During an innovation challenge, participants will have to generate ideas centered on a certain theme or problem, which could be about coming up with new products, improving current processes and workflows, or anything that’s aligned with the organization’s innovation goals.
In this article, you will learn the specific steps in organizing an innovation challenge or competition.
Benefits of Running an Innovation Challenge
There are a few ideation activities that could yield great innovative ideas. Innovation challenges, however, have a different ring to it with the competitive energy they bring to further drive participants to develop better ideas and solutions.
The gamification element of this activity adds enthusiasm to participants and encourages them to engage and contribute.
Because innovation challenges have time restrictions, organizing one is an effective method of collecting ideas that are centered around a priority problem or goal in a short span of time.
In only a few hours, you could already have thousands of great ideas that may be unique from the ones you gathered in brainstorming sessions. To gain this benefit, the innovation challenge must first be specific and focused.
How to Organize Your Own Innovation Challenge
When creating an innovation challenge, remember that the main objective is to create value for your organization. Keep that in mind while we go through the different steps you need to take when organizing an innovation competition.
Step 1: Define Your Innovation Goals
The first step is to define the micro innovation goals to achieve with this activity. Though these are different from the main innovation goals that you have set for your organization, the micro goals must be aligned with the main ones and should lead towards achieving them.
To start off, include your senior stakeholders who could help you in creating these micro-goals. Organizing an innovation competition requires resources, which is another reason why you must keep your seniors in the loop.
Then, you could start formulating your goals by answering questions like:
What primary challenges of the organization could make use of all the great ideas that will be gathered from the innovation challenge?
Which of these challenges need more attention than the rest?
Which challenges did the organization have problems in coming up with effective solutions?
The information you get from answering these questions should help you define the goals to set. Additionally, they could also enlighten you into seeing possible hindrances or roadblocks along the way.
Step 2: Determine the Type of Innovation Challenge to Use
Once you have clear goals, it’s time to determine which type of innovation challenge to use. Both types have their own set of benefits and disadvantages, which we would also discuss in this section.
Here are the two types of innovation challenge:
An external innovation challenge is open to customers, partners, suppliers, and the public. In a manner of speaking, you are posing a challenge to the outside world.
On the bright side, you would be able to receive ideas both from within your organization as well as outside. You may be able to find unique ideas here possible only by including people who see the problem or challenge from a different point of view.
The downside is that holding a public innovation challenge could easily turn into a logistical nightmare. Of course, you could avoid this by setting up restrictions and qualifications and by using third-party services and platforms that would help you do the challenge smoothly.
On the other hand, an internal innovation challenge is exclusive only to stakeholders within the organization. You can involve all your employees at all levels across different countries where you have offices.
Holding the challenge internally could encourage a culture of innovation. Although the participants wouldn’t be as diverse compared to an external innovation challenge, you would still get expert insights from people who interact with your products and services on a regular basis.
Now, if this is your first time organizing an innovation challenge, we recommend that you keep it small first. Start with an internal innovation competition first. You would still receive great ideas since the participants have hands-on experience and knowledge of your organization.
Step 3: Select the Participants
After knowing which type of innovation challenge to organize, the next step is to select the key participants that will join the challenge. Once you have selected them, it’s important to let these people know what to expect from them.
Let’s say you decided to organize an internal innovation challenge…
Surely, you could set the challenge to be open for everyone on every level and department. On the other hand, you could also be selective and limit the participants. You could set it up for certain departments only or certain regions.
If you want to organize an external innovation challenge, then you could limit the range of participants to a certain group or industry only. You could also isolate the challenge and keep it open only to a certain city or region.
The key here is the innovation goals you have set in the first step. Do you need more people on board? Do you need ideas from people with specialized knowledge? Do you have a limit to how many participants could join?
Step 4: Select Key Performance Indicators
The next step is to define the indicators that would help you measure the success of your innovation challenge. This part is a little bit tricky since most people would list all indicators they can think of.
However, it’s important to note here that you should refer to the micro innovation goals you have set at the first step and list only the most relevant indicators.
