Establishing an innovation culture at a company is an endeavor worthwhile. As we described in our previous blog post, customer needs are changing rapidly nowadays, and especially established players can have difficulties meeting these new desires.
They have to ask themselves a strategic question considering limited resources: Shall we focus on increasing our market power, or should we instead go for a new approach and/or technology? This question quickly turns into the well-known Innovator’s Dilemma because a new approach carries the risk of allocating resources into something where the outcome is unknown. Therefore, the unknown is often left to start-ups like Uber, giving room to disrupt a whole industry. What if there were ways for established players to reduce the risk and keep up with the competition?
That is where Innovation Contests can come into play. They set the stage to discover and develop new ideas, and even more importantly, create the right mindset to validate them with small experiments or prototypes. Hence, making the unknown a little more predictable.
But Innovation Contests do not only help tackle the Innovator’s Dilemma.
By promoting an environment with active communication and collaboration across teams as well as participation and ownership among employees, the impact reaches beyond the contest itself as described below. But first, let’s take a look at how you can get the most out of an Innovation Contest for your company. Here are some key essentials to get started.
How to Get Started with Your Own Innovation Contest
Provide direction for your Innovation Contest. This is not to hinder creativity but rather to give the participant’s ideas some guidance. For instance, are there current market trends or new customer segments your company wants to explore? Are you looking for product, service, process, or business model innovation? And not to forget, how do you motivate employees to participate?
By answering these questions during the initialization phase, your Innovation Contest can really unfold its potential and bring actual value to your company.
Ideation and Mentoring
Provide the required structure for developing ideas. Discovering the setting that supports the process of ideation best for your use case is most important, and highly individual. But setting up idea workshops, hackathons, or idea boot camps can serve as great frameworks for teams to develop ideas into innovation in a defined setting. Needless to say, that these frameworks should be supported by the right digital tools to enable collaboration for remote teams.
Provide mentoring for the participants. Not all employees know how to get from a first idea to a validated business model or a working prototype – that’s at least one reason why you are starting an Innovation Contest after all, right? So, mentoring throughout the whole journey from generating, validating, and presenting ideas to actually realizing them will provide the right methods and create the right mindset for participants. For instance, at Tagueri we usually teach Design Thinking, How might We, Regnose or Lean Startup methods.
Provide sound judgment and real opportunities to participating teams. Typically, the votes of a jury determine the winners of your Innovation Contest. To make sound decisions and find those ideas that have real potential for your company, it is crucial to have the right jurors. For instance, industry experts or even customers can be valuable representatives in a jury next to your company’s decision-makers.
The Benefits of an Innovation Contest: An Instrument to Develop Your Company’s Own Innovation Culture
All of this is completely new to you? There is nothing wrong with starting with small first steps. After all, your company’s benefits will be the same:
Improved Team Spirit
The participants actively communicate and share ideas throughout the entire process. These interactions are priceless because they connect people and create a refreshed feeling of team spirit. And of course, working closely in cross-functional teams will help employees expand their network – a key factor for challenging and enriching ideas that are often overlooked.
Higher Employee Engagement
Employees are one of the most valuable resources for in-house innovation. After all, they are the ones getting their hands dirty while building products or talking to customers on a daily basis. So providing them with a platform to present and take ownership of their own ideas will empower them and create a sense of belonging. And ultimately, your customers will also be happy.
Innovative Employer Branding
Lastly, implementing Innovation Contests and creating an innovative work culture will radiate to the outside world and attract a future workforce that appreciates and lives by these values. And with new talent, come new ideas.
So why are we telling you all this? We have been through this journey ourselves and with the first-hand experience, we can say: It’s worth it! Now we believe that our experience is worth sharing with others. If you want to get your first Innovation Contest started, we would love to hear from you and innovate with you.