Improve your company’s innovation culture.

Many businesses find major success in the competition format. Fortune 500 companies like American Express and AT&T often inspire creativity by sponsoring online innovation contests while other platforms like Kickstarter have a competition for funding. And businesses can use contests to increase innovation within their own organization.

An innovation contest can bring a company a slew of ideas for innovative products and, as a result, increase the company’s innovation performance significantly. Here is how you can use the concept of an innovation contest to tap into the potential and creativity of your workers in a way that will positively take your company’s innovation culture to a higher level.

Center the Competition on a Need

Do not leave the challenge open-ended, merely asking workers to help design the “next big thing.” Rather, emphasize your challenge question or statement on a specific problem that needs to be resolved. For example, look at the XPRIZE Foundation’s spaceflight challenge, which gave $10 million to the first team able to meet criteria framed around a problem: “Build a reliable, reusable, privately-financed, manned spaceship capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface twice within two weeks.” If a challenge is left open-ended, the results will likely be ambiguous. By being specific, you can drive specific results.

Break Challenges into Steps

To prevent your workers from becoming overwhelmed and thus producing undesirable results, break challenges down into implementable and manageable steps. Rather than asking your teams to submit a 45 page business plan for the idea they are pitching, ask them to start with a 1-to-2 page plan. Narrow these ideas down, asking finalists to turn their ideas into further developed proposals. This encourages contestants by giving immediate feedback that verifies whether they are on a fruitful path before they commit a large amount of time to their ideas. This also encourages employees to practice important skill sets during the process, including plan preparation, pitching, analysis, etc.

Positive Effects of an Innovation Contest

An innovation contest is an efficient instrument for the development of a positive innovation culture within a company.

Innovation contests promote communication, encouraging employees to dialogue with each other while considering together which products and ideas can be developed. This puts an end to the passive waiting stance for an answer from a head office or region and replaces it with communication, which benefits a company greatly.

A spirit of competition is necessary for all employees to develop their potential while having opportunity to show their creativity.

Innovation contests offer a tool that enables companies to have in-house tools to generate new ideas on a regular, independent basis. A company that knows how to create new ideas on its own generally does better.

Customers can also be involved in innovation contest workshops through a company’s open innovation approach. This sets a communicative signal through positive marketing while enabling the customer to share his ideas while the company communicates to him that his wishes, needs and ideas are valued. This is a win-win situation for both the organization and consumer.

Employees and customers are some of the most important sources of new ideas. A positive innovation culture in the workplace is a must in order to increase a company’s innovation performance.