Ignite 2018 is now in the rearview mirror, there only one thing to say: what an incredible two-day experience!
With so many innovation leaders from some of the largest companies in the world in attendance, there was no shortage of opportunities to learn.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 takeaways.
1. Ideas are great, but impact matters
Throughout Ignite, there was one topic that was frequently brought up by attendees and speakers: impact.
Crowdsourced innovation programs are maturing. Companies are moving beyond optimizing for ideation. They’re now putting more focus on the impact their programs are having on their company’s bottom line.
For innovation leaders, this means it’s now more important than ever to be able to measure the impact of an implemented idea and the overall success of your innovation program. If you can’t do this, you risk leadership pulling the plug.
2. A great idea can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time
Campbell’s VP of R&D (Americas), Jeff George, shared an inspiring story during a fireside chat with Spigit’s Don Morrison.
George described a situation where a Campbell’s plant was on the brink of being shut down. The leadership team was literally discussing if they should continue operations at this particular location.
But, before the discussions turned into action, one employee saw something that no one else did – an opportunity to extract an estimated $10 million in incremental value out of the plant.
The employee shared the idea in the company’s idea management platform where the head of supply chain noticed it and believed it could make an impact. The company is now doubling down and investing in the plant rather than shutting it down or selling it off.
One employee’s idea saved the day, not to mention countless jobs, all because Campbell’s enabled and encouraged employees to share ideas.
3. Frequent communication is an absolute must for successful crowdsourced innovation programs
Communication came up time and time again throughout the conference.
The key takeaway here is that in order to have a successful crowdsourced innovation program you need to have frequent communication with all participants. Herbalife’s Chief Innovation Officer, Chris Morris, echoed this.
When it comes to communication, everything is fair game. Communicate through email, post status updates on internal channels like Campbell’s did, record and share video introductions from leadership like Pepperdine University, or deliver handwritten recognition notes to employees like Herbalife.
The point is, whether you’re launching a new ideation challenge or developing an idea, there should never be a time where a participant doesn’t know what’s going on.
Frequent communication develops transparency. This level of transparency is what keeps employees engaged and contributing on a frequent basis.
4. Culture drives exponential change
During his keynote about exponential change, Former XPRIZE Foundation CEO, Marcus Shingles, brought up the importance of culture and how it drives change.
One of the companies he profiled during his talk was Google. This tech behemoth is often used as an example to depict what an innovative company looks like – rightfully so.
As Shingles pointed out, what separates Google from everyone else is there careful attention to culture. It’s the people – the way they think, work, and collaborate – within this culture that enables Google to go beyond just being a search engine and tackle projects such making the Internet accessible for everyone, or building autonomous vehicles.
No one wants to work for a company with a terrible culture. Similarly, no one wants to go the extra mile for a company that doesn’t value their ideas and input.
If you want to drive exponential change, you have to get your culture right.
While too much process can easily stifle innovation, some process – strategically placed – is good.
Creating a streamlined process for idea to impact, for example, is extremely important as Linda Lavelle, Johnson & Johnson’s Director of Knowledge Management, alluded to during her Ignite talk.
When it comes to your innovation program, creating a clear process from ideation (e.g. here’s how frequently we’re going to run ideation challenges) to idea development (e.g. here’s how we’re going to test the feasibility of ideas) to implementation and impact (e.g. here’s our go-to market strategy), helps you in multiple ways:
- It adds a level of consistency to your innovation program
- It removes confusion among participants and program managers
- It’s one less thing to think about, freeing you up to focus on measuring success
Think of process as the rudder for your innovation program. The last thing you want is a rudderless program that makes it hard to go from point A to point B.
6. Innovation is everyone’s job
Pfizer’s Senior Manager of Worldwide Innovation, John Klick, brought up a great point during his session that tends to get lost in translation as companies form innovation teams: innovation isn’t the responsibility of a small group or executive team. Innovation is everyone’s job – from the receptionist to sales to leadership.
Companies – such as Google, Facebook, Pfizer, and Cambia Health Solutions – that understand this fundamental concept are the ones who build innovative cultures that transform their businesses and industries.
7. Innovate beyond products
Innovation is synonymous with products. But, as Deloitte’s Geoff Tuff pointed out to the Ignite crowd, innovation goes beyond this.
The definition of innovation is simply the introduction of something new that creates value for customers and companies.
With that definition in mind, are you being innovative if you find a new way to boost employee productivity by 10%? Yes.
Are you being innovative if you introduce a new process that shrinks the amount of time it takes to bring a great idea to market? Yes.
To be an innovative culture, and company as a result, you have to think beyond product innovation.
With any innovation program, sponsorship is crucial to success. Whether it’s a CEO or another executive, it’s key for several reasons:
- Sponsorship sends a clear signal to employees that participating in the ideation challenge is important
- It shows that the leadership team has skin in the game
- It clearly shows leadership values employee input and collaboration
One piece of advice that came up in one of the sessions, as it relates to getting sponsorship, is to focus ideation challenges around areas where executives don’t have answers.
For instance: Executives have goals they need to accomplish. A lot of times there isn’t a clear path to success. If you create ideation challenges that align with executive goals, the sponsorship you need to have successful challenges comes naturally.
9. Employees are the best source to gather ideas from if you want to think differently
The days of relying on a visionary CEO to drive a company’s innovation agenda are over.
Every speaker, in their own unique way, drove home the same point: for companies to compete today they have to rely on the collective intelligence of many rather than a few.
As John Klick put it, “Innovation is better with friends.”
Companies who want to think differently and find new ways of approaching problems need to leverage the expertise of employees.
Employees are on the frontlines. They’re the ones who are talking to customers and prospects on a daily basis. For a company not to leverage this on a frequent basis is irresponsible.
10. Want higher ideation challenge participation? Create an emotional connection
Here’s an interesting tip that came out of Ignite’s industry roundtable segment, in which attendees gathered in industry focused groups. Create an emotional connection between the challenge and participants to generate higher engagement.
In other words, create ideation challenges that speak to the beliefs and values of the people within an organization.
When employees feel a deeper connection with the challenge, they’re more inclined to share their ideas and collaborate with one another – there’s a sense of purpose. This is what ultimately drives better outcomes.
In one short year, we’ve seen the conversation amongst innovation leaders change at Ignite.
At Ignite 2017, there was a significant focus on the frontend of innovation – optimizing ideation and surfacing the best ideas.
This year at Ignite 2018, the conversation expanded to encompass the entire lifecycle of innovation – from idea to impact.
We can’t wait to see how things shape up at Ignite 2019!