Some examples of key indicators you can include are:
Number of active participants
Number of ideas collected
Possible return on investment of new ideas
To do this effectively, you may have to use an innovation dashboard. Selecting and tracking the right key performance indicators is critical to determining the success of the innovation challenge.
By using a dashboard, you could combine the right data sources and show the most important key indicators in one glance. In addition, a good innovation dashboard would allow you to create reports, which you can then show to your senior stakeholders.
Step 5: Set up the Challenge
Now that you have defined the micro-goals, determined the type of innovation challenge, selected the participants, and defined the key indicators, what’s left to do now is to set up the innovation challenge itself.
You could use various tools for this like the Accept Mission platform, which has a feature that would let you run an undercover mission where the participants could submit their entries with an undercover identity.
Or, you could also set up inboxes and let your participants freely submit their ideas to the right inbox.
Whichever you use, the most important part is making sure that the challenge is quite clear. This means you need to convey what the challenge is all about along with some relevant information your participants could check out.
It’s also important that you create a timeline and set up a deadline. The timeline should have target dates and times for every stage of the process including when you will be implementing the winning ideas.
Don’t forget about the rewards for the participants. Make sure to select the right ones as these could encourage the participants to put in time and effort in coming up with ideas and solutions for the theme.
In this stage, having an idea management software would definitely help. It could help you set up the challenge, put in a deadline, and monitor the progress easily.
The next step is to spread the word about your innovation challenge. You will have to market the challenge to your participants. One of the most effective methods of doing this is by empowering your employees to become ambassadors of the challenge.
It’s also important to select the best communication channels to ensure that the challenge reaches the right ears. Some of the channels to consider include:
Social media platforms
Naturally, there would be a difference if your challenge is public or internal only. If your participants are your employees from every office that you have, then a company-wide announcement works really well.
What’s important here is that your participants would know about the challenge and learn how to take part in it. You could use a combination of channels to make sure of that.
Step 7: Run the Innovation Challenge
The next step is to officially start the innovation challenge. Remember that while the innovation challenge is running, you must monitor and manage the engagement. Answer all the questions and inquiries right away.
Every time an idea is submitted, don’t forget to acknowledge the contributor. It helps increase morale and further encourages others to participate.
This works really well if you’re using a platform that offers a real-time notification feature. For example, in Accept Mission, following and liking ideas would enable you to receive notifications for that submission.
While running the challenge, it’s also important to give feedback on the ideas. Some of the ideas, though already good, could still be enriched. You could help the contributors by asking questions and giving prompts.
Step 8: Review the Ideas
Now that the innovation challenge is over, it’s time to thoroughly review and assess all the ideas. You must also choose the winners whose ideas best fulfill the innovation goals that you have set in the first step.
The methods and criteria of evaluating ideas may differ from one organization to another. But the important thing here is to come up with your own criteria that are unique to your needs and aligned with your goals.
For example, in Accept Mission, you can set up your own criteria on how to rate an idea. You can then invite a focus group to give their scores on the ideas submitted. From this method, you can then choose the winners of the innovation challenge.
After assessing the ideas, don’t forget to report them back to your senior stakeholders. You can also start to implement the best ideas by turning them into innovation projects and placing them on the roadmap.
Step 9: Recognize the Best Ones
The next step is for the contributors. Recognize the winners of the innovation challenge and the reasons why they won. You could start with how the ideas were assessed and mention how the winning ideas could benefit the organization and its stakeholders.
On the other hand, don’t forget to recognize all participants. This is important, so that they would still be motivated to take part in the next innovation challenges.
When sharing the news about the results of the innovation competition, you could use the same channels you have used to communicate with the participants. It also helps to post the results on social media platforms.
Here’s How Accept Mission Could Help
As you can see, organizing an innovation challenge isn’t really that complicated. However, there are a lot of aspects like managing the engagement and tracking the deadlines that makes it hard to manage.
Using an idea management software like Accept Mission could make it a lot easier. You get to streamline the majority of the process and make use of technology to either automate or simplify some of the tasks involved.
Some of the tasks Accept Mission could help include:
Setting up and monitoring key performance indicators