Developing and implementing a successful innovation strategy is a challenging process, with various factors to consider and the need to onboard peers from across your organisation. So it’s important to establish a structure that makes the innovation process as straightforward and rewarding as possible.
In this innovation guide, we outline what we consider to be the 8 key pillars of innovation. Using these pillars as the foundation for your own innovation strategy can propel your organisation’s continued growth and excellence.
With an influx of millennials, both as consumers and as employees, businesses need to adapt to new expectations and beliefs about what a business should be. This generation of employees expects to be part of the decision-making process, and failing to listen to or acknowledge the ideas and skills of all employees could be fatal in terms of retaining the best talent. Companies require a solid innovation strategy to keep up with digital trends and to keep this younger and savvier workforce engaged. Transparency is key and an entrepreneurial workplace culture has become increasingly popular. Equally, the way consumers interact with brands has changed considerably in recent years and those companies that have been relentlessly forward -thinking are the ones who have excelled.
1. Missions, Visions & Goals
Never underestimate the importance of a mission statement and clear values. Often overlooked or brushed aside, they’re essential for supporting the overall culture and identity of a business. Providing clarity of objectives across an organisation ensures that all employees are aligned to the same goals, and are therefore establishing a clear vision for the future. If everyone is working towards the same end goal then staff can work together more effectively and efficiently to reach it.
In addition, having clearly defined values can aid the decision-making process, helping managers and directors to prioritise and move forward. A mission statement lays out the framework upon which an organisation can be developed; it provides the necessary direction to help guide the decision-making process, keeping organisations on track and rocketing towards their primary business objectives.
Your company values can also be used to educate clients and prospects about your organisation and its culture. Accordingly, these values can be key to employee retention, as younger employees tend to pay more attention to the values at the heart of a company. With structured goals in place, a company is in a far better position to innovate. Knowing these values can help to shape the innovation process and make sure that it complements your key business objectives. Using innovation management software can significantly simplify this process of aligning ideas and challenges with your company values or mission statement.
Idea Drop software can ensure that your business goals are transparent throughout your organisation and are properly integrated into the idea-generation process. It’s all very well for the senior management team to know these values, but how much do your employees know? Transparency is essential in ensuring that all stakeholders are aware of your core values and that all employees are kept in the loop about any mid- to long-term business objectives. Knowing who and what you’re innovating for is vital in establishing a successful innovation strategy.
Aligning ideas and challenges with company values or a mission statement is easy when using idea management software. Idea Drop allows transparency of goals across the organisation where appropriate and facilitates integration of these goals into posted ideas and opportunity briefs.
2. Challenges & Opportunity Briefs
Crowdsourcing from within your organisation is a cost-effective method of capturing new ideas and boosting business innovation internally. Not only will it significantly benefit your business, this bottom up approach will also empower employees when they see their ideas being taken onboard and executed. Seeing their own idea come to fruition and the positive impact it has on the business will inspire confidence and further innovation.
A fantastic way of generating valuable ideas is by publishing a challenge, encouraging employees to generate solutions to a specific need or problem. This approach makes idea generation more targeted and has the advantage of directly addressing a problem. Whichever way your innovation strategy works, posting challenges should be made as easy and accessible as possible. It’s important to ensure that you’re able to reach a specific group of people, track responses and measure successful inputs.
Publishing a challenge in this way is about pushing boundaries. Consider sharing a challenge with a group of people you may not usually approach, as this will generate varying perspectives, opening up the field for original ideas. Posting an innovation challenge is an effective way of encouraging employees to get their creative juices flowing. Sometimes they just need a nudge in the right direction and challenges can get people thinking, collaborating and, ultimately, solving problems for the business.
Crowdsourcing from within is fantastic, but talented thinkers and groundbreaking ideas can be found both inside and outside your organisation. In an increasingly digital world, it’s easier than ever to connect with these people, making “open” innovation a smart approach for a networked world. If your business needs a brilliant new product, service or technology, or requires a solution to a particularly challenging business issue, open innovation can really help by connecting you to the smartest innovators on the planet.
of companies are collaborating with startups and entrepreneurs
– Ernst & Young, ‘Delivering agile innovation in retail and consumer products’
The process involves posting an idea, aligning it to a challenge or goal and deciding where to source the best contributions. Once partners have been established, they can co-develop new ideas and innovations. The most promising can be brought to market through a variety of collaborative business models, such as license deals, joint ventures or acquisitions.
Idea Drop makes posting challenges easy, allowing users to gather helpful insights from team members from the outset. Reach a specific group of people by inviting handpicked individuals or groups, then set deadlines, add rewards, track responses and measure successful inputs.
3. Capturing Ideas
The average employee contributes around six new ideas to their company over the year; however, according to 57% of workers, these aren’t being recorded (PwC, ‘Unleashing the power of innovation’). You’ll find that ideas are everywhere in your organisation – that’s not the difficult bit. The challenge is finding these ideas, gathering them and, more importantly, implementing the best ones.
Many companies fail at innovation because they don’t have an effective system in place for turning these ideas into practical processes that generate real results. Innovation isn’t something that should be dipped in and out of when it suits you. To be really successful, it needs to be integrated into the very core of your organisation, and communication is central to this. All employees need to be aware of the internal processes for capturing ideas and should be incentivised to contribute.
Establishing a system for capturing ideas can be frustrating and time consuming. Idea management software can remove these barriers and provide a seamless method of curating creative input from your teams. An effective tool incorporates collaboration and social software, while enabling you to integrate your innovation process with other information systems to ensure that people can innovate wherever they are, whatever they’re doing.
