While research shows that 90% of executives believe the long-term success of their organization relies on innovation, we all know that 90% of companies aren’t innovating at full potential. That’s why we decided to create this series and name it Innovation Academy.
Our goal is to encourage program managers to understand and advocate for innovation within their company. When you understand the steps and processes that are part of innovation, you can begin to build these into your projects and teams. The great results you get can help you sell innovation processes to your leadership at increasingly higher levels.
What’s Included in Innovation Academy?
No high-quality class starts without a syllabus, so we wanted to give you a quick overview of what you can expect from the Innovation Academy series. We have a four-week program planned, with each week focusing on a different vital topic. We want to help you understand all of the elements that go into a successful innovation project.
Week 1: Get Creative. Ideate! Go beyond brainstorming and learn to encourage your team to come with new ideas every day – not just during a special meeting. Week one will give you the tools and incentives you need to foster innovative ideas at every level of your organization.
Week 2: Build Your Team. No innovation happens without teamwork. Week two will teach you how to build an effective team and handle the common issues that arise on teams. You’ll learn how to get everyone to not only work at a high level but enjoy doing it!
Week 3: Refine Your Idea into a Robust Proposal. Once you’ve got a great idea and a good team, it’s time to refine your idea into a specific proposal. In week three, you’ll learn the steps you need to take to create a strong proposal and help it speed through the approval process.
Week 4: Assess and Implement. Once you’ve gotten your innovative idea defined and approved, it’s time to implement. Week four will help you understand why implementation is vital to an ongoing innovation process and avoid common pitfalls that stall the execution of new ideas.
How to Prepare for the Next Four Weeks
Are you excited? I know we are! Now ideas and learning are important, but implementation is where the rubber meets the road. To make the most of Innovation Academy, you’ll want to prepare some things in advance. Then, you can follow along with each lesson and work through each process as we describe it.
First, you’ll want to define the problem you want to solve. Here are some steps to take:
- Start with meeting with your customer service team to see what common issues currently exist for customers.
- Review customer feedback you’ve received in surveys or online.
- Compile all of the ideas into an innovation project system like IdeaScale or even a simple online bulletin board like Trello. Alternatively, you can use a spreadsheet.
- Finally, take your large list and work with your management team to create a matrix or scoring system. You can use the scoring to prioritize and select the key problem you’ll be focusing on.
Secondly, you’ll want to set up key systems that will help you as you move through the innovation process. Here are some you might consider:
- A meeting space. While you may think of a conference room, consider something more flexible in case team members are remote. A virtual meeting room is a collaboration service that brings real-time voice, video and content sharing tools into a single solution. You can also consider virtual meeting services like Join.me or Go to Meeting.
- A private Facebook group. Because almost everyone has a Facebook account, a private Facebook group can be an easy, simple, and free way to bring everyone together to collaborate.
- Trello is a simple visual system that allows you to virtually organize and prioritize ideas. It looks and acts just like a virtual bulletin board.
- Dropbox or Google Drive will allow you to share documents easily among team members. You can also have group editing of documents, with everyone’s contributions noted with their name or initials.
- If you’re looking for an all-in-one innovation project management solution, consider IdeaScale. IdeaScale includes tools that allow you to share and collaborate with your team, evaluate and prioritize ideas, and finally develop and deliver the winning solution.
Next, think through what recognition or rewards you want to give to the person or group that comes up with the winning innovation. A financial bonus is great, but think beyond money as well. What kind of recognition or special reward means a lot in your organization? Beyond the traditional options, consider something like WooBoard, which gives you a cloud-based way to recognize employees and allow them to choose their own rewards.
Finally, consider what kind of budget you might have to work with, and start thinking of what team members might be ideal. It’s never too early to start planting seeds with ideal team members! Let them know that you’re considering an innovation project and think they’d be a good fit. Advance notice is always appreciated!
When you take those planning steps, you’ll be ready to learn about new ideation processes. We’ve all been in a room with a whiteboard and sticky notes, and there’s room for that. However, there are also other ways you can encourage innovation within your organization.