We spent a bit of time on this site talking about what an Innovation Challenge is. At times, is helpful to talk about what an Innovation Challenge is NOT.

So, here are my top things that an Innovation Challenge is NOT:

1. NOT a top down communication tool: An Innovation challenge is not about launching the new set of strategies, and asking people to comment on them, or provide opinions. Is not a new communication channel for your Employee Relations or HR team, or an announcement vehicle. The ideas will need to be acted upon, and the top ideas will need funding and resources to make happen.

2. NOT a personal soapbox: There is a tendency for the Challenges to be launched with a lot of text, and long e-mails. Periodic updates are used to reinforce certain points for the business line message track. Keep in mind that the Idea Challenge environment is a very democratic forum, with equal access and a freedom and action built in. Innovators also have a tendency to become rebels in the face of message tracks or soapbox stands, so keep that to a  minimum.

3. NOT a community creator – If you’re looking for a disparate group of individuals to form a sense of community, and an identity, via participating in an Idea Challenge, there are better ways to do that. The sense of community is indeed enhanced via the Innovation Challenge, and it provides a great barometer of the organizational culture. However, an Innovation Challenge has to be acted upon by the Sponsor. The worst thing you can do is to declare at the end of the Challenge that “we’ve learned a lot, and we came together as a community – that by itself is a great accomplishment”, and then not act on the top ideas.

4. NOT a Chat room: The Idea Challenge is not anonymous, and is not a “light touch” engagement. Participants create, rate, tag other people ideas, so anonymity is not an option. The comments and the ideas have substance, are well thought. There is a pragmatism that permeates Idea Challenge events that make “chat-like participants” less relevant overtime. Ideas are submitted, discussed and refined. Every employee can see the ideas from others, comment on them, rate them or tag them.

An Idea Challenge is an Innovation Event, with a start and finish, with a Sponsor and  clear set of steps to stimulate innovation, and  clear ending with follow-up steps.

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