When a team member posts or shares an idea, it should be framed in a way that aligns it to your overarching business goals in order to demonstrate how it will impact your organisation. Ideas should convey the essential information while remaining short and snappy.
4. Collaboration & Interaction
Once the ideas start rolling in, the next stage is for employees to “interact” with the suggestions. Challenging the ideas is key to ensuring that only the best ones get implemented and actioned. Sparking conversations around an idea is an effective way to reveal any potential pitfalls or problems, creating space for the renegotiation of goals. Sometimes an idea is nearly there, it just needs a little readjustment and a push in the right direction. Following this adjustment and renegotiation, you’re in a position to reassess the idea and make a decision on whether to pursue it.
Don’t be afraid to raise issues or bring a different perspective – some light conflict forces the team to seek and exchange more information around an idea. In turn, this encourages team members to explain their different perspectives, opening up new ways of seeing things. As a result, the team can effectively renegotiate goals and make better sense of any problems.
5. Business Case & Curation
Once you’ve reached the point where you have a multitude of ideas at your disposal, the next step is to select only the best to take further. Not all ideas will be appropriate for implementing – perhaps they’re simply unrealistic, too costly or just not very good! This is all part and parcel of innovation, as it’s a process where trying and failing is necessary to succeed in the long run. But how do you choose the best ideas, especially when there are so many to consider?
The curation process should be a natural extension of the collaboration phase. Conversations around an idea will determine the likelihood of its success. Ideas that generate excitement and buzz are certainly worth pursuing and those that fail to gain traction are perhaps best left alone. Getting multiple opinions and perspectives about an idea helps to mitigate the risks that are involved with change. If an idea has the support of multiple employees, it’s more likely to succeed once implemented.
of executives believe innovation is important to growth strategy but only
are satisfied with innovation performance.
– McKinsey & Company, ‘Global Innovation Survey’
6. Implementation & Execution
Implementation doesn’t just have to sit with the most senior members of your organisation. As long as it has their approval, depending on the idea, anyone in the business can be given the responsibility to manage implementation. It’s often a nice touch to ensure that the original innovator who put forward the idea in the first place is able to get involved so they can see their light-bulb moment come to fruition.
Involve as many people as possible and ensure awareness throughout the company so that staff can be prepared for any change and help make the execution process as smooth as possible. There are a huge variety of project management tools available to aid this process. Specialist tools like Trello, Jira and Sharepoint are all really helpful in staying on top of any changes and projects. This way, everyone can be aligned to the same goals and stay up to date with progress.
7. Measure, Adapt, Refine & Fail
Throughout the implementation process, it’s important to monitor, analyse and review the progress of an idea and measure its overall success. Avoid waiting until the end to do this, or you’ll be unable to adapt as you go along. Establish how you’ll measure an idea’s success right from the outset and work in an agile way to constantly review progress and adjust as necessary. So many businesses invest in ideas that don’t deliver results simply because they’re failing to measure what’s successful and what’s not.
Measuring innovation isn’t easy but it’s possible and necessary. How you track success is up to you but it’s worth framing your results in terms of goal objectives. A nod back to the first pillar of innovation, it’s essential to have clear goals and missions in place. At all stages of the innovation process, these goals should be tightly integrated into decision-making procedures to make it easier to establish a method of measuring success. So you’ll need to set some parameters that define what constitutes success.
admit their companies do not learn from past mistakes.
– Accenture, ‘Innovation: Clear Vision, Cloudy Execution’
It’s crucial to stress that failure is okay – in fact, failure is great! Not all implemented ideas will be a success but that’s the nature of the innovation process. Failure will only help you to improve the next time around and enable you to learn more about your business and customers than you thought possible. Even the biggest and most innovative companies in the world have experienced costly innovation failures – consider the Amazon Fire Phone or Google Glass. Businesses will always learn from their mistakes and can use them to gain a better understanding of their consumers, business values and even employees.
Measure innovation output using the powerful filtering tools and reporting facilities available through Idea Drop. Cut and slice the data, edit and export reports, and get real-time insights and metrics through your Idea Drop dashboard.
8. Reward & Recognise
We’re only human and even the most dedicated worker needs some form of motivation and recognition. Sharing rewards and offering recognition for the best ideas is crucial to maintaining a strong innovation strategy in the long run.
Reward and recognise your employees to incentivise them to continue contributing ideas. It’s down to you to establish a reward system but idea management software can help you to track ideas effectively and guide you in terms of appropriate rewards.
Rewards should not just be reserved for your internal staff, but should also be considered in terms of your open innovation strategy. By offering a prize, business contract or other reward, you’re more likely to generate better-quality ideas from more experienced contributors. A firm’s reputation is directly affected by open innovation because it’s usually public. It’s therefore vital to treat people fairly. Other rewards could be the motivation to solve a problem, gain a profile in the industry and even CV points from working with a large firm. Realistically, a mature open innovation strategy can never be about getting something for nothing.
Broadcasting the successful implementation of ideas is straightforward using the “bulletins” feature on Idea Drop. Recognise your employees for contributing and keep teams engaged with the process.
Generating new ideas and putting them forward can be an overwhelming and incredibly daunting process. Inevitably, with innovation comes change and in order to make positive steps towards innovation, you need to be open to new business approaches and calculated risks. This means moving away from a ‘safe’ space and having a more open mind. Having the courage to take risks is crucial if you’re to become a truly innovative organisation.
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