The idea management challenge. How do they do it?

The Brazilian company Fleury – a leading provider of clinical analyses in Latin America – has currently more than 10,000 employees. All can participate in Fleury’s innovation efforts. In 2007, the company initiated a programme to encourage suggestions for how to improve its operations, allowing all employees to submit ideas on paper, which were then evaluated by an innovation committee. A software platform helped, in general, to collect ideas, supporting the programme.

But, the significant amount of work involved in evaluating these ideas led Fleury to consider an alternative. To optimise the process, in 2011, the Fleury group next adopted the Central de Ideias (Idea Market). Created by Exago, this innovation management solution is a software platform where all stakeholders can make their contributions – not only collecting and harnessing everyone’s ideas but also evaluating them.

Within a single year, the results overtook even the most ambitious targets:

  • Ideas submitted – escalating from 1,809, in 2011, to 7,269, in 2012, when the new model was implemented (an increase of more than 400%)
  • Ideas approved – more than doubling, from 443 to 946
  • Ideas implemented – increasing from 225 to 300
  • Stakeholders involved – growing from 712 to 3,309 people (and 15 months after implementing and disseminating Exago’s model, more than 70% of Fleury’s staff had actively joined in).

Fleury’s innovations have generated millions of reais in value. They’ve reduced operating costs and introduced more efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly processes. So far this year, almost 8,000 participants are still interconnected and actively participating, and 600 ideas have come to life. People have become the centre of Fleury’s culture of innovation.

In this way, the company has managed to tackle the three central challenges identified above: to create high levels of mobilisation and engagement, to be extremely efficient in the process of idea evaluation and to sustain high levels of participation over time (i.e. avoiding creating an initial peak followed by a drastic fall in participation).

At Exago, we’ve worked with extraordinary clients, such as Fleury, and others from pharmaceutical, banking, utilities and telecommunications industries – across four continents – to help them mobilise targeted communities to solve key business problems by learning from them and with them. What do we then believe to be the 3 key success factors of innovation management? We’ll see that next.

The first of 3 key success factors of innovation management

Can you master the 3 key success factors of innovation management?

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder

Can you master the 3 key success factors of innovation management?

A little over a year after implementing a new innovation management solution, participation at Fleury was nearly five times higher. This real company has generated real value through innovation. What can you learn from their experience? No single secret software and algorithm opens all doors, yet, by combining the right ingredients, you too can unlock the full potential of your innovation initiative.

If you’re implementing a programme, particularly ‘idea platform’ or open innovation solutions on a national or international scale, you can expect ups and downs. Road bumps come with the territory. Any innovation manager has felt some (or all) of these anxieties:

We’ve built it . . . but no one’s coming.
You have your programme in place, you’re filled with energy to make it happen, but no one joins you. You’ve hit the most challenging of all walls: a lack of engagement. For things to work, you need to have your people with you. How do you engage them and their enthusiasm? How do you increase the stickiness of your innovation efforts?

We’ve created a process monster.
On the other end, if you’re lucky, you’ll attract many people, creating high volumes of information – too high to be handled by any single manager or even an innovation team. All of a sudden, you find yourself trapped inside processes rather than creating value. Instead of having an engine that lets you focus on bringing the best ideas to life, you’ve become a slave to the machine – and you’re all too aware that this lack of efficiency will end up killing the engagement you’ve captured.

So, you need a model that can process all content generated in the platform – ideas, insights, comments and investments – rapidly and efficiently.

One way but down.
Finally, you’ve had your one success, but the budget is inelastic and enthusiasm begins to fade. How can you make sure your programme continues to deliver results?

Countless ‘traditional’ innovation programmes actually fail. The causes are diverse but diagnosable as:
// The programme is not inclusive – you can only participate if you have an idea.
// It lacks focus – you haven’t established the scope of relevance.
// Evaluation is inefficient – you’re wasting time and money.
// Incentives are unbalanced – you have too many or too few.
// Results are cloudy – only a few people are involved in the process of evaluating the suggestions of the ‘crowd’.
// The process requires facilitation – your software can’t stand by itself alone.

The idea management challenge. How do they do it?
The first of 3 key success factors of innovation management
The 2nd key success factor of innovation management
The ultimate innovation management success factor
What we’ve learned about the idea management challenge

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder

ELIS launches open innovation challenge for social and individual development

Associazione Centro ELIS, a non-profit organisation focused on preparing both young and adults for the labour market, is calling on its main stakeholders and Italian universities students to get involved in social and individual development efforts. ELIS, in association with ENEL group, wants to gather fresh insights into how to promote smarter cities, homes and manufacturing, as well as digital education and employee engagement – by using Exago’s gamified open innovation software.

