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/
Francisco Bernardes, Exago’s head of Innovation Services/

A step-by-step guide to defining your innovation challenges

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.


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/
Francisco Bernardes, Exago’s head of Innovation Services/

Which innovation challenges are more easily implemented?

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

What’s your ultimate innovation challenge?

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

But what are your most relevant challenges? Which topics are more common or 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 our most recent videocast, Exago’s senior consultant Vânia Vargues, and Francisco Bernardes, our head of Innovation Services, tell you more on what we’ve learned. Check it out!

Are you also interested in?
– Main trends and industry best practices
– Real clients’ challenges data analysis
– Lessons learnt: What works best and what doesn’t work – six common mistakes
– A step-by-step guide to defining your challenges

We can share the related in-depth paper. Just reach us at

Exago’s team puts creativity at play at Productized Conference

From 19 to 21 October, our services team is joining managers, designers and product leaders from around the world at Productized Conference, taking place at Lisbon Congress Centre. In three days of ‘insightful workshops and inspiring talks’, participants are working and discovering together what it means to create and manage cutting-edge products. David Fradin, former project management at Apple and HP, and Bruce Nussbaum, one of the world’s top Design Thinking advocates, are among the invited speakers.

‘Service Design Crash Course’, ‘Accelerating UX’, ‘Building insanely great products’ and ‘VCW – Value Creation Wheel®: Be the owner of the best solution’ are some of the workshops Exago’s team is taking part in. ‘We are here to shake up and challenge our creativity and get fully equipped to improve our services and product offer’, says Francisco Bernardes, Exago’s head of Innovation Services.

Know more on the conference here.

The first of 3 key success factors of innovation management

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.

In this process, we’ve thoroughly examined each crucial element, testing and developing the best practices and solutions to make each innovation programme succeed. And, we can proudly say, we do it every time. Our success, our client’s report, is achieved by a combination of technologies and best practices focused on addressing each of these key success factors:

This is the emotional commitment made to your company and its objectives. It only comes when the people that make up your organisation believe they can have an impact on its ability to provide value and have a stake in the value produced.

First, we recommend you establish specific and relevant challenges. People must identify with these, and you need to align them with your business or strategic challenges. Remember to consider and capture your different stakeholders’ profiles. Give them the chance to contribute, not only with ideas but also with assessments of others’ ideas, and to activate the platform’s social components, such as leaderboards.

Platform accessibility and usability must be improved and game techniques used to make participation fun and continuous, developing more use and loyalty. Gamification, in particular, can play a leading role in motivating people and compelling them to jump in and bring value to your initiatives.

You also need to draw up a productive and appealing incentive plan – including prizes and recognition – and a strong, effective communication plan to guarantee community awareness, maximise participation and foster collaboration. The more individuals see the success of projects to which they’ve contributed, the more likely they are to continue to be mobilised.

The 2nd key success factor of innovation management

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

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