7 Steps to Running an Innovation Challenge in Your Organisation

Innovation begins with an idea. However, it cannot be sustained when ideas and motivation are scarce. Leaders must recognise that their employees' creative input is crucial when it comes to innovation and ensuring employees feel valued in the process means they are more likely to contribute and share their ideas and solutions. An innovation challenge is a great way to spark new ideas or solve problems in your organisation. 

According to executives interviewed by PWC, an organisation's ability to continuously innovate is crucial to sustaining long-term success. In fact, almost half (43%) of the 1,757 executives surveyed believe innovation is a competitive necessity for their organisation. 

Innovation begins with an idea. However, it cannot be sustained when ideas and motivation are scarce. Leaders must recognise that their employees' creative input is crucial when it comes to innovation and ensuring employees feel valued in the process means they are more likely to contribute and share their ideas and solutions.

An innovation challenge is a great way to spark new ideas or solve problems in your organisation. 

What is an Innovation Challenge?

An innovation challenge is designed to address a specific theme or problem within your organisation by generating ideas. It could be a challenge to come up with new or improved products, processes and workflows, or focused on people-centred outcomes aligned with the organisations' goals. 

There are two types of innovation challenges:

●  Open innovation challenge: this type of challenge can be made open to clients, partners, suppliers, and the general public - allowing ideas to be generated from inside and outside the organisation. 

●  Closed innovation challenge: this type of challenge is centred around the internal workforce of the organisation and can be open to the whole organisation or specific departments.

How to Create an Innovation Challenge

Creating an innovation challenge is often perceived as an arduous task, especially for large organisations with a lot of moving parts and people. However, avoiding the process should not be an option for organisations that want to thrive in the future. By following these steps, organisations can implement an innovation challenge seamlessly.

Step 1: Use Technology to Capture Ideas

The problem many organisations face when it comes to idea generation is capturing ideas from their workforce. And with a large workforce, the prospect of running a challenge can feel overwhelming. If there is no clear innovation system or process in place, many great ideas and opportunities will be missed.  

The first step in developing an innovation challenge requires implementing a system to capture and manage ideas. Digitising this process with the right technology means ideas can be generated at scale and managed easily.

The SimplyDo platform allows organisations to capture, prioritise and action great ideas both within an organisation and outside of it. The framework is simple to implement and can be used for challenges of every size.

>> Find out more about SimplyDo here.

Step 2: Identify Your Innovation Goals

Before creating an innovation challenge, it is essential to identify your organisation's innovation goals and objectives.

What are the targets? What outcomes do you want to achieve? What short-term and long-term results should you expect? 

The best challenges come from clear goals connected to the organisation's mission and values. This makes the employees feel valued that they are working on something that matters which subsequently motivates them to get involved.

Step 3: Create a Timeline

Work out how your challenge fits into the overall scope of your organisations' timeline and be sure to give participants ample time to develop their concepts. 

Setting a deadline gives participants a goal to strive for and allows you to start incorporating these ideas into your organisation by a specific date. 

Step 4: Write the Challenge

When creating the challenge, it’s important to clearly state the expectations you wish to achieve within the organisation. Make sure the deadline and any other critical information are visible and easy to understand to avoid unrelated entries. 

Communicating the challenge clearly is a critical element. If participants are not entirely sure what is expected, they will most likely shy away from getting involved or provide ideas that are not necessary for that specific challenge. 

Step 5: Choose Your Participants

The goal of the challenge will determine who participates in it. The challenge might be aimed at certain departments, the whole organisation, or to third party companies, suppliers and the wider public. You may even have a challenge that is open to internal and external participants. Decide who should be involved and aim to include as many people as possible so that plenty of great ideas can be generated.

Step 6: Launch the Challenge

Once the challenge is written, it’s ready to launch and start generating ideas. Effective communication is key to creating an impact, therefore, select the communication channel that works best to inform and invite participants to take part in the challenge. 

It’s important to reiterate at this point the purpose of the challenge and what you hope to achieve as a result. Be clear on the goal and emphasise how important each participant is in the innovation process and make the challenge sound exciting to welcome as many ideas as possible.

Step 7: Monitor, Engage and Review Ideas

Once participants have shared their ideas, they will need to be reviewed and analysed to determine which ones need to be further discussed and potentially implemented.

If the challenge has been a success and many ideas have been generated, a process will be required to sort through the ideas and decide which ones should be discussed further. Our SmartScore AI technology allows organisations to quickly filter and categorise ideas and each idea becomes an ‘idea card’ assigned to a person, team or challenge creator. This makes analysing the ideas quick and easy.

Every idea that is submitted should be acknowledged to make participants feel valued for taking the time to share their input. Engaging with those involved can boost morale and encourage others to participate. Additionally, giving feedback on ideas and asking questions about specific ideas in more detail will create healthy discussion that can ultimately create even more ideas.

Engaging frequently is vital to keep the challenge alive, encourage further discussion and ultimately meet the goal of the challenge. 

Ready to start your challenge?

Running an innovation challenge is a compelling way of increasing engagement within (or outside of) your organisation. It opens the door for new ideas to come to life and for exciting innovation to take place. 

With the right software, running challenges of any size is easy and allows organisations to gather great ideas at scale and develop their innovative concepts to stay ahead of the game and beat the competition. 

Find out how we can help, here!

John Barker
Associate Director of Partnership Development