Using Communications to Drive Innovation – How to Develop an Engaging and Sustainable Program

HYPE Innovation is producing a series of five articles to help innovation practitioners, and those new to collaborative innovation, understand how to build a successful and sustainable enterprise program. Each article will address a different theme, will focus on clear actions any company can take, and highlight pitfalls to avoid. The first article in this series explained how software can help engage your enterprise in collaborative innovation; this article discusses the vital role communications can play in making your program sustainable.

Promotion and Engagement

Enterprise innovation has one main goal – developing business value.   There are many different elements that support that goal, but one of the most crucial is communications.  As mentioned in the previous article, software has a key role to play, but it doesn’t guarantee employee participation or value to the business, we need to think more widely to address these needs.

Communications initiatives have many elements, the two most critical phases these elements need to support are as follows:

  • Promoting the innovation program – key for new programs and those with new participants.
  • Keeping and growing levels of engagement – vital to building belief and confidence in your innovation activities.

Key activities for new programs

1)      Create a buzz – You need to entice and excite your potential audience.  Advertising comes in many flavors and you need to make sure the enterprise innovation program stands out. Consider viral videos, flyers on desk, novelty giveaways as-well as more traditional posters, intranet marketing and emails.

2)      Inform & educate – Many invitees will want to understand more about what innovation means, what’s being asked of them and how to participate online.  Consider webinars, town hall meetings, brochures, or videos that show how to join in and help.

3)      Demonstrate the corporate mandate – Invitees need to be aware that senior management encourage and want them to participate. Many won’t be prepared to take time out of the day-job without explicit permission from a credible senior sponsor.

4)      Advertise progress – Many invitees may wait and watch to see how people participate and what’s achieved. Issue information at the end of every innovation activity (such as an idea campaign) what the next steps will be and who owns major actions. Remember to include everyone that was invited whether they participated or not.

5)      Recognize everyone that helps – It’s not just submitters of insights and ideas that should be recognized, consider those that build and improve the ideas of others, those that identify issues and those that provide a practical perspective.  Each helps build an idea into a workable concept and should be recognized as having helped develop something new.

Not everyone will participate on day one, but these five recommendations will help develop the momentum from which you can build.

Building belief and confidence

1)      Issue regular success stories – On a quarterly basis issue a program update to the entire enterprise, highlight progress and implemented ideas.  Not only does this help keep those that have participated enthusiastic, but also shows demonstrates the program delivers value to those who are yet to join-in.

2)      Keep marketing your program – Every organization will have a natural attrition rate, people will leave and new joiners will arrive.  In addition, you may acquire other companies or be subject to a merger.  This increases the potential for innovation, as greater numbers of diverse opinions arrive and they’ll want to understand how to take part.  Consider how to raise their awareness and demonstrate how to get involved.

3)      Monitor and share details from older projects – Innovation doesn’t happen overnight, so maintain contact with those running innovation projects to which the program has contributed.  Include any major developments in your quarterly newsletter.

4)      Seek out the non-engaged – Consider who is participating and who is not; there will always be pockets of the organization that take longer to get engaged.  Consider surveying the non-engaged and ask whether they’ve heard of the program and whether they’d like to get involved.

5)      Rigorous feedback and review – Ensure every innovation initiative provides feedback to invitees at the end of the campaign or idea theme phase. Nothing slows momentum more than lack of feedback.  Of course, to offer good feedback, ideas and concepts must be evaluated and judgments made.  Ensure review teams and time is allocated in advance of any innovation initiative.

Summary

The highest performing programs rigorously focus on communications, marketing the program, showing value, keeping people engaged and growing the audience over time.  Don’t be frightened to reshape your plans depending on what you learn from feedback and participation.

Remember that the innovation themes and sponsors also help motivate the invitees to participate, but effective communications can ensure everyone hears about the program and believes in it.

What’s next?

In the following article, HYPE will consider ‘engagement’ in more detail.  We’ll discuss ways to understand how engaged the company really is and what steps to take to increase that level of engagement over time.

By Colin Nelson

About the author



Colin Nelson is Director of Strategic Consulting at HYPE Innovation, a global leader in idea and innovation management software and solutions for over 11 years. Using the power of the workforce, third parties and customers, Colin helps clients engage disparate groups to support existing or newly established programs on Innovation, Cost Reduction, Business Transformation and Business Improvement.

He works as a subject matter expert and thought leader on how people engage to share ideas and collaborate with others, online and at scale with global innovation leaders such as Continental, Airbus, General Mills, Hershey’s, Peugeot, SCA, WD-40 Company, and many others, focusing specifically on processes and innovation behaviors.

Photo: Technology in the hands of a businessman from Shutterstock.com

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