As the leader of an innovation program, your role is about generating business value from the spark of an idea. But how can you tell which innovation ideas from your latest brainstorming session will deliver results?
One way is to leverage the collective intelligence of your employees. Many of our clients use a technique known as crowdsourcing to not only capture ideas, but also help prioritize and select the ideas that are most valuable. In doing so, these companies are able to tap into the experience, insights, and energy of employees who know their business the best.
According to Planview Planview IdeaPlace’s fourth annual State of Crowdsourced Innovation Report, 98 percent of respondents leverage crowdsourcing for generating ideas to solve problems or seize opportunities that matter to the business and its customers. When it comes to choosing winning ideas, crowdsourcing software plays an integral role in giving innovation leaders the power to do much more throughout the innovation lifecycle, especially in helping to vet and de-risk ideas.
Let’s dive further into the report to understand the top five criteria that companies are using to select the winning ideas from an innovation challenge.
How to pick the winners
With crowdsourcing, you might have collected hundreds of ideas in only a matter of weeks. It can be tempting to jump in and analyze each idea on its own merit, or when compared to another idea. Before you start the process of ranking them, it’s necessary to provide your experts, employees, or stakeholders with a set of criteria to use for prioritization.
Here are the top five criteria that customers cited in the survey for selecting winning innovation ideas:
- Alignment to business strategy – A clear understanding of strategy must be applied at all stages of the selection process, which can only be validated by senior management. This strategy should be essential to everyone’s success – shareholders, customers, executives, and all employees.
- Estimated value – Goals and metrics must be forecasted and established to help understand the ROI, cost savings and financial impact to the company.
- Estimated cost to implement – This requires a realistic expectation of the time and costs that will go into covering the cost of the technology and what’s needed in human resources to implement and support it.
- Evaluation by subject matter experts – This involves approval by various teams consisting of products, sales, service, and delivery. In this year’s report, “Evaluation by Subject Matters Experts” replaced “Feasibility” as one of the top five criteria for selecting winning ideas. This reflects the interest in ensuring that the people closest to the work have a say in the decision-making process.
- Approval by senior leaders – Finally, ideas must be supported from the top down to validate the need to commit resources to implement them.
Once ideas are selected, implementation becomes a critical factor. It’s in the implementation stage – perhaps more so than any other – that there are significant opportunities for improvement. If an idea satisfies a strategic need, then it should have clear access to the time and money needed to implement it. It’s also at this stage where you can demonstrate to employees how their valuable ideas directly influence the bottom line.
Driving Selected Ideas Over the Finish Line
Ideas need to be shepherded from selection to implementation and delivery. According to the 2019 State of Crowdsourced Innovation Report, only 58 percent of crowdsourced innovation teams are involved in commercializing and implementing innovation ideas. It’s even less for tenured customers – those who have leveraged crowdsourcing for three years or longer – with 25 percent saying their innovation team is involved in the process.
As an innovation process matures and requires more focus, these organizations begin to separate the responsibility for the front- and back-end of innovation. However, this separation doesn’t eliminate the need to track innovation results through delivery of the idea. The best way to make that happen is to identify and assign an advocate or program manager to lead the idea to completion – and to actively track and report progress and impact.
Unfortunately, only half of the survey respondents said they have a system or tool for tracking the development or implementation of a crowdsourced idea after its selected. And many of those tools are unable to do the job. Desktop tools, like Excel, Slack, SharePoint or Yammer, for example, are great for communication and collaboration but not for tracking innovation at scale.
Companies that try to manually manage innovation programs quickly learn that innovation management software is necessary. The same holds true for the implementation and delivery phases of the innovation lifecycle.
Feedback on selection and implementation are just two of the topics covered in the 2019 State of Crowdsourced Innovation report. Download the full report to learn what other innovation leaders are doing around measurement, ROI, governance and culture building.