When we’re juggling so many things on a daily basis, there are times when it seems easier to put off change and innovation, especially when implementing new ideas isn’t going to deliver immediate results.
But there are other times when the only way forward is through change and when ideas become essential for tackling unforeseen challenges, such as unexpected external changes (pandemics, a stock market crash, etc.) or internal changes (a key stakeholder’s death, budget cuts, etc). At these times, innovation mustn’t be put on the back burner, since new ideas can provide a much-needed way forward by solving short-term challenges and delivering solutions to enable your business to continue to thrive.
With that in mind, we’ve created a three-phase change management strategy to guide you through any type of change or crisis and to help turn challenges into opportunities.
Prioritise challenges, create a plan and crowdsource ideas
When we’re faced with unexpected and unforeseen challenges, stress and anxiety often kick in. Some people are natural problem solvers and are more easily able to deal with a crisis but, for most of us, feeling anxious is our initial response to significant challenges like the coronavirus crisis.
That’s why phase one of our strategy comes down to a simple five-step action plan enabling you to relieve the anxiety, prepare yourself for what’s coming next and get everyone on board to help you solve the immediate challenges:
1. Create a safe space for employees to express their ideas and concerns.
First of all, it’s vital to create a centralised space where everyone’s ideas, concerns and feedback can be expressed, stored and, most importantly, heard. Whether that’s achieved using a spreadsheet or dedicated software, you need to decide which platform and process will ensure that whenever ideas or problems arise, everyone knows where to express them. You don’t want to be bombarded with emails, calls and ad-hoc requests for online meetings; ideation should be treated and managed like any other structured process in your organisation.
If you’re using Idea Drop’s software, you can create categories or ‘buckets’ for ideas. It’s important that your campaign names alway reflect their purpose while avoiding negative connotations, so, for example, ‘Navigating change’ would work well for a campaign related to COVID-19.
We’d also recommend creating hashtags for your campaigns, for example #weatheringthestorm, #navigatingchange, #changedworld, #pullingtogether, and #resilienceinunprecedentedtimes for a campaign related to unprecedented external changes like COVID-19. The hashtags should also help your employees to share ideas related to a specific category, for example, ‘New Product Feature Ideas’ and highlight ideas that are specifically relevant to the campaign.
2. Identify your business challenges and prioritise them.
With so many immediate challenges facing your business, knowing where to start can seem overwhelming. We recommend writing down every challenge and obstacle. The more granular you can be, the better; addressing problems in smaller chunks is much more achievable than trying to tackle one large problem with many underlying components.
For example, you may feel that you need to change your entire business model in order to meet changing client needs and customer behaviour. That’s an enormous undertaking, but it’s much more manageable if you break it down into smaller components by asking yourself:
- How has your market changed?
- Which parts of your business can still function in the current climate?
- What doesn’t work in your current model?
- Can you reduce costs without making employees redundant?
- What are your competitors doing?
- What potential new revenue streams do you have?
- How can you digitalise your services?
Prioritise each component of your business challenges, assess each component one by one and schedule posting at least one component every week as a challenge on Idea Drop and start crowdsourcing ideas from the whole workforce. You don’t have to have all the answers yourself and it’s a good idea to invite everyone to participate in the problem solving process from the very beginning.
Once you’ve identified and prioritised your business challenges, you’re ready to start the next step of the process: crowdsourcing ideas through an ideas campaign.
When it comes to setting up the campaign, here are our recommendations:
- ALIGN WITH STRATEGY
Make sure your challenges align with your organisation’s overall strategy for responding to COVID-19. In times of uncertainty, employees will be encouraged to put forward ideas if they know that their ideas will be taken seriously and will potentially help to mitigate the disrupting impact of the crisis.
- USE APPROACHABLE LANGUAGE
Many employees will be feeling anxious and overwhelmed by everything they’re hearing about COVID-19. We recommend using approachable and open language in your challenge wording to help facilitate an open and supportive dialogue.
- COMMUNICATE THE PROGRESS
Internal comms around the challenges become critical at times like these when employees are likely to be exposed to conflicting information and might feel unsure about the best course of action. We recommend communicating the progress of ideas through the innovation pipeline quickly and clearly.
