’s higher purpose and strategic goals and made attainable, useful and targeted – it’s time to focus on describing them plainly and completely, to guarantee you’ll get meaningful content:

  • Make your innovation challenges as specific as you can: Break down the challenge’s macro theme into smaller challenges. We’ve learned that the narrower the scope of the challenge, the more imaginative the audience becomes, thus the more meaningful the ideas you’ll secure.
  • Clearly state and justify the need for a solution: Explain why exactly we can all benefit from this challenge.
  • Contextualise the problem and share the findings: Try to understand what has been done within that precise topic in the past, by your company and other competitors. Background checking can recall opportunities, dismiss dead ends and provide key ways to explain the innovation challenge in more detail to participants.
  • Promote ideation with related insights: These last are very useful tools to share the learning process and background details with participants.
  • Make sure also to respect grammar and orthography and send out clear messages:
    • Communications of challenges must use correct syntactic structures and clear sentences.
    • Vocabulary has to be familiar to participants. Business or technical jargon may seem obvious to you. Don’t assume it is to others.
    • Direct questions are a good option, when used in a positive way. This is true even for more driven exploration challenges.

If people do not understand the challenges they face, how can you expect them to participate? Unclear language will also compromise your audience’s future participation.

Here’s a client insight on the subject:

‘It’s very important to add insights and share them in ways we know will mean employees will check these insights.

Usually, our insights include descriptive information provided by the area that manages the subject, including some statistical data. We want to make sure our teams understand the challenges, particularly when these are more complex, and avoid the submission of ideas that we have already implemented or discussed.

Imagine the challenge “How to encourage SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] to set up online stores?”: In this case, we would present statistical information on SMEs in our country, explaining how many there are, what their types are and so on, so that employees understand the target better. Also, we would mention our company’s current offer for these customers, changes and improvements that have already been planned and possible tempting proposals that have been analysed but are not yet in the market (i.e. trying to ward off those apparently obvious ideas).’

Finally, try these activation questions:

  • Am I saying clearly how we can all benefit from this challenge?
  • Is this really one or more challenges? If so, which ones?
  • Are we asking the right questions?
  • What other approaches were attempted in the past?
  • Are we providing enough insights to power ideation?

 

READ MORE:
Set the timing right for your innovation challenges

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

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

How to mobilise the right audiences for innovation challenges

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.

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• 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?

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

READ MORE:
Are you building your innovation challenges right?

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

Fighting for your audience? Take on the right incentives

Your customers will always be glad to share with you insights on how to improve your product. They’re probably doing it now in some way, though irregularly and outside any structured innovation management framework.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for specific expertise or creativity focuses, you can’t expect the answers to land on your doorstep. You need to give people some kind of incentive to think ideas through, getting them to share their best contributions. ‘Why should I participate in this programme, anyway?’ is the question potential participants will certainly ask.

Which incentives should I use?
You need to opt for both self-promotional – leaderboards, reputation enhancements and community recognition events – and material incentives – money, products and experiences. This is particularly relevant if you’re running a competition or targeting the general public or consumers.

Make sure that the company you pick to help you with initiatives takes this route, providing a detailed overall plan of programme incentives and articulating which activities should be promoted and how this happens. The template model needs to accelerate decisionmaking. These elements must create clear links between incentives and rewards, aligned with programme objectives and organisational brand values.

In addition, the chosen online platform should implement a horizontal incentive scheme that covers each stage of the open innovation process. It must also integrate gamification techniques and game elements such as points, badges, leaderboards and digital currency rewards (which participants can exchange for material prizes) for each valuable interaction with your platform.

This model allows programme managers to promote the desired behaviours of targeted stakeholders or communities. Finally, you need to be able to manage your programme easily for brand awareness, quality of proposals and quantity of interactions.

(to be continued)

Pedro da Cunha, Exago’s co-founder/ pdc@exago.com

FROM THE START:
Open innovation and the fight for your audience

Finally, your 7th innovation journey must-have

Last but not least, when launching your innovation management effort, remember to find a way to communicate why the initiative is bigger than just a simple project with a set of processes and tools. A strategic intent that shows the outcomes of the effort will not only benefit the company, but your people and the world we live in.

Show your teams that this is the opportunity to define the company’s future, to out-differentiate our competition and, more importantly, to write history together.

In short, make sure you find what makes you all jump out of bed in the morning. It´s the ultimate must-have to guarantee, over time, a seat in the Innovation Journey.

Ready to board? Check your must-haves:
Are you ready for your innovation journey?