An idea challenge is a great way to jump-start improvement efforts and get employees from around the company involved.
An idea challenge is a time-limited event where employees, customers, or the public are introduced to a question by a company or organization. They submit their best ideas, solutions, or feedback in an attempt to win a designated prize or an opportunity to work on the project that brings it to fruition.
The purpose of the idea challenge is to open up the innovation process to employees company-wide, the customer base, or public at large. They get a more transparent view into strategic operations, can collaborate and brainstorm together, and of course supply the company with a diverse list of new ideas.
Whether collecting, organizing, and reviewing the ideas from your idea challenge using innovative software solutions or attempting to do it manually, the process of getting your idea challenge off the ground is simple but can’t be overlooked. Starting at the top, its essential to align your idea challenge with corporate objectives to make the most of the ideas you’re searching for.
Step 1 – Get Top Management Commitment
Collaborate with top management to align your challenge with corporate strategy, the improvements the organization is looking to make, and the types of ideas they’re in need of. Once it’s clear that the idea challenge will be applicable to hitting those objectives, obtain buy-in for the resources, people, and tools necessary to launch and run the idea challenge.
Step 2 – Choose Challenge Topics
Take a deeper look at the aforementioned corporate strategy and objectives, and identify the specific areas your idea challenge will cover. Whether increasing revenues, cutting costs, improving efficiency, or something else, get a general idea of both where you’re in need of new ideas and where you think your participants will be able to help the most.
Step 3 – Set Specific Objectives
Narrow down your areas of interest into specific objectives to scope out the types of ideas you’ll be receiving. Are you looking to improve revenues with new products, better customer service, pricing packages? Are you cutting costs by decreasing production time, adjusting the supply chain, streamlining communication? By narrowing your objectives, you’re adding more context and steering the idea challenge towards more applicable ideas. This will be reflected by your idea challenge statement.
Step 4 – Identify Challenge Groups
Determine who you want input from and who will be playing a role in bringing the new project to life. Prospective groups are employees from different departments, customer groups, suppliers or partners, and the public. It’s essential to find cross-functional groups to combine insights, experiences, and ideas in a collaborative environment.
Step 5 – Organize Marketing and Communication
Put together a communication schedule and stick to it. Get the word out about your idea challenge to everyone in the groups you’re looking to target. Outline the challenge, the ideas you’re looking for, any information they’ll need, and what participants can get out of it. Leverage multiple communication channels like emails, social media, word-of-mouth, and physical signage.
Step 6 – Build Ideation and Review Infrastructure
Creating a collaborative environment for hundreds to thousands of people isn’t always possible offline. And collecting, managing, and reviewing the huge influx of ideas can get overwhelming. (Don’t rely on Excel for this.) Leveraging innovation or idea management software creates an accessible platform for posting your challenge and for participants to submit ideas and leave feedback from anywhere. With your ideas, it streamlines the process of reviewing them in a structured manner. If unable to use IMS, arrange for proper opportunities for participants to meet, speak with each other, and submit their ideas in a suggestion box or web form.
Step 7 – Launch the Idea Challenge
With all the pieces in place, formalize the responsibilities of the people involved and put together a schedule for launching AND closing your idea challenge. Leverage a “launch party” or workshop to build hype, and schedule updates during the challenge to keep the momentum going while your challenge is live.