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5 Guiding Principles for Your Next Innovation Challenge

Holding an open innovation challenge is an excellent way to ensure a continuous flow of fresh ideas to your organization. When launching your next challenge, consider these five guiding principles.


1. Cast a Wide Net to Find Unexpected Innovators

Let everyone know that you’re on the hunt for ideas. You never know who is capable of coming up with a great innovation. Make the deadline and incentive for making submissions clear. Let the participants know what they will get for entering a winning innovation.
GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt went all out when he launched the massive “Ecomagination Challenge,” using a press conference, VC firms, and marketing to garner participation. This innovation challenge resulted in the largest public participation ever run with 100,000s of participants.


2. Make the Innovation Challenge Specific

The best ideas come from specific challenges. Make sure the contestants know the specific problems you’re trying to solve. Set guidelines for any desired innovations and make sure to identify ideas or approaches that you don’t want or need.
WD-40’s innovation portal, //, has two specific idea challenges around VOC Exempt Solvents and Non-Flammable Lubricants in the Workplace.


3. Automate the Idea Collection and Ranking Process Using Innovation Management Software

It’s impossible to review every submission or identify trending and relevant ideas. Fortunately, there’s no need to hire a team of people to vet every submission manually.
Innovation management software allows the registrants to vote or down-vote ideas and respond to ideas. Just like a social network, you can identify the trending submissions and rate, filter, and sift through the ideas using the admin portal.
Using innovation management software, you can automate this process to automatically rank, filter, and bring the best ideas to the top.


4. Reassure your contestants with IP Protection

Since individuals are bringing their valuable ideas to a public forum, be clear about privacy, intellectual property protection, and ownership.
GE’s Ecomagination Challenge explicitly stated that submissions are the property of the submitter, not GE.
Defining the privacy policy, terms of use, and intellectual property ramifications will go a long way to fostering confident participation.


5. Foster the Community Through Gamification and Prizes

Idea management software has come a long way, offering features such as gamification and prize redemption.
eZassi’s innovation management software awards “points” for participation and features top participants on leaderboards. Within the portal, these points can be redeemed for prizes such as iPads, Visa gift cards, and more.