Hackathons, challenges, awards, prizes… companies are having more and more luck with these open, collaborative innovation models. There are many reasons for their success. We’ve listed the five main ones in this article:
1/ Stimulating innovation through limitations within a specific scope
Art lives on constraint and dies of freedom, Michelangelo
You have to take the theme, deliverables, timing, incentives and target audience into account when you are thinking about launching a challenge. The relevance to the problem facing the organizer makes the difference between a successful challenge and half-baked results.
Combining these parameters creates the framework that lets challenge participants express themselves. The idea is that directed innovation within limits leads to real creativity and innovation. If you want to find out more about ways to boost creativity, take a look at our article on five tips for innovating on a daily basis.
Lastly, launching a challenge is a bit like throwing a message in a bottle out to sea. Of course, in this case the bottle is digital and the sea is made up of potential participants.
Any number of people could find and take up the challenge you are offering, and this is why you need to carefully structure the content for maximum effectiveness!
2/ Working in the open
Launching a challenge means opening up at several different levels:
To take full advantage of the proposals made by participants, the best thing to do is choose a truly strategic theme. This means breaking with a culture of secrecy and revealing more about your projects. This will make your participants’ contributions even more relevant, meaning you get more out of the experience. In this vein, it is a good idea to rein in the desire for unilateral decision-making: stop imposing your vision and let the communities take the lead on innovation. Being in the thick of it, they will be better placed to find operational solutions to your problems.
The target audience for a challenge could be internal (your employees) or external (students, researchers, start-ups, artists, etc.) to get a fresh perspective on your issues.
The two approaches are often combined through mentoring and reverse-mentoring. Another good way to combine internal and external audiences is to appoint a jury made up of managers and partners (consultants, customers, suppliers, institutions, etc.).
Launching a challenge will push your company to adopt a more open structure. This involves forming cross-functional, multidisciplinary, multicultural teams, creating a jury of outside experts, or holding an awards ceremony. This new dynamic ensures maximum effectiveness for your campaign.
3/ Supporting your company’s digital transformation
As mentioned above, a challenge is a great opportunity to form some ad hoc teams out of a target audience made up of a diverse mix of participants.
They will have a limited amount of time to get themselves organized. They will need to use a variety of working methods, including design thinking, often with support from digital tools.
Challenges let participants delve into the work and provide great opportunities for group training on new tools and new working methods. They are valuable tools that help with a company’s digital transformation. And it comes full circle when the topic assigned to the participants is also tied to digital technology (e.g.: coming up with new digital products and services).
4/ Identifying promising candidates
A challenge, usually involving volunteers, is an effective way to work on your employer brand and identify talent.
After all, you are presenting yourself to the participants as an innovation-focused company that is open to new ideas and rewards those who take initiative. These are very attractive characteristics, especially for younger demographics (Millennials) that are looking for transparency, meaning and pro-activeness in the duties assigned to them.
Plus, participants are often a pool of promising candidates with many great qualities:
- They are motivated by your sector
- They are receptive to your company’s concerns
- They know how to work in teams
- They have a lot of ideas
5/ Developing and disseminating a culture of innovation
Lastly, organizing a challenge is a great way to promote your image as an innovative, collaboration-focused company, not just with participants but also with the general public, if you know how to promote the initiative in the media.
There are many ways of getting the word out:
- Social networks
- Dedicated websites
- Events at schools and incubators
- Links in the media
- Publishing the results of the challenge: the number of participants, the winning concepts, the geographic scope, etc.
- Holding an event for the challenge launch
- Grand finale open to the public
The more you talk about your challenge, the more you will mobilize your stakeholders and get them on board with your company’s innovative image.
Would you like to learn more? Download the Philips business case to see a concrete example of how a company can use a challenge to unleash its innovative potential!