Idea management: 6 tips for running an innovation project online

Estimated reading time: 4:20 min

Evulu is a platform-as-a-service that helps you generate and evaluate innovative ideas. These two steps are crucial when managing innovation projects. They enable you to solve problems that are relevant to your business and therefore critical for your company to succeed.

According to a study by the Centre for Idea Management (in Germany), those employees who submit their ideas generate an average net additional benefit of 734 euros per person. That’s something, isn’t it?

Whether you’re using our or another tool, I’d like to give you 6 tips on how to set up an online challenge correctly. Let’s get started.

1. Create incentives to participate

Only in very few job descriptions you will find a passage saying that someone has to participate in an idea competition. And even if that’s the case, it makes more sense to motivate your employees then to oblige them.

Think about factors that may be motivating in this context. But don’t make it too easy. Everyone can award a cash prize, but all too often this fails to achieve the desired effect. This is where creativity is needed – and if you can’t think of anything, why not just set up a challenge here at Evulu and ask your employees which incentives would be best for them.

2. Try to formulate a challenge as properly as possible

To ensure that everyone involved knows what your challenge is about, you will need more than a catchy title. Describe your project – in detail. As a start, try to answer the following questions: What is the problem? Why is it relevant? Which limiting factors (time, budget, etc.) must be taken into account? What do you hope to achieve with this project (in general)? And how do you plan on dealing with the results of the challenge?

The assignment should be neither too broad nor too narrow. It shouldn’t be vague, but also not give a way possible solutions. A well-formulated challenge contains limits, but leaves enough room for different ideas to come up.

To give you some orientation, here is an example of a too vaguely formulated challenge:

  • How might we improve the lives of our employees?

The next example on the other hand is too narrow and already gives away the solution to the problem:

  • How might we ensure that we do not constantly overrun our sessions by using a time timer?

Last but not least, I would like to give you an example of a challenge that actually promotes innovation:

  • How might we optimize the learning process between long-term employees and new recruits for the benefit of both groups and thus expand the collective knowledge in our organization?

How-might-we” questions imply that you don’t have an answer yet, that there is more than one correct option, and that you want to work as a team to solve the problem described in the project briefing.

One more tip: Make sure that the innovation task you have formulated is easy to understand and considered relevant by the challenge participants. Try to get them excited about the task. Research shows that boring challenges generate boring ideas – and that exciting tasks, conversely, help to develop effective solutions.

3. Set a realistic time frame

Each project follows a certain schedule. Similar to a challenge, the timeframe chosen should neither be too wide nor too narrow. Ideally, the participants should feel they have to work quickly but concentrated to solve the given problem (which is also a very important requirement if you want to create and foster flow). However, you should not forget that the participants of your project – whether co-workers or external experts – also have a private life. So, do not be too demanding and rush them through the different stages of your challenge.

When using Evulu internally, we usually place emphasis on the idea generation phase. But, of course, you should plan sufficient time for the evaluation phase, too. In most cases, a ratio of 60/40 seems reasonable.

4. Make sure to invite the right participants

Selecting the right participants is one of the most important parameters and decisive for the success of an innovation challenge. Make sure that all people you invite are motivated to actually solve the defined problem.

Think carefully who to include in which phase of your project. Not every juror has to be involved in the idea generation stage – not every member must be part of the evaluation process and be allowed to view the final report.

Each of your employees should have the opportunity to participate in such projects – but this does not mean, that you have to invite every of your colleagues to every of your challenges. Here, you should make a reasonable decision. Give everybody a chance to shine and do not always invite the same five people. In addition to experienced employees, try to  include people who are new to your company. They often look at problems from a rather unusual point of view and thus come up with unusual suggestions how to solve them.

In general, we recommend a heterogeneous composition of your participants. Ideally, an innovation team should comprise the following six types of members: Researcher, Controller, Mediators, Critics, Daredevils and Lateral Thinkers.

If you work with external experts, we advise you to use a confidentiality agreement – after all, developing innovative ideas is a sensitive issue.

Also consider where someone is from and whether they prefer to be invited – let’s say – in English or German. Evulu offers you both options (and there are more to come).

5. Select relevant criteria for the evaluation phase

To compare the solution alternatives generated in the ideation phase and identify the most promising approaches, you should use success-related criteria. The question is how to define success – and this questions needs to be answered every time you set up an innovation project.

At Evulu we provide you with a list of more than 25 different criteria. However, you have the possibility to define and upload your own evaluation standards. That’s totally up to you.

By including these criteria in your project brief, you can help your participants better understand in which direction they should think.

6. Communicate the results

Most people find it rather unsatisfactory to have participated in an innovation project but not to be informed about its outcome. For legal reasons, we would like to point out that you should carefully consider which of the results you want to share with whom. But you should definitely share something (even if it is only the participation rate and the total number of ideas submitted).

If you have any questions or comments, you can contact us at any time. Our team is looking forward to supporting you in running your own innovation challenges.

All the best

Krist°f / Co-Founder Evulu

Photo by Dil on Unsplash

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