10 best practices for cross-border innovation: Analysing number 3

Photo: Jay Mantri@pexels.com

What sometimes is less obvious when launching your innovation programme across borders, is the need for a constituency inside your company to provide needed support throughout different phases of the process. Still, forget about employing a huge army of innovation musketeers. That’s not going to happen.

Since you’ve not been given an army of trained consultants to fight the innovation war, you need to find creative ways to build a constituency. Ongoing training programmes that ‘produce’ innovation practitioners is one way to go.

Over time, you’ll build up a constituency ready to support you in your efforts – especially if you have this contribution codified into each individual’s performance evaluation targets.

For instance, you’ll need internal backing for communication: to reach out to employees and stakeholders in far-flung parts of the company, to give a little boost when necessary to a particular idea or venture and so on.

Learn also how to spread your advocates strategically across branches, with different levels of innovation proficiency and sharing a commitment to this cause. They are the foundations of your governance model.

How can you actually take your initiative to this next level?

At Exago, we asked that question of ourselves when a client commissioned us to design a programme to build an internal army of innovation practitioners. Together, we defined a set of outcomes to increase the success of initiatives by improving content quality, accelerating throughput and de-risking opportunities. We named the programme ‘Innovation Sigma’ and based it on efficiency focused Six Sigma principles:

  • Definition of four different levels of innovation proficiency;
  • Curricula (tools and courseware) that qualify participants at each proficiency level;
  • No full-time allocation (tapping into pivotal resources inside the organisation);
  • Guidelines describing how individuals can progress from one proficiency level to the next.

Whatever the programme you adopt, what’s important is that you create a homogeneous system, throughout your organisation: with a portfolio of offline tools, methods and processes that allow trained individuals to push innovation further. Build your own army of innovation practitioners to enhance innovation proficiency and deliver differentiation continuously.

There is no substitute to minds working together in a room ideating, elaborating upon an idea, and accelerating a venture. You need to structure these events in a way to assure they achieve the desired outcomes.

This means designing the right set of tools, processes and facilitation for each session. Ideally, you should have a catalogue of offline programmes that you can easily draw from whenever you need to unstick an idea or a stalled opportunity.

Remember then to:
# Build your constituency, across countries
# Create offline processes to push innovation forward

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

Number 4 sets the beginning and the end

Innovation programme across borders: 10 best practices to make it work

10 best practices for cross-border innovation: Analysing number 2

Photo: R.Ashrafov@shutterstock.com

We’ve seen that getting leadership’s active engagement, not just sponsorship, is key when developing an innovation management initiative across borders. I won’t lecture on the importance of the second must-have: the capital to effectively launch and manage your programme. This is clear, and I’m sure you’re taking care of it.

A lack of funding is, indeed, among the main causes for the demise of these initiatives. You do need some time to make the programme grow and deliver results, particularly when it has such scope and scale.

This means you should secure a minimum three-year budget. That way a commitment is made, and risk of short term shut-down is minimised.

In addition, ensure your budget includes funds to support promising and interesting business ventures that stagnate simply because they don’t have a natural owner in the organisational chart. Adequate financial planning will end up saving you time… and money.

So, tip number 2:
# Secure a small venture development budget

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

Number 3 helps you to push innovation further

Innovation programme across borders: 10 best practices to make it work

10 best practices for cross-border innovation. Number 1 gets you on the right track

Photo: Chris Sardegna@unsplash.com

These days, you rarely find an organisation worldwide where innovation is not part of leadership’s mantra. Yet the time and resources dedicated to it are far less than other disciplines, like quality and customer service.

The challenge is that innovation is (will always be) a leap into the unknown that rarely brings immediate measurable results. To successfully implement and run an idea management programme across borders, start by making sure you get leadership fully engaged – CEO, Executive Committee, business unit leaders.

Focus on addressing their business concerns and challenges and educating them on the topic of innovation. Show, as well, how innovation will deliver results to your global and local business challenges. In other words: Get their commitment and engagement, not just sponsorship and involvement.

Make also sure they are aware of both the tangible and intangible outcomes, that expectations are clearly negotiated ahead. No oneyear innovation plan should be put forward, as it is too easy to be shut down by short-term results oriented executives.

In a multinational setting, you will need time to grow and expand your efforts. Innovation demands resilience, and both top-down and bottom-up support.