- RECORD VIDEOS
Make the most of the power of video. Videos don’t need to be filmed professionally to make an impact and drive engagement with idea campaigns. We see up to 58% higher engagement with challenges that use videos, so they’re a great way to increase awareness. Simply use a mobile phone or webcam to record videos in your home office to explain why you’re launching the campaign or a specific challenge as well as what it means for the company as a whole and each employee.
3. Announce the campaign launch.
Now, more than ever, it’s easy for employees to feel disconnected from the strategy or direction of your company. So it’s important you let them know that they’re playing a crucial role in finding solutions to your organisation’s challenges. Transparency is crucial and the more you communicate with your employees, the better.
Send an email on behalf of the CEO asking employees to share their ideas using the relevant hashtags or by posting their ideas in the relevant categories. This will make it easier for you to review each idea and will ensure that ideas reach the right decision makers quickly. Highlight that you’ll be posting regular challenges related to the campaign and that you value everyone’s input.
PRO TIP: Promote your challenges on various platforms and channels. Publish news about each new challenge on your intranet, Microsoft Teams and on Slack, and include updates in your weekly online check-in call. Ask admins and moderators to do the same.
4. Provide timely feedback and skim quick wins.
Feedback is key. You should schedule 30 minutes every week, and ask each idea category owner do the same, to go through every idea and provide feedback by leaving a comment or rating each idea. Remember to:
- Give each idea equal weight regardless of whether it comes from a trainee or a more senior colleague.
- If you can’t come up with any feedback straight away, ask considered questions.
- Be objective and direct. Your team needs to know when they’re on the wrong track, so you need to be specific about the problems an idea might face.
- Always explain why you decide not to action an idea; there’s nothing more disheartening for someone than having their idea dismissed for no apparent reason.
Great ideas will be coming up constantly, and some of them are likely to require more time and resources to be approved by decision makers and then actioned. However, people will want to see tangible results quickly. So, if possible, try to action at least one quick win each week. Quickly scan through all ideas regularly and try to identify ideas that can be actioned here and now, even just in part.
Proactively seek opportunities to show that you value each idea. This will demonstrate to your employees that the campaign is working and that things are moving forward.
5. Celebrate early successes and engagement.
At the end of each week, send out a quick email to thank everyone who participated in the challenge, encourage those who didn’t participate to get involved in future, and explain what’s going to happen next. Post the email as a bulletin on Idea Drop and share a post on your intranet. Your goal is to make the campaign as visible as possible and reinforce its positive impact on your company. Use it as another opportunity to explain how important each idea is and why every idea matters to you.
At the end of the day, people are at their most productive, happiest and engaged when they feel part of something bigger than themselves and when they feel that they’re being heard and recognised for their input. So even a very quick message of thanks to the people who interacted with a challenge is going to have a positive impact on the campaign and will encourage further participation and ideation.
Here is a suggestion for a bulletin that you can post at the end of first week:
PHASE TWO: Act and adapt
Once you’ve completed phase one of your change management strategy and your innovation funnel is full of ideas, it’s time to move on to phase two – actioning and adapting the best ideas to reap the rewards. The first step in the process is to evaluate solutions.
1. Evaluate solutions
Using Idea Drop is a great way to crowdsource ideas from across your organisation effectively and quickly. But gathering ideas is, of course, just the start of the process. What you do next is crucial for converting the right ideas into action.
Try “Idea Score” on Idea Drop
Once you’ve gathered ideas from across your organisation, you need an effective method of scoring those ideas to assess which are the most popular and the most likely to perform well once actioned. Idea Score on Idea Drop can quickly identify the ideas that are worth including in your idea evaluation matrix.
Using a bespoke algorithm, it gives every idea a real-time score, which is visible across your community. The scores give users a valuable snapshot of each idea’s popularity, with ideas rated from 1 to 100 based on a combination of factors:
- Number of views
- Number of comments
- Number of favourites
- Average rating
- Past platform contributions
The higher an idea’s score, the higher its popularity and the higher the likelihood that it will be received well by your organisation.
Your Idea Evaluation Matrix
Once your scoring system has selected the most promising ideas, the next step is to evaluate them in your idea evaluation matrix to decide which should progress into action and which might need additional work or should be archived. Ranking each idea within select categories in the matrix will give you a clear metric (and subsequent business case) for deciding which ideas stand out from the rest and are worth pursuing.
