At Qmarkets we have spent the last 15+ years helping leading organizations to build and implement effective innovation initiatives. Along the way we have seen a wide variety of approaches and formats, from small-scale hackathons with a few hundred participants, to long term innovation programs involving tens of thousands of users. While each approach has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, this blog will share the best practices we have witnessed first-hand as being vital to the success of any innovation program.
The definition of an innovation program can sometimes differ, so before we dive in let’s clarify what we mean when we use this term. When describing an innovation program CIO magazine from EDG points out that, “Just like any other corporate program, the key elements need to include strategy and intent, people, process and technology”.
With that in mind, innovation program is basically an overall term for the ongoing scalable key elements that your organization chooses to adopt to reach your innovation goals. It is also important to remember that the program itself is an ongoing permanent process that should be embedded into your operational activity and adjusted according to your changing needs.
So without further ado, let’s break down the most essential ingredients that are key to making your innovation program a success.
The 3 Essential Ingredients
Your innovation program delivers your innovation strategy; therefore, it is important to carefully plot what your innovation goals are, whilst not forgetting that these should also be aligned with your overall business goals. Innovation strategy is a huge standalone topic that needs its own blog, so we will only discuss it at a very top level today.
Once you define what you hope to achieve out of innovating, you can then delve deeper into how you will go about doing so. There are various methodologies that you can adhere to, which in turn will guide your program’s processes. For example, if your goal is to improve the internal processes within your organization, selecting a continuous improvement method such as Kaizen or Total Quality Management is an important step. These methodologies provide a framework and structure that will help develop the processes within your program.
This video discusses how Amazon, Spotify, and Tinder all innovated with one precise business strategy.
Your strategy will also inform the audience that you will use to gather ideas, as well as how these ideas will be gathered. For example, if your company needs to identify internal processes that can be improved, an employee innovation program is best advised. Alternatively, if you are prioritizing an improvement to customer experience and engagement, an open innovation program that involves customers will be best suited. Your methodology and audience will then lead to determining the innovation processes that you will use to collect their ideas. Of course, your strategy can be as flexible as you wish but we advise involving various audiences and methods to pinpoint wider opportunities for innovation. Once your strategy has been carefully formulated, your innovation program should naturally formulate from it, with a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve.
Culture of Innovation – A Spoonful of Transparency
Unfortunately, there is not much point in building an innovation program unless your organization has the culture to back it up. If you create an employee innovation program and launch it to an unwilling audience, your chances of success decrease phenomenally. Therefore, incorporating the means to cultivate and bolster a culture of innovation as part of your program is ideally how you should approach this topic. Organizations need to find ways of promoting and engaging their innovation audience into understanding that their participation will be valued and drive actual change. For example, the classic ‘idea box’ is rarely a driver of real change. Here ideas go to an unnamed source to be judged against an unknown criterion, never to be heard of again. Transparency is key in engagement, so your innovation program (and strategy) must be as transparent as possible throughout the whole process.
But most importantly, feedback is essential – your users must understand why their ideas have been chosen and why they haven’t. Incorporate the means to provide idea feedback in your innovation program, so that your users are always kept in the loop and aren’t discouraged from participating.
When these have been incorporated into your innovation strategy, you are giving your innovation program – and your participants, the best chance for success.
Of course, the most essential ingredient in your innovation program is ‘the how’. How exactly will you implement the various methods, strategies, and processes that you have chosen to incorporate in your program. With the advancement of digital transformation, organizations are finding smarter and more efficient ways of reaching their business goals. Therefore, utilizing software and technology to deliver your innovation program is the best way to it roll out in a scalable, flexible, and measurable way.
Innovation management platforms such as Qmarkets, allow organizations to implement a digital process for harnessing the wisdom of crowds – ranging from your employees to external stakeholders, to scouting for new opportunities.
One of the main functions of the platform is generating idea campaigns that allow you to pinpoint areas that you want to focus your innovation efforts on. Each idea campaign then follows carefully tailored processes that Qmarkets have identified for success across a range of challenges. The platform’s intelligent AI tools also allow you to define ‘rules’ to automate many of your ideation processes, ensuring your program is supported with minimum expense.
To summarize, an innovation management platform is the perfect way to support an innovation program, as it offers a permanent home for innovation at your company – an environment that organically sustains and promotes innovation in a intuitive, strategic way.
The Secret Recipe to Success
As organizations face tougher challenges than ever before, innovation needs to be used to directly support growth and find new opportunities. An innovation program may seem daunting to devise and implement but the Qmarkets’ tool can be configured to match both your strategy and your culture – so ultimately it’s not just a standalone ingredient, but actually one that enhances the ‘flavor’ of the other key ingredients in your recipe.
As the beloved Julia Child once said; “If you’re going to have a fear of failure, you’re just never going to learn how to cook”. While this is true in the kitchen, it’s even more apropos when it comes to the world of innovation. So now that you have all the ingredients… don’t be afraid to get started!