Students and stakeholders are invited to submit, comment, evaluate and select the ideas they believe can meet the challenge. With a sophisticated but simple user interface, Exago’s platform allows ELIS to access external innovation sources easily and to welcome and recognise different types of participation, while rewarding all valuable contributions.

Elis hopes to ‘mobilise more easily different expertise and points of view to meet our goals of promoting vocational training and social development. We also want to find new ways to bring people, schools, universities and enterprises together, in Italy and in the developing countries were we are working”.

Founded in Rome in 1962, Associazione Centro ELIS operates with the belief that education and training are fundamental and privileged tools to promote the individual, and represent the basic and permanent values necessary to achieve social and economic values such as labour, solidarity and development. ELIS is thus committed to guaranteeing the constant adaptation of its programmes to the evolution and needs of the labour market.

Are you using these innovation metrics ?

The focus on innovation has been moving to the value within organisations’ people: not only employees but also stakeholders and consumers. Being the human factor a new fundamental driver, how are companies gauging innovation results and capabilites? What metrics are they using?

According to McKinsey Quarterly: The Online Journal of Mckinsey & Co (2009), the main indicators ranked by importance by the 722 organisations surveyed are:

/ Revenue growth due to new products or services 16%
/ Customers’ satisfaction with products or services 13%
/ Quantity of ideas or concepts in the pipeline 10%
/ Expenditure on R&D as a percentage of sales 8%
/ Sales share of new products/services in a given period 8%
/ Number of new products or services launched 8%
/ Return on investment in new products or services 4%
/ Number of R&D projects 6%
/ Number of people dedicated to innovation 4%
/ Increase in profits due to new products/services 4%
/ Potential of the complete portfolio of new products/services to meet growth targets 3%
/ Changes in market share resulting from new products/services 3%
/ Net present value of the complete portfolio of new products/services 2%

These choices reflect the ‘people factor’ in innovation, namely, customers’ satisfaction with products and services and the number of people dedicated to innovation. Nevertheless, bearing in mind companies’ specific goals, many others can be suitable, as shown in the following table. Examples are the effort expended on cultivating an innovation culture or capabilities development and the investments made or the wide-ranging outcomes of innovation processes.

measuring innovation

Which of these should we choose? Do they fit the needs of our specific innovation management programmes? These questions become even trickier if we know that the output of one phase becomes another phase’s input. Cause and effect overlap.

Reviewing the literature on innovation management, Henry Edison and his colleagues, in their paper Towards Innovation Measurement in the Software Industry (2013), reported 232 metrics in use by business managers and leadership, across industries. How can you then avoid the analysis-paralysis?

How to avoid the innovation management analysis-paralysis

How can you measure innovation management?

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder

Fleury’s idea market recognised for game-based approach to innovation

Exago’s client Fleury, the largest group of clinical analysis services in Latin America, reached the top five shortlist for large companies in the International IMP³rove Award 2015. Fleury was selected for its innovation drive and practices using a gamified platform that gathers and processes innovative ideas, based on Exago’s idea management software.

Fleury is one of the most respected medical and health organisations in Brazil. To meet its high standards and promote idea creation, a corporate innovation programme was launched in 2007. Four years later, the group introduced the ‘Central de Ideias’ (Idea Market), built on Exago’s innovation software, to engage workers and leverage the company’s collective intelligence more efficiently by using social and gamification mechanisms.

‘Central de Ideias’ is a tailored, democratic tool with which all employees can submit incremental innovation suggestions to improve services, practices and processes. Staff are then rewarded with prizes and recognition for their added value creation. The Idea Market not only collects and harnesses everyone’s contributions but also collaboratively evaluates them, spreading Fleury’s strong culture of innovation throughout the company. The platform is also open to innovative proposals from 55 suppliers. In 2014, 761 ideas were collected, 182 of which have been implemented.

The IMP³rove – European Innovation Management Academy Award nominated the Idea Market initiative for its contribution to Fleury’s sustainable growth based on systematic innovation management. In this third edition of the awards, the jury received more than 100 nominations from 2,000 applicants worldwide. The finalists were celebrated in a ceremony during Turkish Innovation Week 2015 in Istanbul, in December.