You've got your campaigns up and running, and your communications are working, people are coming to the party. Next, your attention turns to generating high-quality ideas, seeking to maximize the return on the effort being invested. You can't just kick back and watch it roll in. Nope. Generating top-quality input requires a diligent approach to campaign facilitation. Let's take a look at some examples.
A financial services client of ours had a well-established program for innovation - ideas were being sourced across all divisions of the company and participation was very high, with more than 7,000 ideas collected in two years. Volume is good, however, in their third year the focus turned to improve the quality of the ideas. Rewards were used to drive idea submission, which had a substantial impact, but there were no rewards for contributing to others’ ideas. This resulted in a constant stream of ideas, but a lack of engagement and collaboration.
When discussing with clients, it's frequently mentioned that ideas on their own are just fragments of something useful. Collaboration by other users - through commenting - was shown to significantly increase the quality of ideas. Simply asking the question, ‘How can this idea be improved?’ on the idea page, drives users to critique and develop an idea, which results in a stronger proposition.
Remind people what you’re looking for
Two additional methods which have been shown to increase quality are recommended. Firstly repeating the campaign problem definition on the idea form itself, to act as a reminder for the idea submitter. It’s common to hear that many ideas do not fit the campaign topic, or are not constructive suggestions - one innovation manager told us of an idea posted to a campaign seeking radical service concepts: “Move an ATM machine to my neighborhood, because it takes me too long to get to one.” If the submitter is thinking through the problem statement while writing their content, this is less likely to happen.
Secondly, the importance of stating up-front the criteria for idea selection. This was often a step missing in the campaign planning process. Indeed, some sponsors chose to skip the process of defining the review criteria until after the submission phase was done. This can allow for too much uncertainty around the needs and goals of the sponsor. As additional background to the campaign statement, a one-page description of the review criteria, with an explanation about the kind of ideas sought after, is beneficial. If your review process will have a cost analysis component, then you should inform the participants. Similarly, if you are seeking an idea that can be implemented in a matter of months, this is also helpful to know.
You've got to find little ways to nudge the contributors in the right direction.
Diversity breeds greater quality
Collaborative innovation is built upon the notion of seeking out more perspectives and doing so at scale and in an efficient way. The ability to have many different perspectives looking at the problem is often the magic ingredient to igniting breakthrough innovation. It is therefore always recommended to mix your audience for campaigns. If you want to keep the audience selective, still try to include moderators or innovation advocates from outside of the group. These outsiders can ask questions that help to break down orthodoxies and challenge assumptions.
Casa Pellas, an automotive service company, runs a mixture of incremental Kaizen campaigns for continuous improvement, alongside radical innovation campaigns for breakthrough ideas. For the latter, Casa Pellas tried a new approach to increase the idea quality. They asked that ideas only be submitted in teams, with a maximum of four people. It was advised that contributors build a team from members outside of their area - but ultimately they were free to choose. The expectation was to receive no more than 20 ideas in total, they ended up with 84.
To increase quality, teams were asked to pull together a business case for their ideas, with the help of the innovation team. “It was not shot first – aim later. It aimed first, with a business case, and then shoot.” Alvaro Castillo, Casa Pellas
The ideas were then filtered, and a selection of groups were asked to present their ideas to the innovation team. To do so the innovation team provided finance and marketing resources to support the teams in building a business case around their ideas. In the final round 3 ideas were selected for presentation to the CEO of the company. The approach was so successful that Casa Pellas has continued to run radical campaigns this way. The teams which are more successful tend to have a higher degree of interdisciplinary skillsets than others.
Define the review criteria before launching a campaign, and inform users of it
Ensure the campaign problem statement is clear and repeated to users
Campaign moderators from outside the target audience can help to break down orthodoxies
Use team ideas to increase the quality
- Encourage others to improve an existing idea
Campaigns are the driver for idea management success