You can’t impose participatory innovation from the top down, you have to build it up like a strategy. You need to define a goal and a scope, get management on board and provide a specific funding mechanism. Hadi Zablit, Associate Director at the Boston Consulting Group, notes that “management needs to support innovation, set the objectives, explain how it fits into the overall corporate strategy and fund it.”Without getting too caught up in the details, we can divide the conditions needed to get a collaborative strategy off the ground into three categories:
1. Making innovation the core of the strategy
One of the conditions for successfully implementing a participatory innovation approach is making it strategic. Every employee needs to be involved, from the top brass all the way down to the lowest-ranking worker. The idea is to create a culture of innovation and encourage employees to take initiative, so that they feel up to pitching their ideas as part of a continuous improvement approach.
2. Institute participatory management
Just stating that the participatory innovation approach is strategic is not enough; you need to make sure it really becomes a part of the corporate culture. So it’s important to reward risk-taking, give people the right to make mistakes, turn employees into stakeholders and ensure that managers know how to listen. Anne-Sophie Chevasson, who is responsible for managing innovation at Biscuits Poult, put it well when she said, “We don’t apply a model, we apply values and principles.”
“The atmosphere needs to be constructive so that employees want to get involved,” remarks Muriel Garcia, the head of participatory innovation for the La Poste group.
3. Set aside a budget for innovation
Participatory innovation has nothing left to prove, either financially (over 2 million in profits generated in 2011 for ERDF Grand Est), or when it comes to the corporate working environment (93% of employees are satisfied with their companies when innovation is treated as a priority, according to Innov’Acteurs). It does require dedicated funding, though, in order to train employees to be creative and reward them for their initiatives, whatever form that may take.