The Ultimate Guide to Running an Innovation Challenge

Ideas can be hard to come by, and good ones are even rarer. Whether confronting problems with how you handle your customer service or wanting to switch up how teams reach their objectives, it can be helpful to have a pool of creative suggestions to pull from and develop.

Running an innovation challenge can build up that collection of ideas and wireframe designs while posing it as a fun competition for the whole company.

What is an Innovation Challenge?

Also known as innovation competitions or ideas challenges, the essence is that you motivate participants to develop and invent new solutions, plans of action, or even products by adding an element of competition.

The best ideas then get taken further by your company, being given to the research and design teams and put through your automation testing process before being released to the world. By making innovation into a game, you encourage a wider remit of participants and more diverse ideas to be put forward.

What is an Innovation Challenge?

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How To Run an Innovation Challenge

This might seem simple in theory, but there are several points to consider to make sure your innovation challenge draws out the best ideas possible and avoids common mistakes in the innovation process.

You want your challenge brief to be specific enough that it can’t be too widely interpreted, but general enough to allow for imagination and creativity to come through.

Need some help with planning and implementing your innovation challenge? We’ve got you covered.

Step One: Identify Your Goal

What problem do you need a solution to? At its core, what is the purpose of this innovation challenge?

Using a framework such as the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-limited) can help you to get a clear idea of what the goal is and how you will know when it has been achieved.

Make sure this is in line with your broader company goals to show participants the importance of the challenge to the business as a whole.

Step Two: Establish Criteria for Success

Piggybacking off your initial goals for the challenge, identify what factors will make a winning product or idea. Some challenges may prioritize a team effort, whereas others might look for staying within a budget or fulfilling certain functions.

You’re going to want to make these criteria clear when advertising your challenge so potential participants can factor this into their designs and ideas, giving you the most appropriate entries.

Step Two: Establish Criteria for Success

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Step Three: Choose Your Participants

There are two main types of innovation challenges: open or internal. Open challenges are accessible to anyone, whether customer, employee, or investor. Internal challenges are kept within the company. Depending on what you’re hoping to get out of your challenge, you’ll want to restrict or expand entries to different types of people.

If you’re looking for an idea from a specialist’s perspective, you’re not going to want random suggestions from members of the public who haven’t used software testing methodologies before. Alternatively, when looking for creative customer experience ideas, your management teams might not know what customers look for.

Step Four: Decide How to Advertise

Now you know who your participants are likely to be, work out the best ways to reach them. With internal challenges, using internal communication systems within your company will likely be sufficient to reach potential participants.

However, customers and the wider public may require different methods to inform them of the challenge. This is also a good time to consider how often to send reminders and how these will engage people.

Step Five: Set a Deadline

Consider the timescale of your challenge and work out where it fits into your wider company timeline. Make sure participants have enough time to create their concepts and check for bugs using exploratory software testing, while also not being so long that potential entrants could forget all about it.

A deadline gives people something to work toward and motivate themselves with, as well as setting a date for when you can start to work on incorporating these ideas into your company.

Set a Deadline

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Step Six: Designate Rewards

No competition is complete without rewards, and it would be foolish to neglect these in your innovation challenge planning. It needs to be something that will prompt people to enter and encourage them to make their idea the best it can be.

While recognition is important and should be essential to your challenge, consider additional perks for internal candidates or some form of celebration. This makes the competition all the more worthwhile for participants.

Step Seven: Write Your Challenge

Now you have all of the components planned out, write it up to send out to potential participants. Make sure to use enough detail and explain what the expectations are to avoid unrelated entries, as well as making the deadline and any other important dates obvious. You don’t want to miss out on groundbreaking new ideas all because an entrant confused the closing date!

Consider also how you present your challenge, including the language and design elements used to attract and interest people.

Step Eight: Run the Innovation Challenge!

Take a deep breath and hit send! Once the challenge has been started, it’s important to keep an eye on engagement. Replying to questions promptly and using automation tools to send regular reminders helps to encourage those wanting to take part and boost participation.

Various apps and software can provide you with notifications for every entry submitted as well as allowing you to leave feedback on developing ideas.

Things to Remember

Running an innovation challenge is as much about those who get involved as the solutions that come from it. Recognition can go a long way in encouraging participants to continue to engage with your content and future competitions you may run.

Keeping the people involved in mind can help to make your innovation challenge a success, from ensuring specifications and briefs are clear to knowing which engagement metrics you should be tracking. A few other things you should keep in mind are:

  • Make sure you thank all entrants for their contribution. After all, they’re volunteering their time and ideas for your competition.
  • Learn from past innovation challenges. Notice where things could be improved and develop an effective structure for your competitions both internally and externally.
  • Keep communication lines open, even beyond the closing date. Let participants know about the best ideas, how the new process was implemented, and future challenges.
  • Don’t let it be a one-off. After all that hard work, keep encouraging innovation and imagination within your company by regularly hosting challenges and listening to ideas from all over your business.

Ready, Set, GO!

Hopefully, you’re now feeling suitably inspired to plan and run your innovation challenge. At its core, this is a creative process, so try out different methods of engaging people or take a chance on a new style of innovation management.

Opening yourself and your company up to others to ask for ideas and solutions can be daunting at first, but don’t shy away from it. Entrants may look at things in an entirely different way from how you had anticipated, but this might be just what your company needs.

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