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Why Diversity Matters in Innovation Management

Posted by Khattab Al-Ali on Apr 19, 2017 9:00:21 PM
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"Oh, I've never thought about it that way!"

Have you ever said this to a friend or a colleague at work? Or has anybody ever said this to you?

Probably.

We don't always share the same opinion or the same point-of-view with other people in our private or business environment. We typically also don't share similar backgrounds, know-how, experiences and skills. We are different.

Khatab1-1.pngOne of the most fundamental challenges Innovation Managers struggle with is to find the ideas that are valuable out of the mass of ideas they receive.

  • Which ideas have the right quality that we need?
  • Which are ready to be supported and implemented?
  • Which ideas have all the relevant information directly available, and which have their weaknesses identified and fixed before we start the implementation?

Running dedicated idea campaigns is of tremendous help (read more about why they are helpful here: http://www.hypeinnovation.com/innovation/idea-campaigns).

An additional tactic that our clients have successfully utilized in recent years, is to raise idea quality and filter out weaker ideas quickly, to encourage audiences to actively collaborate on ideas being submitted. Active collaboration potentially reduces the chances of approving ideas with an unfitting quality level, which in turn reduces your risk of failure significantly. It also raises the chances of valuable ideas being identified, evaluated and implemented.

But are all kinds of collaboration effective? What should you focus on if it comes to connecting audiences, and letting them collaborate?

Working with 200+ multi-national organizations worldwide we have identified which tools and tactics organizations can use to identify and foster potentially successful ideas.

A substantial success factor, and a tactic we strongly recommend utilizing, is to actively select and drive audiences with different opinions, experiences and skill-sets to comment and vote on ideas. This means that others give feedback on your comments, but also you replying to the comments and ideas of others. These behaviors are desired in most campaign scenarios (there are exceptions, e.g. if it comes to IP-related campaigns).

Diversity is a key element - we want different audiences with different backgrounds to collaborate jointly. Let’s look at how this works and where the additional value is created:

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What you see here is the process an idea typically goes through until it reaches a state that represents an implementable value proposition (“Final Concept”). Ideas are submitted to a campaign or an idea channel, and different users with different perspectives participate in the process:

  • CREATIVES: Users who offer something new
  • INQUISITORS: Users who identify weak areas
  • HELPERS: Users who help make ideas better
  • DO-ERS: Users who have a drive towards implementation

The different “personally-types” have different mindsets, and are driven by different interests:

  • Creatives like to investigate new technologies or business models and come up with new ideas, but have limited interest for the details. They tend to think fast and move quickly.
  • Inquisitors are rather skeptical and like to take a closer look at the details to try to find weaknesses. They ask twice before they move forward, and are conditioned to identify risks and flaws before making the next step. They are risk-averse.
  • Helpers on the other hand like to think in incremental steps. They often add missing expertise and experience. They try to find interconnections between ideas, and between people.
  • Do-ers are regularly implementing projects and are focused on the practical aspects. They are looking for mature ideas and prefer to get involved in later stages of the conversation. They will identify what is missing to get an idea implemented. Resource availability and technology fit are important topics for them.

Interestingly, there is a strong correlation between the diversity of opinions and the success an idea achieves. The more personality types that participate, the higher the chance of an idea being implemented:

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But diverse audiences can support even further.

One of our clients, an automotive supplier specialized in producing car handles, recently wanted to run a campaign on optimizing the experience of opening a door on a car, mainly focusing on implementing small motors that could automate certain parts of the process.

When asked what the perfect solution would look like (putting practical limitations aside), a question we typically ask in preparation of a campaign, the feedback was surprising. We had the innovation-team in the workshop (all with an engineering background), but also the VP of Marketing. The engineers thought about how you could optimize small details of the experience of opening a car door - they focused on incremental steps.

When the VP Marketing was asked this question, he replied:

“Well, to be honest, in the best case you don’t want to use any handle. You approach the car, the door opens automatically, you sit in the car, and the door closes automatically. No physical interaction with the door at all.”

This came as a surprise for the innovation team, since implementing it would result in losing major stakes of their current core business. The innovation team doubted that this was the intention of the campaign and was hesitant to react. But the VP of Marketing explained that:

“If you truly want to innovate in our business you should think outside of the box, and think about totally different ideas and solutions, creating never-before-seen experiences. If we won’t do it, somebody else will.”

The engineers quickly understood what it means to break up frequent patterns of thought, and that true innovation sometimes means to de-construct first.

 

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It became evident to everybody in the room that it is a benefit to invite people with some distance away from the campaign topic. They will be able to contribute in different ways than the people that are close to the campaign topic.

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Key takeaways:

  • Diversity in your audience is important.
    • It can support the innovation team to identify potentially valuable ideas by collaborating on existing ideas and comments, and sharing diverse feedback.
    • This supports the process of “hardening” good ideas and making good ideas great, while identifying crucial weaknesses in others. By doing so, reducing the risk of spending scarce budgets on ideas you should not implement.
  • But diverse audiences are also a great source of innovative ideas.
    • Audiences that are further away from the campaign topic often have a different perspective of the challenge or opportunity which a campaign presents.
    • They tend to come up with ideas that have a higher potential to get implemented, because their perspective allows them to address the nature of the campaign differently than somebody who is closer to the campaign topic.
    • They are not confined by being close to the topic itself, and are able to think in radically different ways due to their different profile.

Watch: Building the Perfect Innovation Management Team

  

Topics: People & Culture

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