Deliver Engagement and Results through Innovation Challenges

By: Hutch Carpenter | November 8th, 2012

When I first joined Spigit over three years ago, the distinct impression I had was that innovation management platforms were the next generation of social, crowdsourced digital suggestion boxes. Almost like an ERP for ideas, a go-to place to post that idea you’ve always had.

An advantage of developing a large roster of awesome clients is you learn a lot about how they want to run their innovation processes. And here’s what we’ve found:

Crowdsourced innovation runs very well as a series of projects vs. a repository

The ERP model of innovation is designed to be perpetual and open to wide varieties of suggestions. It’s the central repository of ideas, findable and awaiting collaboration with others. While many organizations can and do get tremendous value from this approach, more and more Spigit clients are adopting the project-based approach.

Hence, we are introducing the Challenges function with Spigit Release 3.4. Like focused crowdsourcing efforts to solve specific problems? You’re going to love Challenges.

Before covering some of the features, let’s examine the benefits of the challenge-based approach.

Three Key Drivers of Challenges’ Value

Through experience, some observations about the value of challenges vs. repositories can be made.

First, ideas need a ready recipient to be acted upon. A problem with digital suggestion boxes is the lack of an audience for them. This is not an issue of governance (“this team will be responsible for ideas of this type”). It’s an issue of motivation. Out-of-the-blue ideas compete for time and attention with existing projects and work. Those charged with reviewing them start out at an attention disadvantage, and the ideas can lack “fit” with current plans.

Challenges address this issue. The challenge is cast as a question that relates to a current project. The sponsor is seeking input, and maintain increased attention to the ideas and comments posted. The result is increased likelihood that ideas will be taken up.

The second observation is that participation benefits from refreshing the raison d’etre for the innovation program. In an ERP style innovation deployment, there will be great internal marketing for the kickoff. Ideas will be posted, participants will engage over the ideas and some really good ideas will emerge. What happens next depends on how firmly the organization has embraced an emergent style of ongoing innovation. For some, the next generation digital suggestion box becomes part of the fabric.

However, for others, the cadence declines. Other projects intrude, and the daily cycle of meetings, deliverables and email responding take over. In these cases, the digital suggestion box approach can falter. This is an issue to be addressed in many social software deployments. Here, challenges represent new calls to the action to solve different problems, refreshing the basis of participation.

The third observation is that decision-makers want tangible results from ‘social’. Not really a news flash there, eh? An oft-observed issue for social business efforts is the inability to link them to measurable, tangible benefits. Innovation has always offered a clearer path to this goal than other types of purposes.

Challenges significantly enhance the ability to leverage social for tangible outcomes. Each individual challenge is a call for the collective wisdom of employees to address an opportunity, solve a problem or resolve a question. The results are a clear tangible benefit of ‘social’.

Key Product Features Delivering Challenges’ Value

After seeing how our customers were manually managing their innovation challenges, we’ve responded with some fantastic features that will accelerate time-to-value.

Community + challenges “battle group”: In naval operations, there are battle groups, consisting of aircraft carriers and the supporting ships. Spigit communities and challenges have a similar approach. Core communities, tied to business units, geographies, etc., can have multiple challenges attached to them. The Spigit home platform for employees is the jump-off to the various challenges in place.

Activity phases: Challenges can go through different phases of activity. Which activities? Idea posting, commenting, voting, pairwise voting and idea trading. This allows organizations to structure the challenge. A common example will be to solicit ideas in an opening phase, then have the crowd vote on the submitted ideas in a separate phase. This better ensures full coverage of all submitted ideas. It also becomes a spur for a subsequent round of engagement by participants in the challenge.

Timeboxed to hit a target due date: When creating a challenge, you can set its open and close dates and times. Upon the opening of the challenge, an email is sent to invited participants. The duration of the challenge is configurable: make it an hour, a day, a week or longer. Participants can also optionally be sent reminders at the closing date nears. Upon the closing, new idea, voting, comments, etc. are turned off. The sponsor knows the challenge is over, and can focus attention of determining the top ideas.

Pick a winner: Upon the closing of the challenge, the challenge sponsor can decide which of the ideas to select as winner. Because there can be more than one idea that satisfies the challenge criteria, multiple can be selected as winners. A banner displays on the challenge home page announcing the winners. The winners also receive an email notification. While the ideas themselves still need evaluation and fleshing out, the selection of winners provides an immediate, visible reward to participants.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter. Tagged: customer centricity, customer insights, customers, innovation, voc, voice of the customer