How to start an innovation challenge?


Need to boost your innovation initiative?
Need to deploy an effective way to gather ideas from your community?
Need to energize your team on the innovation side?

You have the idea to run an innovation challenge?

Running such a challenge is not a straight and easy things to do if you want to leverage all results and achieve a good outcome regarding both continuous improvement or disruptive innovation.

What is an Innovation challenge?

An innovation challenge is particular in the way that it has an end (a few weeks), it is focused on a topic and, most important and often forgotten, it is has dedidacted ressources to implement the ideas. The deliverables should be clear and precisely defined (xx ideas implemented…).

In that way, an Innovation Challenge should be run as a project.

Why running an Innovation Challenge?

3 main reasons can lead to an innovation challenge. Otherwise some other tools might be more suitable.

  1. Want to solve  specific problem and need ideas and insights
  2. Want to aware people on a specific subject
  3. Start your innovation initiative by a particular event.

Main steps to run an effective Innovation Challenge

  • Name the project manager
  • Define clear scope, duration and deliverables
  • Determine the topic of the challenge and verify that it is aligned with coprporate concerns and startegy
  • Define the wording of the question
  • Find implementation team, allow ressources
  • Define with mean will be used to set the challenge (dedicated software, sharepoint, email…)
  • Define the targeted peoples who will be able to take part to the challenge
  • Define a powerful and innovative (somehow funny) communication plan
  • Run your challenge.
  • Dont’t forget to clearly set to the audience what you are looking for (ideas? solutions? concepts?…)
  • Keep the power high by communicating regularly and encourage discussion and exchange
  • Review ideas, select the good ones and assign ressources (with a dedicated implematation plan)
  • Communicate the results

Key parameters of success

  1. Run it as a project with all regarding attributes
  2. Management support incl. possiblities to mobilize team, ressources and budget to implement slected ideas.
  3. Have a clear duration, objectives and needs
  4. Encourage engagement and organize events to energize it.

Lessons Learned

I have run more than 10 innovation challenges so far. Most of the last ones have been succes ful with more than 500 ideas submitted and more than 1M€ savings generated. Not speaking about new products under development…
The first ones were a disaster. No problem to say it. I have collected for a 3 months duration 5 ideas for my first challenge… Bad topic, bad communication, unclear problem to solve, too wide subject, not a single good practice. We wanted to do a wonderfull challenge but ended with a too wide and difficult to handle challenge. The employees simply didn’t understand the point.
Hopefully this first fail did not affect the future ones because it stayed relatively unknown and we managed to prove to the community that all means were present for the second one hich have been much more sucessful.


What are you main lessons learned for your Innovation Challenge?


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