Various categories are helpful to include in your matrix, including the time and cost involved in each idea, the potential practical and monetary impact, and the number of people the idea will affect. It’s also important to assess whether someone will be able to take ownership of the idea and manage the process from start to finish. And, of course, you need to consider whether the idea is business critical and whether it reflects your organisation’s strategic goals.
More tips for evaluating ideas
- Review ideas regularly
Ideally, try to ensure that the ideas you’ve gathered are evaluated every week or, if that isn’t feasible, as often as possible.
- Be open and transparent
The evaluation process needs to be as open and transparent as possible so it’s important to communicate who’s reviewing and evaluating ideas, as well as how and when, so that employees know what to expect.
2. Take action
You’ll need a structure to develop ideas into business actions.
Simply put, that means using a series of steps – an “innovation workflow” – to connect the conception of an idea all the way through to its implementation. Great innovation workflows are streamlined processes that reflect a company’s structure and its innovation goals. Ideally, you’ll have a set of well-defined goals by this stage, as they’re crucial in defining the qualitative criteria for moving an idea from one stage of the workflow to the next.
Move ideas through your “innovation workflow”
When it comes to actioning ideas, there’s no “one size fits all” innovation workflow since it depends on the nuances of your particular organisation as well as your resource constraints. But companies generally take one of two approaches: a centralised approach or a distributed approach.
Global information and communication technology giant Ericsson, one of Idea Drop’s clients, is a great proponent of centralised innovation management. Their centralised approach draws on the skills of the teams at their innovation hubs as well as the idea-generation potential of employees across the whole organisation.
Ericsson has established separate innovation hubs throughout the world to collect, process and develop innovative ideas generated by the business. Occasionally, an employee who comes up with a great idea is given the opportunity of temporarily leaving their day job to work on their idea within one of the innovation hubs, where they receive coaching and guidance from their full-time hub colleagues who collaborate with them to see the idea through from conception to implementation.
The alternative to centralised innovation management is a distributed approach, where responsibility for driving innovation is spread across the whole organisation and specific employees are tasked with monitoring, reviewing and processing ideas as part of their day-to-day role.
In a distributed approach, ideas are implemented using a network of administrators or moderators within an organisation who have the authority to move ideas through the workflow process. These administrators may be department heads, project managers, team leaders or other colleagues who are well versed in the organisation’s strategy and innovation goals and who are capable of managing the pipeline of ideas on a daily basis.
Whatever approach works for your organisation, Idea Drop’s “Pipeline” feature makes implementing an innovation workflow effortless by enabling users to visualise, progress and action ideas quickly and efficiently, as well as to communicate progress and quickly identify any issues that are stalling the workflow.
Provide feedback at each stage of the process
It’s important to be transparent throughout the innovation process. Keeping everyone updated encourages and motivates employees and gives them a sense of involvement.
Every time you move an idea through the various stages of the workflow, make sure you provide feedback. Using Idea Drop streamlines and simplifies this process by giving participants visibility on every idea’s progress in an “idea card”. Providing feedback is a required field on the platform when you’re moving idea cards from one stage of the workflow to the next. And every time you change the status of an idea, leave feedback or add comments participants receive a notification.
Celebrate, reward and recognise
It’s also essential to celebrate progress, acknowledge contributors’ ideas and recognise the hard work every participant has put in. Celebrate incremental achievements and recognise those users who are contributing the most. Acknowledge the impact the innovation programme it is having on your organisation and motivate employees to stay involved.
If you’re using Idea Drop, publishing bulletins is a great way of showcasing implemented ideas and the people who contributed to them. Using bulletins can also encourage healthy competition and educate users about what good ideas look like, and helps to create a buzz that keeps employees engaged in the innovation process. Publishing bulletins or setting up a new challenge are also great ways of gathering feedback on actioned ideas.
Learn more about how to reward and recognise your employees to ensure they continue to contribute to your innovation initiative in this article on our blog.
Some ideas can be actioned quickly, while others are likely to require more time and resources to be approved by decision makers and then actioned.
Your colleagues will want to see tangible results quickly. So, if possible, try to action at least one quick win each week. Quickly scan through all ideas regularly and try to identify ideas that can be actioned straight away, even just in part.
