Innovation competitions and challenges: when the short term serves the long term

Successfully launching an internal innovation system is therefore crucial, because it is the founding stone of a new whole. And beyond the formality, which must be well mastered, there are also issues that can impact the effectiveness of the process.

Paying attention to the launch of the innovation program

A launch is a strong moment that must be remembered. It can last for an evening, an hour, or even a week if the company is ambitious. In all cases, it has a start date and an end date. It is an episode that must be programmed, announced, and promoted internally. This is the time for the short term, for emotion and impact. The long term is the project in itself. The one that detects and supports innovative ideas, and which spans several months or several years. One that must be carefully thought out so as not to run out of steam too quickly and continue to live once the initial craze has subsided.

Is it possible to innovate without an event challenge? Yes, but it is much more difficult. To be honest, it’s like running a 100 meters starting five seconds after everyone else. When we start from scratch, we must mark the occasion to mobilize collective intelligence. Without it, you risk spending a lot more money, time, and energy for a lot less results. If the company is used to collaborative innovation processes, the launch efforts will be less, compared to another who discovering the process. In any cases, a push is needed to get the ball rolling. The force of the push depends on the company’s culture, the level of motivation of the troops, and the appetite for change and digital transformation.

However, it should be kept in mind that an event challenge that marks the great beginning of the process is generally an action with few elected officials and many spectators. This can take the form of a competition or an internal challenge, so that the launch transforms from the theoretical stage into a practical component. In this case, the candidates must be valued and supported. This is the Star Academy of innovation: the public must have a role to play. An event-driven context must be created in order to transform an innovation project into a reality show with high potential. The goal: To thank and value the avant-garde, while encouraging others to get started.

No losers, only winners

This is the subtlety of the approach: A competitive spirit necessarily involves disappointments, creates dissension, even tensions, and can also encourage cheating, humans being what they are. It is not uncommon to see participants in a closed competition spending more time figuring out how to cheat and hack the system, rather than getting involved in order to get it right.

The organization of an entrepreneurial challenge event as a launch must be managed with great tact. It is not a match or a competition. This means that there are no losers: there are just ideas that aren’t ready, are too ahead of their time, or need to develop in maturity. Vigilance is key: Competition can be destructive, whereas, on the contrary, there must be analysis and rationality to benefit from the initiation. For the participants, it is the participation in an adventure that counts. It is a great motivation to be valued as an individual (especially career-wise), even if the idea or project was not selected or did not “win”. Concretely, going on stage, in front of an audience, receiving the congratulations of the jury, shaking hands with the CEO, and receiving a trophy with a souvenir photo has much more impact than an Amazon voucher for 50 euros sent anonymously by email as a reward.

Once the launch is complete, the work must continue, because the management of the unsuccessful ideas is at least as important as that of the selected ideas. As an example, when creating the electric lightbulb, Thomas Edison said that he did not failed. He had only found 10,000 ways that didn’t work. All ideas have value, sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment to know how to use them.

How to successfully launch your innovation challenge

Whether it’s a competition, a major conference, a presentation, or the launch of a new platform, employees can easily discover an innovation program. It’s a novelty, it arouses curiosity, we talk about it in the hallways and the middle-manager does his job of encouragement and communication well. Bringing them back is where it becomes more difficult.

If a simple collection system without collaboration or collective intelligence is used, it looks a bit like something like setting an idea on the table and leaving. The impossibility of collaborating, expressing one’s opinion, and enriching existing ideas then puts a brutal stop to what might seem like a good idea. This is exactly what an event device can transform.

Find the right topic

You have to find a topic that is likely to concern as many people as possible, that is easy to understand, and that can provide real added value in the operational management of the company and in its development. This means key issues, competition, strategy, and breakthrough innovation. The right topic is one that requires collaborative work. Not a minor “put fruit baskets in meeting rooms” type of improvement. To function, the company must put itself in a position to be looking for start-up advice, in order to reinvent the existing business and, if necessary, face criticism. Something that could relate to the survival of the group.

Bet on phygital

Multinationals are dispersed over different sites and countries, with varying degrees of autonomy. It’s safe to say that bringing all employees at the same time and in the same place is impossible. However, that doesn’t mean that involving them all is impossible. This is precisely where phygital is a perfect option: A mixture of face-to-face and digital with a digital networking system that uses on-site relays within departments and in business administrations.

Recruit and train ambassadors

These are collaborators who can be involved in the organization of the project and who are in charge of the “evangelization” of internal collaborative innovation. Full effectiveness means all services must be covered, from the agency in a small provincial town to the Paris headquarters, including the business unit in London or Madrid, for example. These ambassadors are at the heart of the system. They are trained, they know the project, and often work voluntarily because they are convinced by the changes that it can bring. Sometimes, they are even participants or contributors.

Be surrounded by event professionals

Organizing an event is a real job. This task shouldn’t be entrusted to someone just to make them happy. This is where operational implementation and project management must be distinguished. The team in place must give instructions, instill a vision, and know how to delegate. Don’t do things by halves and let professionals (internal or external) manage the launch organization.

Create the event and anticipate what will happen next

Music, video, entertainment, games… put on a show and create real momentum. Though everything is strongly correlated with the corporate culture of the company, it is necessary to create desire and a strong moment. The content is just as important as the container because the following key question needs to be answered: “Concretely, what happens next?”. ». This is a topic to cover at launch time, while your audience is captivated. You have to show that everything is planned and that there is a clear framework, with dates, projects, and a structure.

The launch should even be able to continue to live once it’s over. A dedicated website, a congratulatory message, sharing photos and videos on internal social networks… using just a one-shot is missing out on a good opportunity to bring the event to life and make those who were absent want to come next year.