How to boost your idea management with groundbreaking ideation challenges

In this article we present six proven success factors for setting up and running ideation challenges in your company successfully. If idea management becomes a routine in a company, the number and quality of employees’ ideas may decline. It’s quite a normal phenomenon. Here is what you can do about it. Starting ideation challenges is a great way of bringing back employees’ attention to the idea management process or innovation process.

1. Select the right topic for your ideation challenge!

To support a company’s idea management you can run internal ideation challenges on nearly every topic you can think of: improvement of internal processes, ideas for better customer service, new products or product features, digitization of business models and so on. Especially if you run ideation challenges for your idea management for the first time, it’s important to select a topic to which employees can relate.

It’s much easier to run ideation challenges on how to overcome internal bureaucracy than to start with digital business models. The selection of the right topic mainly depends on the maturity level of your innovation culture. In innovation management it’s not always smart to start with the most complicated questions. Once ideation challenges are a vital part of your idea management, it’s ok to choose topics that are more complex.

2. Select the right inspiration for your ideation challenge

What is the secret of a successful newspaper or online article? It’s lively, emotional and relevant to the audience. It’s the same for preparing an ideation challenge. If you start an idea management campaign on how to avoid bureaucracy in your company, start by collecting and describing three to four typical situations. Ask employees how they feel about bureaucracy in your company. Get a statement from your CEO encouraging staff to rethink processes in your company. Give examples of other companies that successfully overcame bureaucratic barriers within their organization.

Make your ideation challenge interesting! Ask yourself: If this were a collection of online articles, would I like to read it? The more effort you put into the preparation of an ideation challenge the better the results of the campaign will be. The Innolytics® idea management software and continuous improvement software allows you to create highly attractive ideation challenges. You can upload pictures or videos and set up an innovation blog where you describe examples.

3. Define clear targets for your ideation challenge

What exactly do you want to achieve with your ideation challenge? Very often our customers are afraid of defining clear targets because they think that it might be a barrier to the creative process. It’s not! If you define and communicate clear targets, you show that you are dedicated to the topic and to the idea management of your company. A typical introduction text for your ideation challenge could be:

“We are looking for one hundred ideas to overcome bureaucracy in our company. Tell us in which areas you feel that tasks could be done with less effort! Give us your ideas for new internal forms, processes or approval processes. Out of the one hundred ideas we are going to choose the ten best ones and implement them.”

You will quickly realize that clear targets are helping you to promote the ideation challenge within your company. If you don’t define and communicate these clear targets, your employees might ask themselves: “If they are not committed, why should I be?”

4. Communicate the evaluation criteria for choosing the best ideas

When we started idea management projects with customers we found very often that they tend to start ideation challenges without communicating what makes a great idea. This becomes a problem because everyone thinks their idea is good. And they are right: For idea management to become sustainable it’s important to communicate the criteria of what makes a good idea in a certain context or related to a specific topic. Some of our customers were looking for breakthrough ideas that are new, support the image of an innovation leader in the industry and provide talkabouts for the sales staff. Others were looking for ideas that are quick wins in the idea management process or innovation process and can be implemented with a relatively low amount of resources.

Employees won’t know what you are looking for in an ideation challenge until they know the evaluation criteria. It’s vital to the success of an idea management campaign to communicate these criteria early on in the process.

5. Support your staff actively in finding the best ideas

Very often companies find out that it’s not enough to let an ideation challenge run by itself. Be sure that you have a designated moderator on your ideation platform who actively supports employees. Very often employees have simple questions like how to write a good headline for an idea or they need support when it comes to analyzing a problem.

Be sure to have someone engaged in your ideation challenge who is ready to answer these questions quickly. Once employees post their first questions, discussions or ideas, they should get a response within a couple of hours. Especially when your employees are not used to ideation challenges, they might at first be hesitant and reluctant to provide contributions.

The more activity they see on a platform the more active they will be themselves. The more encouragement they get from a moderator the more details and profound concepts they will contribute. In our projects we very often support our customers by providing a professional platform moderator. Although this person is not an expert on the topics of the ideation challenge, they know how to encourage users to provide great ideas and contribute thoughtful comments to the process.

6. Think about how you will implement the results of the ideation challenge

Sometimes we talk to companies that start an ideation challenge in order to boost their idea management. When we ask them about the implementation process, we get the following answer:

“We will think about this later. First we want to see which ideas will come up.”

We wouldn’t call it a mistake in general, but communicating the process for implementing the best ideas shows that you are very committed to the ideation challenge. Although you might not know which results come up, you can surely provide a timetable and a first plan for the implementation.

Announcing your idea management campaign could include sentences like this one:

“The best ideas will be evaluated by an independent commission within two weeks after the end of the ideation challenge. We will communicate the results directly. We are planning to choose between five and ten ideas and provide the authors with resources to develop a concept for implementation. These concepts should be ready two months after the end of the campaign. We want to give the authors and their teams the opportunity to discuss the concepts with the top management. We are planning to implement at least three ideas in the final process and will support the teams in every way we can to make their ideas a success.”

In our projects, we encourage customers to develop and communicate clear plans. The Innolytics® idea management software and continuous improvement software provides companies with a tool to define clear goals in the process of implementation, so that they have an implementation roadmap and are able to control the implementation of ideas.

Ideation challenges can boost your idea management and continuous improvement

If you follow our success factors for ideation challenges, you will quickly realize that employees become more open to the idea management or continuous improvement process of your company. Innolytics® will provide you with software and services for setting up and running campaigns for idea management and continuous improvement.