Five key dimensions for building your innovation challenges

In the process of setting objectives for your business goals, you should always think SMART – as management guru Peter Drucker applies this expression. To make your objectives easy to understand and monitor, they need to be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. This mnemonic can be useful when establishing innovation challenges.

Challenge definition functions as the central pillar to your innovation initiatives, so you need to allocate time to consider this. Defining these elements is that first fundamental step that will help you create new paths.

Still, innovation challenges are not only pure objectives but also a means to achieve something in the process – people’s engagement, business alignment or a corporate culture of innovation, for instance. Inspired by Drucker’s criteria, we find it more pragmatic to structure challenges around the agents involved.

To do this, we have developed a hands-on toolkit to help define and identify vital challenges, ask the right questions and know how to ask them correctly, by considering the following when shaping your challenges:

If you are asking that extra mile from your employees, you surely want to channel their awareness towards a real priority and to tackle an explicit, solvable problem, engaging your people’s collective intelligence and concentrating on what really matters. You need to also remember to leave some space for more disruptive ideation, low-hanging fruit and other demands that can, in their own time, become equally important.

As we’ve seen, every company identifies with the more typical macro themes, including operational efficiency issues, better customer experience, sales and marketing strategy and sustainability goals. Some related challenges will more naturally address groups or departments and require specific skills, while other challenges will address your entire company.

This balance is fundamental, as you may need more expertise, but you don’t want to totally exclude anyone from this collaboration process. Your people’s cumulative know-how and experience are, in fact, your most valuable assets. For this reason, every cycle should include challenges to which everyone can relate, to which they connect intellectually and emotionally.

The ‘having the right processes in place’ is key to guaranteeing that ideation and discussion are open to everyone and that you can easily activate and harness your people’s collective intelligence. Different types of valued participation need to be incentivised and rewarded, to get the best out of each of your employees, individually and as a crowd.

Finally, you need to turn top ideas into real projects to assure your initiative’s credibility and keep people engaged through into the following challenges’ cycles. These new ideas coming out of your innovation pipeline will work together to make your business evolve every day.

You never know from where the next great idea will come. But you do know that you have to embrace incremental innovation, motivating your teams to take part in the ultimate challenge of continuously growing together, professionally and as a company.

Do you want to have a look at our complete Idea System Launch Toolkit? Reach us at:

Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO/
Francisco Bernardes, Exago’s head of Innovation Services/

Your ultimate innovation challenge – what works and what doesn’t

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Marco Grácio