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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TRANSFORM calls on social enterprises to apply to the open call

To help scale bold ideas to tackle the world’s big social, environmental and economic issues, TRANSFORM, the joint initiative between Unilever and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), is now calling on social enterprises to apply. To invite ideas and promote collaboration to further catalyse impact, TRANSFORM uses Exago’s open innovation software.

TRANSFORM was founded in 2015 to support social enterprises that meet low-income household needs in developing countries. The partnership is currently supporting 19 projects across nine countries, which have so far benefited over 400,000 people.

TRANSFORM’s aim is to enable 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to gain access to products and services that have been shown to improve health, livelihoods, the environment or wellbeing by 2025. To achieve this, earlier this year, the partnership announced the expansion of the joint commitment from £10 million to £40 million and is now welcoming new ideas and projects.

Do you have an idea TRANSFORM can help scale?

TRANSFORM is looking for social entrepreneurs and innovators with ideas for market-based solutions in three areas:

  • Delivering products in hard-to-reach rural locations, with a particular interest in Nigeria, Ethiopia, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • Providing sanitation to low-income urban and rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • Raising awareness and demand for safe, affordable drinking water in highly dispersed rural households across South Asia, with a particular interest in Bangladesh and India.

Projects must demonstrate the potential to be financially sustainable, target low-income household needs in an innovative way and focus on one of DFID’s priority countries. TRANSFORM offers grant funding up to £300,000 and bespoke business support to take ideas to scale.

For more information and to share your ideas, visit www.transform.global.

 

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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Step 5: Be resilient to create a cost-conscious culture in your innovation agenda

If you are introducing cost-cutting in your innovation agenda, your ultimate drive is to create a cost culture that sustains itself over time and is not forgotten three months after being announced by the leadership.

Your final goal is that your workforce feels that the organisation’s investments are personal investments, which can benefit all.

Still, organisations are living creatures in changing contexts. So, strategic cost-reduction priorities should be regularly reviewed and updated in the same way as business opportunities are.

And so we find ourselves where we started: needing to map out intervention areas at micro and macro level, both good and bad costs, and clearly define and (re)align everyone with your cost strategy over time. Ensure that you have the best methods in place to address each area in an efficient way, using top-down yet privileging bottom-up approaches in your innovation agenda.

For bottom-up approaches, also review the communication plan at hand to help your employees understand the tweaks and turns. Let them have an active role in the process of building the company’s future together.

It will take time and some effort, since resistance is normal under less favourable circumstances. It will take people’s commitment.

Yet, with strong leadership, a clear and well-defined strategic cost-cutting programme and the awareness of shared responsibilities, an organisation can reinvent itself and learn how to do so continuously, as models are challenged and new opportunities arise.

 

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

Access the Five-step Guide to make cost-cutting work within your innovation initiative here

Step 4: Overcoming fears over cost-cutting within your innovation agenda

Typically, cost-cutting is an expression that frightens employees. It often suggests salary reductions, job cuts and increased individual workload. When introduced in your innovation agenda, you should thus ensure that both real needs and strategy are understood across the organisation, consistently framing any cost-cutting goals.

It is important that the community clearly understands that a strategic cost-cutting and improvement strategy can assume an innovative role in the company.

It should also be understood that it doesn’t strictly relate to cost reduction for specific areas but it can, instead, help you collectively find and assess new and more effective ways of developing a process or product at a lower cost, cutting redundancies and waste.

The Communication and Marketing departments should be involved in the programme from the beginning to present a comprehensive plan capable of reaching the entire workforce. Your goal is to inform employees, help them understand what is being done and why, and create empathy with the common challenge faced.

Aligning employees with the companies’ goals will contribute to aligning costs with strategy. Remember that everyone in a company can play an essential role in identifying ‘bad’ and ‘good’ company costs, mostly at the micro level. Besides the innovation management platform, brainstorming sessions with employees and among teams can also be very useful to categorise the existing costs and to collect insights on future good costs and potential investments needed.

This continuous engagement of your workforce will also make your employees more cost-conscious, imposing a more effective cost and spending culture.

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

Access the Five-step Guide to make cost-cutting work within your innovation initiative here