Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Removing Barriers for Idea Submission: Communication

By: Steven Telio, Director of Product Management at ideaPoint

Barrier 2: Ongoing Communication / Communication Plan

“Why is the organization soliciting ideas?”

“Because I don’t work directly for your organization, I want to know what’s happening with my idea. I’d hate to submit it and never hear about it again.”

“Will you be willing to share the results of the innovation process so far? Even with people external to your organization?”

Innovation programs have a history of launching with a bang and fading away with a whimper. Long-time employees or potential idea submitters from outside your organization who have seen this cycle before may be reluctant to invest their time and intellectual capital in a submission unless they know the organization has made a commitment and will actually follow-through. Sponsored Hackathons and IdeaFests, while great at creating buzz around the event, can strengthen the skepticism that an organization is not serious about implementing ideas when participants do not hear about the results nor do they receive any sort of follow-up after a submission has been made.

Mitigation: Provide ongoing communication about the overall goals and successes of the innovation program to everyone who participates, regardless of whether the person is internal or external to the organization. Use this as an opportunity to reinforce what is entailed in the process, and details about the process itself. Dramatize the successes to encourage future participation.

• Once an idea has been submitted, use technology to facilitate decision making, routing items to the appropriate people and enforcing a stage-gate process, while enabling enough transparency for the submitter to know the status of their idea at any given time.

• Ensure the submitter has a way to check on the status of their submission. Where is it in the process? Has it passed a particular milestone? When is the next decision point? Better yet, through effective use of technology provide a single system which can provide a comprehensive view to the submitter. And be sure not to limit access to the system to only people behind the firewall; external participants need this access even more than internal ones, since the external submitters cannot simply ask someone within the organization.

• A beneficial side-effect of increased transparency: submitters will be confident that their idea is getting the attention it deserves. It also increases the likelihood that they will submit other ideas in the future because they have increased confidence in the overall process.

• When a submission does end up passing significant milestones, recognize that achievement, either by alerting the submitter, the organization as a whole, or the community in general. For example, when an invention that was licensed from an external source then incubated in-house is ready to go to market, hype the fact that it was the result of a collaborative innovation process. Success breeds success.

• Finally, showing that the innovation process really does work and can have real-world, bottom line results will help ensure that the process itself can make a strong case for maintaining or increasing existing funding levels.

This is the fourth post in a series of blogs titled “Removing Barriers for Idea Submission.” Each blog will address different barriers, and challenges that innovation programs are faced with. For further information about a software solution to streamline your process for gathering ideas and accelerating innovations, visit or contact Pat McWilliams (

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