Guides to Innovation at Scale: Planning a Challenge – Part 3

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 third and final of part of a mini-series focusing on the different elements of this Challenge-Driven Methodology.

In part one, we discussed how to decide on the foundations of the Challenge. Then, in part two, we discussed the process of framing Challenges. Now, we’ll look at the final crucial element of Challenge planning: communications. Combined, these three guides offer a great insight into what needs to be done and when in order to run successful innovation Challenges.

We’ll break the communication phase down into five areas and illustrate how the messaging should change at different stages of the Challenge process, to better reflect what the audience needs to do at that moment.

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 see 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 parts one and two, with the background and framing of the Challenge established, it’s now critical to agree on a communications strategy.

We’ll discuss what to communicate and when, all the way from initial “teaser” communications, through Challenge launch and live, all the way to the communications sent out once the Challenge is completed.

Challenge Communications Process: Teaser Comms

Teaser communications refers to the earliest part of this overall communication strategy. It’s the time when the intended audience is least familiar with the concept of the Challenge. As such, it’s vital that fundamental scoping questions are answered by the organization running the Challenge to establish goals and intent from the outset.

Here, it’s important to understand the best way to reach the target audience. This audience – whether part of an internal or external crowd – are receiving tens, if not hundreds of communications a day, so standing out can be difficult.

It’s also important to establish who on the Challenge management team is responsible for sending out these teaser communications. Finally, it can be handy to think about any upcoming events that the organization is running which could act as a nice tie-in.

For example, if the Challenge is looking to improve the environmental credentials of the business and there’s an event around sustainability coming up, ensuring that a mention of the Challenge happens at that event would be beneficial.

Challenge Communications Process: Launch Comms

Once these initial points have been answered, it’s then advisable to move on to the communications that will be sent out around the launch of the Challenge. The audience is at least familiar with or aware of the fact that a Challenge is coming up, now it’s about telling them how they can take part.

The questions that need to be answered here include:

  • How do the audience access the platform? This is where the question, the full details of the Challenge, and the submission is housed. Ensuring that those tasked with taking on the Challenge have access to it is crucial.
  • Can people participate on different devices? Software like MS Teams – which is integrated into the Wazoku platform – can run across several different device-types. Restricting the Challenge to a desktop only can limit how many people submit a proposal.
  • Who will be responsible for sending this communication? Responsibility is critical to running a good Challenge, and communications is no different.

Challenge Communications Process: Challenge Live

Having teased the Challenge, and then launched it, we’re now going to look at how to discuss the Challenge whilst it’s live. Maintaining the attention of the target audience while the Challenge is live is critical to increasing its participation and success.

Some companies prefer to send important messages via email but be careful not to over or under communicate. Messaging software such as Teams can be used, but be sure to deliver messaging here that stands out and doesn’t feel too lightweight

There’s a finite window of time in which people can submit their responses to the Challenge. Techniques such as a “fake end date” set a week or so before the Challenge closes can be a good way of ensuring that anyone who missed this deadline can still take part.

Challenge Communications Process: Idea Selection

At this point in the Challenge process, submissions are closed. Keeping communications going, and therefore, keeping visibility of the Challenge process with the intended audience is critical for buy-in that helps with any future Challenge that will be run.

The questions that need to be answered in the Idea Selection phase include:

  • Will there be a live pitch to a panel of the selected submissions? If so, both the idea owners and the panel of judges need to be informed of how and where this will take place, as well as the outline of what’s expected in the pitch itself from a presenter.
  • How will the outcomes be communicated? Regardless of whether they’re selected, the idea creators should be informed of the outcome. This keeps unsuccessful solvers aware of the fact that they could win without leaving them in the dark.
  • How will the winning idea(s) be celebrated? It’s valuable to announce the winner as part of an email blast, a bulletin, or even a Teams/Zoom meeting. Recognition is often just as important to winning Solvers as the monetary reward that comes with most Challenges.

Challenge Communications Process: Follow-Up Comms

Even when the Challenge has closed and the winning idea has been awarded, the importance of Challenge communications should not be forgotten. Follow-up communication or check-ins that see how the winning idea fares when it’s implemented can be a great way of illustrating the value of Challenges to the target audience.

Solvers that have worked on a Challenge will feel pride about seeing the impact of their work (whether their idea was selected or not) and those who didn’t participate will get to see the real-world outcomes of taking part in Challenges.

Conclusion:

In this final guide on the Challenge planning process, we’ve looked at the discussions around Challenge communications. 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 communications process. It is vital to know who in the Challenge management team is responsible for these communications at each of the five outlined stages.

Whether it’s the first time an organization has run a Challenge, or the hundredth, there is always room for improvement that can optimize the effectiveness of any Challenge. Perfection of Challenges will take time, but these guides and their steps will ensure you’re on the right path to delivering successful open innovation.

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.