So, when developing your innovation programme across borders remember first to:
#Get leadership’s active engagement, not just sponsorship
#Take a leap of faith and be resilient

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

Number 2 avoids premature shut-down

Innovation programme across borders: 10 best practices to make it work

Innovation programme across borders: 10 best practices to make it work

It´s a one million (or likely more) dollars question that companies worldwide have been striving to answer: How can we successfully implement and run an idea management programme across borders? In other words, how can organisations with complex combinations of countries, businesses and languages extract value out of corporate wide effort – in particular, when running country specific idea challenges in parallel with corporate challenges?

Organisations have long realised that innovation is the cornerstone of any corporate growth imperative. It’s the ongoing attitude that makes it possible. A source of opportunities, to create differentiated business models, products and cost structure that can ensure resilience and growth, at a global scale.

However, as you know, if you’ve been walking the innovation road for some time, relying on an innovation team or department to do all the work does not function, particularly at such large scale. You need to tap into the ideas and experience of everyone working with you.

Your internal diverse crowds – employees and stakeholders – are your most valuable asset. They:

  • Have been exposed to many experiences, also personally and socially;
  • Come from different backgrounds and education;
  • Are consumers, with good and bad experiences to report, in all walks of life;
  • Have worked in other departments, other companies and even other industries and countries;
  • Are diverse in gender and age and nationality.

Just think about the expertise and knowledge of each and every one of them. Multiply that by a single, shared purpose you identify as a top priority. The possibilities are endless. Many of your employees and stakeholders have, in fact, the potential to be real innovators. But they may lack the tools, methods and incentives to do it.

Where to start such complex enterprise?
How can you make sure your idea management initiatives do reach them, across all frontiers? Running a corporation-wide programme is not an easy task. Social and cultural differences and language may pose real threats.

Geography is the ultimate barrier, yet nowadays easier to overcome with new tools and global online networks. So, before the journey, you have to start by planning a comprehensive idea management programme with ambitious but real targets, deadlines and evolution steps. One that fits your organisation’s goals and features.

Try to anticipate at each turning point in that evolution process when and how to involve your branches and affiliates. Then, learn to adapt as the transformation in your company happens.

Over more than a decade of running innovation efforts across continents, we have learned what works and what doesn’t with leading organisations. We have distilled this accumulated learning into a set of principles.

In the following weeks, I will share 10 top best practices to guide you in designing your cross-countries idea management process definition and governance model. They will help you maximise your results. Let’s get started?

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

Number 1 gets you on the right track
Number 2 avoids premature shut-down
Number 3 helps you to push innovation further
Number 4 sets the beginning and the end
Number 5 gets you to pick the right fights
Number 6 assures community awareness
Number 7 ignites motivation
Number 8 has to be properly geared
Number 9 makes this a shared journey
Number 10 is all about results

Are you set to go?

Enel’s employees present 1,300 ideas in Eidos Market’s first global edition

In a little over a month, Enel’s employees in different countries have presented 1,300 ideas to address the challenges the company launched in the Eidos Market platform. Using Exago’s idea market solution, this platform allows any participant to submit, discuss and evaluate ideas – thus engaging all staff in Enel’s shared innovation efforts.

Around 3,300 employees have already contributed to the challenges, making 2,300 comments and 6,000 evaluations. The platform works like a stock market, where anyone can invest in the ideas they believe to be more valuable, using the credits they earn for their overall participation.

In this first edition, Enel selected four main challenges: customer contact, the environment, individual roles in health and safety and the improvement of professional performance.

An active role in innovation
José Arrojo de Lamo, Enel’s head of innovation, says, ‘The secret of Eidos is not only to suggest ideas but also to develop and implement them to make sure their value reaches our business.’

Endesa, a subsidiary of the Enel group, has been using Exago’s bottom-up innovation tool since 2012, in Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. Building on this experience, the project has grown until, now, Eidos Market is open to all employees in the 40 countries where Enel operates.

The platform uses a predictive market algorithm developed by Exago to select top ideas efficiently. The ideas that get more support in the idea market – through the investments they attract – are then assessed by a team who decide which to implement. This model allows each employee to take an active role in the company’s future, allowing Enel to activate and harness its staff’s collective intelligence to reach common goals.

You can read more about the Eidos Market’s first edition results here (in Spanish).