Focus Your Innovation Management: 4 Benefits of Challenge-Based Initiatives

The suggestion box. 

Against its better intentions, this office fixture is used for little more than making unreasonable demands or irrelevant requests. In their search for an alternative, some businesses turn to overly complex innovation management software that bogs down employees and can hinder continuous improvement — but it doesn't have to be that hard.

Combining the simplicity of the suggestion box with the advanced capabilities of innovation management software, challenge-based initiatives are a better way forward. This approach poses focused process improvement questions to the right team members and fosters closer collaboration, and helps management find suggestions that matter. Read on to see how they help.


1. Focused Ideation

One of the greatest benefits of challenged-based initiatives is their focused approach to continuous improvement. While the average suggestion box serves as little more than a reservoir for unrelated concerns, challenges ask specific questions about improving current practices. This results in suggestions tailored to the problem, improving idea quality, and filtering out the distractions. 

For example, a manufacturing company may wish to increase product output without purchasing extra equipment. Rather than sifting through a suggestion box filled with demands for different coffee types, challenge-based initiatives enable employers to ask specific questions about how to increase production. When leaders send a challenge out, an employee could point out machine downtime could be reduced if maintenance schedules were staggered, allowing for more continuous operability and greater production. 

Asking the right questions helps you get the right answers, and the focused ideation of challenge-based initiatives helps you do just that. 

2. Safe Participation

Whether they're shy or disillusioned, employees are often reluctant to share their best ideas. Twenty-nine percent of employees report having their ideas stolen by a coworker — and sometimes management themselves can be responsible for the theft. By taking credit for their employees' ideas, some managers have left their workers overlooked, souring them to the idea of sharing their thoughts again. 

Challenge-based initiatives enable better innovation management by giving employees a safe place to share their ideas. The forums that host challenges attach the employee's name to every proposed solution, offering reliable evidence of whose idea it was in the first place. Shy employees also benefit from having a place to show their ideas, as they may find it easier to speak out on a digital platform rather than expressing their concerns face-to-face. 

By giving shy employees a safe place to share and ensuring that credit goes to the right person, challenge-based initiatives encourage employees to participate — and help management find those with leadership potential.

Man typing on laptop

3. Easy Implementation

Even if employees know they have a safe place to share their ideas, they're unlikely to use a tool that slows them down. Conventional innovation management solutions lie on two ends of the spectrum: they're either too simple to help or too complicated to adopt — and both hinder employee adoption. Some downsides of each are:

  • Poor timing: Overly simple idea management tools like suggestion boxes offer no definite time frame for when ideas will be discussed or implemented, leaving employees to submit their suggestions at the last minute, if at all. Conversely, complex innovation management software includes a learning curve and training, further draining time resources.

  • Low visibility: With no idea about where their suggestions go once they're submitted, employees often refrain from using suggestion boxes because their ideas seem to disappear into a black hole. Meanwhile, bloated software solutions make it too difficult for workers to track their suggestions, so they're still left in the dark about progress or lack thereof.

  • Less productivity: While suggestion boxes offer minimum direction and little more than a place to vent, complex software has unnecessary features that hinder implementation. In both cases, worker productivity stalls.

By offering a helpful, adoptable solution, challenge-based initiatives avoid both extremes. With added functionality like solution deadlines, employees submit their ideas in a more timely manner, making it easier for managers to act on them. Feedback features also help boost employee voices, and the simple user interface facilitates participation without hindering productivity.

Simple yet insightful, challenge-based initiatives avoid both ditches along the innovation management trail.

4. Company Collaboration

Who wants to express their ideas when they feel like they're not heard? Some idea management tools fail because employees don’t receive feedback or progress updates. 

As with the complexity problem, challenge-based initiatives also solve collaboration shortcomings of many innovation management methods. For software, feedback features such as "like" buttons and comment threads help employees receive recognition from colleagues and managers, making them feel their voices are heard. Such collaboration improves idea quality further, as employees refine each others' suggestions along the way.

two women sharing ideasDepartment Granularity 

As valuable as such teamwork can be, not every team member needs to chime in on every challenge. Assembly line workers may have valuable input on manufacturing process improvement, but for financial questions, it's probably best to ask accounting. Unlike suggestion boxes of old, challenge-based initiatives enable managers to direct their questions to specific team segments and foster better input in the process.

Similar to approaching individual teams with department-specific challenges, challenge-based initiatives can also be segmented by managers. No executive can handle the number of disparate suggestions posted by their entire staff. Leaders should assign project managers to each challenge according to their expertise to distribute the load more evenly.

By enabling cross-department collaboration and segmentation, challenge-based initiatives bring the right people on board.

Idea Pipeline: Rising to the Challenge

Optimizing your processes is the goal of all innovation management tools. While suggestion boxes aim to capture creative insights from problem solvers, their unregulated nature misses the mark. Some have tried complex software with unnecessary features to find a modern solution but may find more isn't always better.

At Idea Pipeline, we use challenge-based initiatives to drive continuous improvement, and the results speak for themselves. Specific question-based challenges result in more focused ideation, and the open forum makes workers feel safe to share. We've eliminated all the fluff of overly complex software, and our challenge assignments pose the right questions to the right members of your team — without compromising collaboration. 

Is your company ready to rise to the challenge? Start your free trial today to jumpstart your company’s idea pipeline.

Published by Idea Pipeline December 9, 2021