Companies that use innovation management tools — such as Planview IdeaPlace — in conjunction with their collaborative innovation practices regularly come up with new and interesting use cases. Because organizations have begun to staff and fund internal business incubators, employees now have the tools, training, and space they need to pursue ideas.
One client of mine recently married their practice of collaborative innovation to their newly formed incubator (See Figure 1).
In brief, they first pose the question about the question: what problems, were the incubator to focus on them, might lead to authentic breakthroughs? Then:
- The leadership team responsible for the incubator evaluates each question/ idea that the community poses for fit and transformative potential.
- The top questions become the source of challenges sponsored by the incubator during the program year. The incubator runs three “classes” of four employee “entrepreneurs in residence” per year.
- The top contributors to each challenge are then invited to participate in the incubator in order to pursue their ideas.
This approach appeals to me for two reasons. First, I love the transparency that the process provides the incubator with the organization. How often do people, working in large companies, learn of opportunities available to them after the fact—or see the same group of “usual suspects” getting invited to participate? This process removes ambiguity in terms of who is invited to participate in the incubator, and why. Second, I love how the client has tied the front and back ends of innovation together. The incubator, from day one, becomes a resource for people who engage in the organization’s practice of collaborative innovation—and vice versa.
Mix & Match Maturity
One sign of practice maturity is the ability to “mix and match” tools and resources to create a better overall experience for the community. Of late, I have seen clients become increasingly adept at weaving together elements of crowdsourcing, design thinking, and business model canvassing to good effect.
How are you mixing and matching your practice elements?