Launching your own innovation programme has never been this easy

Do you feel that your innovation programme is becoming too complex? That you are spending too much time picking the right software to support your initiative, instead of focusing on what your company really needs?

Exago Start, our new cloud-based idea management software edition, is here to simplify your job and change the way innovation is done.

Built to empower your teams with the tools to innovate, you can easily deploy it in one day to start solving your business challenges. Exago Start offers you:

 

SWIFT IMPLEMENTATION
Inspired by industry best practices, the new innovation software accelerates and facilitates the launch of your idea management programme, with:

  • Ready-to-go and field-tested configurations
  • Brand-framing options
  • Practical back-office
  • Quick Start Guide to launch your initiative

 

FAST ENGAGEMENT
Have your people share ideas and collaboratively improve colleagues’ ideas in a healthy competition environment, with:

  • Time-bound and/or permanent challenges
  • Call to action notifications and automated email updates
  • Social feeds and actions to engage the community
  • Idea co-creation and discussion forums to refine and develop ideas
  • Multi-level rankings to recognise participants for their valuable content creation, based on the quality and quantity of contributions

 

QUICK AND RELEVANT RESULTS
Effectively assess ideas along the funnel and gauge results with no additional effort, thanks to:

  • Field-tested idea workflow with different evaluation mechanisms per challenge (likes or voting based on single or multidimensional idea rating)
  • Decision panels to monitor and support idea evaluation (with pre-allocation of ideas to specific evaluators per challenge)
  • Complete reporting engine with exportable reports in different formats
  • News panel to share relevant information and celebrate results with your community

 

Launching your own innovation programme has never been this easy. Learn more about Exago Start to understand why.

 

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The 7 (+1) things you have to do to succeed as an Innovation Director

As companies fight to stay ahead of the innovation curve, the role of the Innovation Director is developing and growing in significance. Some have trained in the field with a high degree of specialisation, while others have fallen into the position from other areas and have moulded themselves to become the innovation leader of their company. Regardless, their goal is the same: to help propel and direct innovation within their organisation.

At its core it is a very appealing role indeed, filled with possibilities, but it also has its fair share of challenges. Many of them are recurring, whether you have been in the role for five years or five months. These challenges generally depend on the dynamics of the markets and of your company in each new leadership cycle, but also on the prevailing corporate culture itself.

Unlike any other field, innovation is built on uncertainty; you may have concrete objectives, aligned with strategic goals, but much of what makes you evolve often stems from pure exploration, from someone connecting dots in a new way. Innovation is exciting yet tricky, a balancing act that isn’t always easy to manage. From time to time, you may even find yourself having to persuade others of its relevance.

So what can you do to juggle these aspects? How can you establish an effective innovation structure and help drive innovation across your company? Besides the key traits that every strong Innovation Executive should possess, to make sure you succeed in your role as an Innovation Manager, there are 7 (+1) things you have to do:

 

1. Ensure sponsorship at C-level

Above all else, it is crucial that innovation is seen as an asset for the business as a whole. If you have the board directors on your side, like at insurance company Ageas (whose CEOs even let themselves be kidnapped in a launch initiative of their innovation programme), then you are one of the lucky ones.

But that isn’t always the case. If not, then you should forge the path to instil a culture of innovation within your company by framing it around the key concerns of your leaders.

The results of innovation can, in fact, manifest themselves anywhere from employee engagement to increased ROI or improved medium- to long-term business risk management, so once you can paint a picture of how innovation can meet the concerns that those at C-level may have, then they are more likely to take your programme on board.

On the other hand, you might be surprised; it’s amazing how often people are open to change, once the opportunity presents itself with the right framing.

 

2. Identify management-level champions in key areas and choose the right battles

As Innovation Manager, you should reach the directors of the most important departments. Listen to their issues and their most pressing challenges, and make sure they are aligned with the strategy of the company. You will want to keep your door open to all of them, but may feel the need to pick three or four key priority areas.

Yet, be aware that some will be more receptive than others and there will likely be resistance, as they may feel that your work will change or disrupt theirs at some point.

You should also focus on picking the right ‘battles’. Choose challenges that have business relevance and are attainable, and spend enough time defining the problem. At this point, remember Albert Einstein’s words: ‘If I had only one hour to save the world, I’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.’

