The Part of the Innovation Process that Everyone Forgets

One of the biggest challenges to innovation is the middle part of the process - where most of the work is happening behind the scenes. As your innovation campaign progresses, you must continue to instill excitement across all team members, and find ways to reengage them as advocates. In this case study, we’ll examine how Dick’s Sporting Goods engaged their employees in product development and effectively encouraged them to participate in their innovation community.

No matter what process you use for innovation (from design thinking or LEAN methodologies), they all have some shared qualities:

  1. Initial discovery, problem definition, and strategy
  2. Creativity, ideation, and collaboration
  3. Additional refinement and proposal building
  4. Proposal selection and initial prototyping
  5. Launching and testing

But one of the biggest challenges to the innovation process is that squishy middle part. The part where a lot of work is happening behind the scenes and those folks who were initially involved in the problem design and creative ideation start to wonder if anything is happening at all.

As an innovation campaign progresses, it’s important to keep up excitement and demonstrate that people are paying attention to the flow of ideas. To that end, it’s important to highlight promising or popular ideas. It helps foster healthy competition and conversation. This is a great time to start utilizing social media to either broadcast those ideas or point them out to particular individuals who might be personally interested in the idea and advocate for it or comment on it.

And as ideas move beyond ideation, it’s particularly important to let people know that there’s movement. This helps build faith in the program and actually finds advocates and new team members to help with implementation. This is another opportunity to connect with individuals and broadcast messages at the same time. You can easily let the followers of an idea know what’s happening to that idea, but you can also tell the community at large when ideas are progressing. 

This is one of the strategies that Dick’s Sporting Goods used as they were inviting employees to participate in their innovation community. In emails to community members, innovation admins would highlight particularly interesting or promising ideas to get people involved in the discussion, but this also showed that there was movement in the community, that ideas were being taken seriously and would be implemented.

To build a truly effective innovation process, you have to keep people invested throughout the process and highlighting good ideas not only does that, but it also gives participants something to shoot for when they share their own ideas in other projects. So don’t forget to tell people what’s happening behind the scenes.

To learn more about Dick’s Sporting Goods and how they engaged employees in product development, download the case study.

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

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