Innovation executives, unite!

Photo: @ Flickr, Official U.S. Navy page

We know that innovation is the cornerstone of any corporate growth imperative. But the innovation industry apparently needs a return to sanity: we need results. It’s time to discard obsolete models. This is where our ‘intervention’ steps in.

At Exago, our services and software teams have joined efforts to create a structured model that makes sure innovation works and you, as an innovation executive, regain control of your mission. We have thus developed an idea management formula that produces results. Always.

This equation is the product of many years of practice, spanning four continents and building on expertise in several industries. It’s been perfected to achieve tangible outcomes efficiently and sustainably.

R = E * P

This formula reveals that compelling results (R) are achieved when you succeed in engaging your people (E) and multiply that engagement by a strong shared purpose (P).

To make it clearer:

Results are a function of ‘engagement’ with ‘purpose’.

E = I * C * T * G
Engagement, in turn, is a function of incentives (I), communication (C), transparency (T) and gamification (G).

P = B * F
Purpose is a function of business relevance (B) and focus (F).

Client organisations of all sizes and trades, as well as diverse languages and cultures, have productively adopted this formula. The secret lies in using just the right amount of each ingredient. What do they consist of exactly?

a) Results
By results, we mean a measurable dimension that adds value to your business. This is typically bottom-line results, but it can also be a means to an end. Each organisation has its own challenges: from reducing costs and promoting a culture of innovation to engaging customers and embedding a capability.

Different business priorities and stages of organisational maturity should lead to different programme results and, hence, different metrics and objectives. But the rule of thumb is this: results with more impact increase with programme longevity.

The Fleury Group – a leader in clinical analysis in Latin America – has experienced these benefits. In 2011, the group introduced Exago’s idea management solution to its employees. Within a year, the most ambitious targets had been overtaken in both idea generation and participation levels. In 15 months, more than 70% of employees had joined the process. In just over two years, more than 900 ideas had been implemented, generating millions of reais in value.

b) Engagement
By harnessing employees’ collective intelligence, your organisation can find the answers to many of its current challenges. But you can’t force people to contribute.

Engagement is an emotional commitment made to a company and its objectives. And it only comes when the people that make up an organisation believe they have an impact on its ability to provide value and a stake in the value produced.

So, for engagement to work, you need:

  • Incentives: You must build a productive and appealing incentives model to ensure employees are engaged and aligned with your leadership agenda. The incentives can address different motivations: from simple shopping vouchers and charity donations to opportunities to training in specific areas.
  • Communication: Active and clear communication is the key to maximising participation. It also assures community awareness, guaranteeing your initiative’s success. The more individuals see the success of projects to which they have contributed, the more likely they are to continue to be mobilised.
  • Transparency: Your people need to trust the process, get constant feedback and understand the journey ahead. So, we have adopted a sophisticated model of prediction markets that generates, screens and selects ideas – in the most efficient and transparent way possible.
  • Gamification: Game-like interactions and prediction markets develop more loyalty in participants (whether they are customers, employees or others). They make it fun to participate and promote more use, creating the desire to come back and ensuring the continuity of the programme.

For instance, at Portugal Telecom, innovation had long been a part of the company’s DNA, but innovation hadn’t always been perceived as a transparent and collaborative process. In 2009, this company adopted Exago’s platform to gather, assess and evaluate the scattered ideas of employees in an appealing, transparent and efficient way.

Six months later, more than 7,000 employees had enrolled – over 60% of the company’s workforce. By late 2012, fully 9,000 participants had joined in, and thousands of ideas had been registered. Provided with a way to voice their creativity, employees’ satisfaction increased steadily.

c) Purpose
Innovation without a purpose is useless. The initiatives developed must be in line with your corporate strategy and senior management’s mandate.

You must also make sure your team is with you, sharing common goals. To engage them fully, find a purpose bigger than just a simple project, with a set of tools and processes. Show that the outcomes of the effort will not only benefit the company but also each participant – even the world we live in.

Take a look at these examples. Nike’s goal is ‘to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’. Barnes & Noble bookstores’ mission statement is ‘to operate the best specialty retail business in America, regardless of the product we sell’. And Starbuck’s motto is ‘to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time’.

When developing innovation initiatives, bear this in mind:

  • Business relevance: For a (good) start, don’t solve problems you don’t have. Pick the right fights aligned with your strategic leadership agenda. Key business challenges make the most relevant innovation challenges.
  • Focus: Channel awareness toward the need to solve an explicit problem, concentrating your company’s collective intelligence on what really matters. Explain pressing needs and priorities but also the low-hanging fruit and other demands that can, in their own time, become equally important.

The challenges launched vary according to moment and context. However, they must project into the future. For Endesa, the largest electric utility company in Spain, this means investing in discovering new ways to act and respond to both environmental and mature market issues.

To do so, the group has involved almost 22,000 employees spread across Spain, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Argentina and Colombia in challenges that will likely determine the industry’s leaders of tomorrow. The initiatives focus on cost cutting, safety in the workplace, low-cost high-impact solutions within the company’s environment and enhanced efficiency through applying organisational and technological measures to work processes.

But how would it work for you?

Pedro da Cunha, Exago’s CEO and co-founder

READ MORE: It Works! The Results Equation

How would it work out for you?

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