Show the heads of sales, marketing, operations and human resources how your field can serve and enhance their work. Everything works better if you have them on your side rather than as opponents, and if you start by setting the example and working collaboratively.

 

3. Get everyone on board

Although you can create innovation silos or hubs focused on innovation and research and development, which are also important, the role of a true Innovation Leader is to instil the idea of innovation as a way of working across all departments.

For that reason, even if there are investment targets, brainstorming sessions or ideation hackathons, innovation can’t just be a top-down strategy. It must involve and mobilise everyone bottom-up, giving people a voice and harnessing their cumulative expertise, while considering the value in different participation profiles.

As the PWC Innovation Benchmark 2017 report underlines, ‘Human experience and insights of all kinds help shape and deliver new ideas, solutions, products, and services that ultimately bring value to markets and businesses’.

The graphic below shows how people-powered innovation most often begins with your own employees.

This is the real challenge then: to bring innovation to the core of your organisation’s culture and to the everyday way of doing things, because your workforce is your most important innovation partner.

 

4. Equip yourself with the right tools

There are several devices that can help you in this process. Tools such as basic research, collaborative innovation approaches or even open innovation can support business innovation, depending on your specific goals.

Collaborative innovation in particular has proven to be effective in impacting your people as a cooperative community and your company as a living organism. You get to invite people to take part in your innovation challenges, share ideas and improve the ideas of others, rallying all your best minds to find answers and solutions that are relevant to your C-level and your key champions. It readapts mindsets and structures progressively, and on a daily basis.

By using established collaborative innovation software to get everyone involved, companies can promote engagement and transparency, maximise the talent pool and find solutions faster with less costs. All of which goes towards driving their innovation agenda successfully.

 

5. Establish a method and related processes

Having said this, people alone are not enough. As an Innovation Manager, you have to touch upon several types of innovation to be successful, in accordance with the various goals you have set yourself.

You should envision short-, medium- and long-term innovations and incorporate strategic cost-cutting and improvement in your innovation agenda, at both macro and micro level, which will quickly drive results.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution in innovation, and no single approach. The methods involve process designs, planning, aligning strategies and getting your champions involved – design thinking can help you do this.

If you know the best ideas can come from anyone and anywhere, you need to open channels for them to find their way to you.

 

6. Outline spaces for protected innovation

To achieve any given goal, it is also vital to establish space and time dedicated exclusively to innovation, whether that means a physical or a virtual platform, or days (or even hours) committed to your innovation goals.

Additionally, you should also use communication instruments to gauge the results and promote the idea of innovation as both shared opportunity and responsibility. This is the reason it is so important to build a solid bridge with the communications and marketing teams: if you have good content for them, they will be pleased and in turn can create initiatives around your innovation programme that will have a significant impact.

 

7. Show all results and don’t waste time in getting there

The numbers will of course speak for the success of the initiative, such as ROI, engagement levels, participation figures and amount of ideas, but it goes beyond that.

Success also lies in the intangible results – the stories, the people sharing their ideas, the value it creates… It’s about giving your people a voice, letting everyone know what is happening and celebrating individual and collective achievements.

This means that you need to have a methodology in place and to establish KPIs to measure different results throughout your innovation challenge.

 

7 + 1. Lastly, change the way your role is seen

At the end of the day, it is up to you (and your team) to provide the end results. However, you are not, and should not, be alone in this. You have a draft roadmap on what to explore, but you have to encourage others to explore as well.

This means that you have to change the way you see yourself, and that others see you, as the head innovation manager – you don’t govern innovation, nor will you have all the answers; you are a facilitator and a catalyst, engaging and mobilising individuals and teams across all levels.

It isn’t always comfortable, but you must turn innovation and creativity into appealing projects that benefit everyone and change the way of doing things for the better. This will allow your people and your organisation to excel in every task and reap the many benefits of building an innovation culture, whichever the business area.

Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

 

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Innovation training day: Exago team updates its facilitation skills

With the aim of improving our team’s skills as innovation workshop facilitators, several Exago employees are attending a certified Workshop Facilitation Training in Lisbon, Portugal.

The session covers topics such as better communication, posture and participation promotion and is arming our teams with the latest facilitation tools and techniques. It was designed to enable them to provide our clients with informative and engaging innovation workshops that draw the most benefits throughout the innovation cycle.

