Guides to Innovation at Scale: Planning a Challenge – Part 2

Underpinning the success of many innovation programs is an approach that uses Challenges. By setting up questions that ask for participants’ solutions to real problems, companies are better positioned to innovate in a continuous, scalable manner. This guide is the second of a three-part mini-series focusing on the elements of this Challenge-Driven Methodology.

In part one, we discussed how to decide on the foundations of the Challenge. Breaking the framing phase down into five areas, we’ll illustrate how to use metrics and voting as a way of measuring success, as well as discussing the submission and selection stages of the process.

The Challenge-Driven Methodology: An Overview

Above is the Challenge-Driven Methodology that Wazoku uses with businesses that are starting an innovation program. We designed it to be universal and customizable, to allow the companies that we work with – regardless of industry or scope – to get started on the journey towards scalable and sustainable innovation.

With this structure in place, so that people in the organization can see the process at a glance, it becomes easier to envisage what the program is working towards.

Three Key Phases of Challenge Planning

Breaking down this methodology even further, there are three stages in planning a Challenge. Following on from part one, with the background to the Challenge established, it’s now critical to agree on a framing. At this point in the process, we’ll discuss the metrics against which the eventual Challenge will be judged.

We’ll also look at what information needs to be included in any submissions, and how it’s possible to engage the crowd in initial evaluations. And finally, we’ll explain how the selection and post-selection stages work.

Challenge Framing Process: Metrics

The first stage in the Challenge framing process surrounds metrics. These are the data points that underpin the relative success or failure of a Challenge. This information may not tell the Challenge managers the reasons behind either a good or bad performance.

However, agreeing on the metrics before the Challenge launches ensures that goalposts are understood beforehand and cannot be moved once the process is underway.

As with all the stages of the Challenge framing process, there are some general scoping questions we advise asking, which include:

  • How many people are participating in the Challenge?
  • From that crowd, how many ideas are going to be actioned? This can really vary depending on the type of Challenge launched.
  • In the case of implemented ideas, what are the benefits that these submissions bring, and how will that be tracked?

Challenge Framing Process: Submission

Once the metrics have been agreed, the next point of focus is to validate the Challenge process, starting with the submission form. What information is important to capture for the sponsor and team to properly assess the ides?  Here, it’s key to decide on a middle ground, between extracting enough data for the evaluators to effectively assess submissions, without making the submission process so time-consuming that idea creators are put off.

With the personnel that will be assessing ideas already agreed, these evaluators can now be actively involved in this part of the Challenge framing, ensuring that they have everything they need to fulfill their role effectively.

Some of the scoping questions to ask at this stage are:

  • What information needs to be captured to inform selection or rejection?
  • Are solutions from individuals or teams being sought? Will submissions from either one person or a group be considered?
  • Will a canvas be used (Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas or SWOT Analysis) to further develop ideas, once submitted?

Challenge Framing Process: Voting

Allowing the crowd to vote as part of the process provides insights for the key stakeholders as they are determining which ideas they want to pursue.  If it’s determined that voting should be enabled, the next question to ask is if it should be used as an initial filter for vetting ideas or simply as additional input to help make decisions. 

With this crowd already engaged, it can be useful to use the collective to give their opinions on which solutions could work best. Allowing for voting on submitted ideas doesn’t work for every Challenge but is recommended for most.

The scoping questions that we’d recommend using to determine whether or not voting works in a particular instance include:

  • Should voting form part of the crowd participation element of the Challenge?
  • If so, what role will voting play in the selection process, if any?   
  • What form will this voting take? The options include simple up/downvoting (Reddit-style), up to 5 stars (Amazon-style), or token voting, where every participant is allotted a certain amount of tokens, which allows them to get behind a variety of ideas.

Challenge Framing Process: Selection

At this stage of the Challenge framing process, a lot of the criteria for idea selection has been decided on. The Challenge manager will know what is being looked for, from how many people, and how these ideas will be initially vetted.

Following these sections, it is now crucial to decide the details of what form the selection process will take. With so many different types of Challenge possible, on such a variety of different topics and business needs, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach here.

Some scoping questions to consider here are:

  • Does the selection criteria align with the Challenge goals?
  • What is the workflow for ideas from being submitted through to being selected for implementation?  For example, is crowd voting being used as an initial filter or are all ideas being evaluated by Subject Matter Experts?
  • Who is responsible for the final selection of ideas?
  • Will there be a final pitch event from which the decision on implementation of the ideas will be made?

Challenge Framing Process: Post-Selection

The final cog in the Challenge framing machine involves what happens following a final selection decision. Gathering, filtering, and selecting winning ideas is all well and good – and, from the above sections and previous guide, it is clear to see that a lot of thought needs to go into this.

However, implementing these solutions is the entire reason for doing all of that work in the process. So, to drop the ball at this point turns Challenges into a waste of everyone’s time.

The key points to decide on here include, but are in no way limited to:

  • Who will fund the implementation process?
  • How will the implementation of ideas be tracked?
  • How did the Challenge track against the planning?
  • What can be done differently to improve the results of future Challenges?
  • Have the selected ideas, recognition, and rewards been communicated?

Conclusion

In this second guide on the Challenge planning process, we’ve taken a look at the discussions around Challenge framing. Breaking this element of Challenge design down into five sections allows for a deeper, more focused look at the areas that need to be decided on ahead of time, as part of the planning process.

The central reason behind this is that it aids communication when the launch date comes and gives the company a better chance of engaging the crowd it wants and the buy-in that comes with that. A huge part of the success of any Challenge is found here, in the communication of it to a crowd. In the next guide of this mini-series, this element of Challenge planning is something we’ll look into more closely.

About Wazoku

Wazoku is a pioneer in open innovation, crowdsourcing, and innovation at scale. For more than two decades, we’ve been helping our clients deliver sustainable and scalable innovation practices. As both for-profit and for-purpose, our software and expertise have been used to gain competitive advantage and overcome humanitarian crises around the globe, all of which are underpinned by the belief that anyone can be an innovator.