For innovation leaders, one of the hardest tasks is keeping the innovation funnel full. Yet, this is key to sustaining an innovation effort. What’s worked for me is to create an innovation challenge. Today’s show lays out a process for making an innovation challenge. Creating a challenge will keep the funnel stocked with high quality ideas.
What’s an Innovation Challenge?
An innovation challenge is no mere cattle call. A vague request for innovative ideas from everyone will result in low quality ideas and not many. An innovation challenge is a well-defined effort to draw in the best and non-obvious ideas. It invites those whose daily job may not be innovation. It opens up the funnel to unique perspectives.
An innovation challenge requires two things.
1) Crafting an innovation challenge statement.
2) Creating the process that invites people to submit their ideas.
Innovation is a team sport. But if you limit the game to those on your innovation team, you may be missing out. While the innovation team is busy bringing ideas to market, the funnel is drying up. You need backup. Use the power of the crowd to help fill your funnel with breakthrough, game changing ideas.
Defining the Challenge
To get your innovation challenge started, begin with focus. It’s the “F” in the FIRE framework (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, Execution). Create a focused innovation challenge statement.
The key elements of the challenge statement answer who, what, and when.
- Who is the target for the innovation?
- What is the problem or opportunity?
- When will the challenge be realized?
Those invited to participate in your challenge will answer the “how.”
The more specific and targeted your statement, the better the ideas that result. In fact, the smart use of constraints will also improve the quality and impact of the ideas submitted.
Take time to get your innovation challenge statement right. Once you’ve drafted the statement, test it with a small group of people. Listen carefully to feedback and make changes. Test it two to three times before releasing the final innovation challenge statement.
Setting Up the Challenge
In deciding how to run the challenge, determine:
- What constitutes success in the innovation challenge?
- Is it the number of ideas received?
- Is it the attention the challenge generates for the sponsor?
- Is it the innovative solution to an actual problem?
- To whom will the challenge be open?
- Will it be open to the general public?
- Will it be internal to the organization?
- Will it be by invitation only?
- What is the motivation to participate?
- Will the challenge offer prize money, royalties, investment in the idea?
- Will name recognition or promotion be the motivator?
Consult a legal team while developing the challenge. The legal team can help set clear guidelines on who owns an idea that’s been entered.
Launching the Challenge
Once you’ve got your challenge statement and structured the challenge, you need participants. The next step is promoting the challenge. Find out where your target participants hang out. What social media are they on? If the innovation is a social challenge, engage the press in promoting it. Use the networks of others to reach out. If you’re opening an innovation challenge to the public, drop me a note. Or join The Innovators Community and promote your challenge there. Keep promoting the challenge until it closes.
After the Challenge
Once you’ve created and launched the challenge, here are some points to keep in mind.
Recognize the best ideas. Call out the people who came up with them.
Keep every idea. It may be useful in the future. The difference between a good idea and a great idea is rarely the idea. It's the timing.
Set up a regular schedule if an innovation challenge will become part of your long-term strategy. This will allow people to prepare for your next challenge.
Now go out and create an innovation challenge that will fill that funnel with game changing ideas.
To hear about creating an innovation challenge, listen to this weeks show, Don’t Let the Funnel Dry Up! Create an Innovation Challenge S14 Ep37.
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We are getting ready for CES 2019. If you know someone who will be at CES and would be a great guest on the show, drop me a line. We will be hosting Killer Innovations in the Mobile Studio at CES. If you’ll be there, stop by the Mobile Studio to check it out.
For more on innovation, check out my book, Beyond the Obvious including extensive excerpts, over at beyondtheobvious.com. You can find hardcover, digital, and audio versions of my book on Amazon or wherever you get your books.
This show is produced by The Innovators Network.