How Human Resource leaders make the most of innovation management

With innovation management capturing rising interest from human resource managers and directors, Exago’s team took part in the Expo’RH2018 in Estoril, Portugal, to discuss the latest news and trends in the sector. The event organised by the International Faculty for Executives gathered hundreds of HR directors from leading companies such as Nestlé, Ageas, Pfizer, Renova and McDonald’s, under the motto “Experience is the way”, on March 14 and 15.

In the spotlight was the importance of communication for employee engagement. Effective communication not only has to be continuous, but also two-sided, said Maria do Rosário Vilhena, Human Resource Director of Nestlé Portugal. The food and drink company is using focus groups to launch internal challenges and collect insights, while searching for better ways to convey “consistent messages to everyone” across the different business units of their large organisation, “and to be understood by all”.

Ongoing communication and a close relationship with employees has also been part of Renova’s success, explained their HR Director, Paulo Santos. The family-run paper consumption goods company expanded internationally as “the sexiest paper on Earth” and is a renowned case study for incremental innovation.

To open communication channels and bring together the experience and know-how of all employees, larger, multinational companies are also using platforms that allow them to reach their people across business units and geographical locations.

Promoting change through your innovation programme
Internal communication is critical in processes of organisational change, according to Paulo Teixeira, Pfizer Portugal Country Manager. The pharmaceuticals company opened a communication channel with employees through a post box placed in each business location to get ideas and suggestions, but also their feedback. Similarly, an internal tool has supported the recent image and culture change at Montepio bank, Fátima Silva, Head of Talent & Development at Montepio bank, told the audience.

To strategically realign its workforce, the insurance company Ageas used Ding!, built on Exago innovation management software. After Ageas bought AXA’s Portuguese operations, Ding! is helping the company spread its organisational culture and communicate with all the employees from the different brands they now operate, Portugal Human Resource Director Rita Baptista said.

“Listening to our employees was the most important factor for this successful transition, since we were able to make people feel part of that change,” she added. The Ageas management was able to promote company goals and engage people in the process of transformation, bringing everyone together in a collaborative innovation platform.

The HR Director of ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal, Catarina Horta, also highlighted the importance of a company’s collective intelligence as a learning tool.

Keeping in mind the words of Ray Kroc
The quote “None of us is as good as all of us” is attributed to the founder of McDonald’s and defines the company’s DNA, says Sofia Mendonça, HR Director of McDonald’s Portugal. She explains how collaborators, franchisees and suppliers are the corporate pillars involved in the business evolution. The iconic 50-year-old Big Mac, for example, is a by-product of this approach: it was originally suggested by a Pittsburgh franchisee after several construction workers commented that the hamburgers were too small.

McDonald’s connects with those three pillars through several types of channels, both face to face and digital. Gamification and social features, along with a vivid communication tone, are particularly relevant in the digital linking to their workforce, whose average age is between 19 and 23.

Optimise your cost-cutting strategy with the right innovation management tool

When investing in a bottom-up innovation management approach, you get to call on people’s knowledge and experience to help you separate the wheat from the chaff and find concrete and innovative solutions, mainly at micro level. You can save time and money by having your employees contribute ideas for the cost-cutting strategy, as well as cost-optimisation ideas that can transform and impact the company positively. Examples from our clients show just that.

Simple ideas such as ‘set as default printing on both sides’, ‘reduce the number of floors or buildings being used during night or weekend shifts’ or ‘use more efficient watering systems in the green areas of the company’ can have significant impacts on your costs. What’s more, they can boost morale by promoting a culture of sustainability, in all corners of your company.

 

When can an innovation management software be useful?

In large multinational companies with multi-regional presence, it may however be difficult to listen to all your people on the ground. Through its capacity to engage employees across borders, an innovation management platform becomes a powerful tool.

If this is the case in your organisation, make sure you get a solution that offers multi-language features – where employees can have access to the content and strategic cost-cutting challenges presented by management in their native language and make use of their business knowledge to create ideas and help others improve theirs.

Your innovation management platform should be centralised, but allow for the creation of target and country communities to which specific challenges can be issued. Think, for instance, how remote the problem of wasting paper bags in stores in the US can seem to someone building components in Asia.

Gamification elements are also valuable, as they are designed to capture different types of participants, to develop greater loyalty and promote higher use. Participation will be more frequent when users feel their ideas and insights are valued and turn into real solutions.

Andreia Agostinho Dias, Sales Executive
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

You can access the full paper here