3. Adapt new systems and processes
Start early with your internal comms
People tend to resist change, even if it’s for the better. That’s why communicating about the ideas you action – be they new processes, new tools or new services – is vital from day one. We recommend launching your comms campaign early, and well before you launch your idea so that you can educate your employees and drive awareness about the benefits of each innovation for the business overall as well as for your employees.
Communicating as early as possible about improvements you’re implementing helps to ensure that innovations are well received by your employees and become quickly embedded in your business. It also builds your employees’ trust and sustains a culture where they feel part of something bigger than themselves.
Provide training if needed
New ideas can die very quickly if they’re not implemented correctly. So it’s important to make sure that you have a plan in place for embedding new ideas into your current structure and that you give your employees any training that’s required.
PHASE THREE: Review and iterate
After the change, the next phase is “the new normal” or, if the crisis has passed, “returning to normal”. Regardless of whether the change was a temporary crisis or long-lasting, what happens afterwards should be more aptly and optimistically named “the exciting future”.
If the crisis that your business has endured was a temporary change and you’re slowly returning to business as usual, don’t let the lessons you’ve learned and the changes you’ve implemented fail to have a long-term impact.
Each crisis and each change initiative (whether unexpected or well planned) can teach us something new about ourselves, our business, and if we successfully navigated it, some new strengths we didn’t know we had.
The same goes for many companies around the world that have had to find ways to be efficient and survive when their entire workforce unexpectedly had to work from home. Why wouldn’t they use the lessons learned to continue the ‘work from home’ culture if it worked well for their business?
So phase three is all about what happens after you’ve implemented change.
1. Review what worked
Measure, measure, measure. It’s time to collect as much information and data points as possible. As with any other novelty in the business, there might be both qualitative and quantitative measures to take into consideration.
Innovation is all about analysing what has worked. So, if the change you’ve made is internal, listen to your employees; ask what they think and what their experience has been. You can send out surveys or, if time and resources allow, hold one-to-one sessions or focus groups.
If you’ve launched a new product or service, ask your customers for their feedback or simply use the NPS score to weigh it against your previous offerings. That will give you a benchmark to evaluate and decide whether to continue or to remove the new product or service.
To learn more about how to measure innovation and what metrics you can use, take a look at this article on our blog.
2. Learn from what hasn’t worked
When innovating, trying something new or implementing new processes and ideas it’s inevitable that some projects and initiatives will fail along the way. And that’s okay. That’s what innovation and change is all about. Fear of failure is one of the most common barriers to innovation ;it stops businesses from trying out something new and they choose to play it safe. But simply going after ideas that have worked for you in the past or that have worked for someone else is not going to get you far. This crucial shift in mentality and culture can help you unlock the full potential of your organisation and put you way ahead of your competition.
You must not be afraid to take a close look at why something hasn’t worked so that you, as an organisation, can learn from it and benefit from these inevitable ‘mistakes’.
In fact, the way we react to ‘failure’ actually defines our future success. Let’s take the airline industry as an example.
Every plane has a black box, which records the conversations and every sound in the cockpit. If there is an accident or a ‘failure’, the data that has been collected in the black box is analysed closely, allowing other pilots to learn from these mistakes as well as uncovering the reason for the accident. This ensures that all the lessons from the failure are taken on board so that processes can be changed and the failure isn’t repeated.
So don’t be afraid to broadcast your successes as well as your failures. Be proud of them and use them as an opportunity to learn, become better and avoid future failures. Speak about them during meetings and on your intranet, or, if you’re using Idea Drop, post them as bulletins.
3. Iterate, iterate, iterate
Iteration is the key to innovation. New concepts need to be refined and small improvements (also called incremental innovation) can lead to great achievements. So keep iterating and never leave ideas, projects and processes on autopilot. There’s always something that can be improved and adapted to better fit the ever-changing world and ever-evolving customer needs.
So if you’re serious about innovation and want to achieve great results, set yourself a reminder to regularly review your KPIs and to conduct user/employee surveys on how to improve and make things better.
Better still, adopt an “always-on” innovation mentality and involve your whole organisation in the process. Tools like Idea Drop give you and your people a dedicated space where ideas for improvements can be submitted at any time and from anywhere. Your employees might spot the way to improve processes and products way before you do! Why not harness this collective brainpower you have at your disposal and give your employees a tool that enables their voice to be heard and allows them to play a significant role in your organisation by putting their suggestions in front of the relevant stakeholders.
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