When considering launching an innovation campaign, there are many options and features to consider.
To narrow it down, let’s consider two basic types of campaigns- targeted vs. broad spectrum. First let’s start by defining our terms. A targeted campaign is topic specific and will often have a defined time period with a predetermined start and end date, while broad spectrum campaign are very general in terms of topic focus, and again, often, but not always, are on-going with no specific timeline. Targeted or broad, campaigns can have various audiences, i.e. employees, customers, the general public.
In the case of a targeted campaign, participants are asked to submit ideas on a specific initiative, question, or business challenge. “We are seeking to cut shipping costs by at least 25%,” for instance. On the other hand, one could setup a campaign with a much broader topic, or multiple broad themes, that simply request “give us your ideas”. In reality, the broad spectrum campaign is like the web-based version of the age-old ‘employee suggestion box’, a general repository for any kind of suggestion that usually sat tucked in a corner of the company cafeteria or near the water cooler. It was there, yes, but it represented at best a half-hearted attempt on behalf of the employer to give employees a way to submit a suggestion or idea and stopped there. No one really knew what would happen to a submission and in most cases, never heard a response or knew if ideas were ever actually implemented.
While there are exceptions, in most cases, a series of targeted campaigns are far more successful at achieving real innovation results through a high-level of participation and strong implementation rate.
Here are four reasons why:
1. Helps Secure Executive Buy-In
- A focused campaign is driven to find solutions to real business needs. This motivates senior executives to support the campaign, of which typically they are the initiators and sponsors. That support is critical to the resource allocation that makes marketing and elevating the visibility of the campaign much easier.
- Convincing senior executives why a campaign is valuable also involves stressing the importance of follow-through on idea submissions and provides a level of credibility needed to support evaluation and increases the likelihood of implementation.
2. Creates Community Focus
- Targeted use-cases not only make identifying, but also communicating, objectives to the community easier. And when potential participants better understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the campaign, the quality of idea submissions increases.
3. Drives Implementation
- Having clear objectives, defining a specific problem, and setting up clear parameters, all help increase the quality of idea submissions. A larger pool of good ideas increases the chances for funding, project development, and eventual implementation.
- If senior management interest and participation is secured, the focus will stay on delivering real results and the potential to gain valuable resources to follow through on implementation increases.
4. Builds a Sense of Urgency
- Start and end dates means working with a definitive deadline. This creates a sense of urgency within your community and sustains a momentum that drives quality collaboration and keeps a steady flow of ideas coming.
- A finite period for setup and submissions gives campaign administrators and moderators a more manageable process. Better management makes it easy to focus on the community during the idea collection stage, and then drives attention to evaluation and decision-making once the campaign ends. This clearly defined set of roles and timelines leads to better results at each phase.
The below examples might have been more successful if they were structured as a targeted campaign:
The “My Starbucks Idea” site collects ideas on everything from improving bathroom cleanliness to changing the frosting on their blueberry scones. Although Starbucks has improved the functionality of the site since its launch, it is likely that the company would have experienced higher quality participation if users were asked to comment and submit ideas on a focused topic like, “How can we improve the cleanliness of our stores?” This would result in two major improvements. First, for the user, there would be clear direction on what kinds of ideas the company is looking for and thus result in more focused idea submissions. Second, it would increase the level of organization for the site organizers and weed out frivolous conversations and submissions.
Another campaign is Dell’s IdeaStorm. Participants have little insight into the sites main objective, lack guidelines as to what is an appropriate submission, and there is no clear plan to implement any of the ideas. Communication to the community is often outdated. Overall, the site lacks vitality and seems stagnant.
There are always exceptions to the way we separate targeted vs. broad spectrum campaigns. Dozens of use-cases exist where a targeted campaign is on-going and has no clear end-date. For instance, Harley Davidson uses Brightidea software to collect safety ideas on the manufacturing floor. It is a targeted focus with a clearly defined purpose, and thus makes sense to be an on-going endeavor. Another example is the Acrobat.com Ideas site. Again, Adobe is looking for incremental product improvement ideas for Acrobat.com- a clear, targeted use-case that makes as on-going campaign.
The recently announced GE Ecomagination: Powering the Grid Challenge is a great example of a type of targeted campaign we’ve discussed today. The Challenge clearly establishes guidelines for idea implementation and the eventual implementation of ideas is actually the driving force behind the entire campaign.
If you are focused on delivering real innovation results, especially when first trying out idea management, it is better to establish clear objectives and make it simple for participants to understand the ultimate purpose and function of the what you are trying to do through running a targeted campaign.
James is an innovation management expert with over 12 years of experience and the Vice President of Professional Services at Brightidea. He oversees the success of all client innovation campaigns, in particular focusing on best practices and large-scale rollouts.