Get into innovation management (and idea contests) easily and inexpensively

You CAN get into an idea management system relatively inexpensively…certainly for less than you probably think. And once you get started and your team produces a bunch of good ideas, it will be easy to ask management for more budgets to roll out an innovation system in a much bigger way.

You don’t need expensive rewards

In fact you probably don’t need rewards at all. Here are some facts you know are true if you ask yourself and you’ll learn if you ask your team:

  1. Your team has tons of good ideas;
  2. Your team wants to submit those ideas to the company.

They don’t really want a T-shirt or an iPod anywhere as much as they want three other things:

  1. They want to watch their ideas get promoted through a system toward deployment;
  2. They will be thrilled to see others comment, discuss and work on their ideas;
  3. They want to see if there are any other similar ideas out there; to see if others are thinking like they are thinking.
Ask yourself: “Do you need a reward to check out your Facebook Home Page?” Or is it the essence of the process that keeps you coming back.
Your team will participate in the innovation program you put forth because good social science says they will. And the persuasive design of your idea management software program will draw them to click and add value to the exact places you want them to. You can send out emails, newsletters and tweets to inform your audience. When they go to the URL you send them to, bright colors will draw their eyes to the most pressing issues.

The satisfaction of watching ideas, discussions and comments progress will keep bringing them back.

An Innovation System is a big decision but you can take small steps to get there

True, by definition, a collaborative idea management system is an enterprise tool. Deploying one can be scary because of its scope. But you can take some small steps first. Working backwards from full deployment:

  1. Everyone with a computer within your organization is an active user on the new idea management system
  2. Everyone within a department (perhaps IT, or IP or Engineering) is an active user on the trial idea management system
  3. A pilot has fifty to a hundred active users who you can rely on to be interested and active participants by trying out the new idea management system …And here’s the very first small step you can take to test the waters for very little money:
  4. You can run one challenge to your team: “Please participate and help us with this one area where we need creative ideas”.

A small budget to start

For as little as $5,000 to $10,000 you can collect tons of ideas helping your organization solve one of the most pressing problems you face today. Using software as a service you can launch a browser based system for idea management assuming a short term plan. You need to spend some money on professional services to kick off the project and perhaps some ongoing expert help. When your project is complete you’ll have success and the justification to move forward to grander programs.

The keys to success

There are some key elements to the success of the program.

One: You have to run the first program for a finite period of time. Ideally a short time frame like 30 days (good social scientists may ask for at least 90 days).

Two: You need a minimum of a hundred participants (again, good social science leads us to believe at least 50 active users (on the system at least 5 times per month)).

Three: You have to have a measurable goal. Otherwise how will you know you succeeded?

Measurable Goals

You don’t necessarily want a bunch of unsolicited ideas. It is much better to seed some challenges to your audience. Examples might include: “How can we make our company more environmentally responsible or “green”?” “How can we broaden our product line to get more revenue from existing customers?” “How can we drive prospects to our booth at the big show coming up in winter?” Think about what is being discussed with concern right now at your executive’s meetings.

At the end of your time period you will have tons of new ideas. Some of them will get automatically promoted via the idea management tool’s algorithmic science (hopefully more than just votes but also number of views, bookmarks, follows, etc.). Your tool will help you winnow down the list to a select few and then flush out the selected ideas with thorough analysis and a feasibility study. At the end of your time period the innovation team will be able to go to management and say: “We launched an innovation program. We received thousands of ideas. Out of all those ideas several bubbled up to the top. We’ve assessed these few ideas and believe they are worthy of deploying (and here is why).”

These statements will be true because you’ve solicited the wisdom of your crowd. And the crowd at your organization is probably pretty smart when it comes to your offering.

By Ron Shulkin

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