Six Secrets of Winning Innovators

Guest post by Rob Hoehn

Each year,, an open innovation management software platform, invites its customers and subscribers to nominate winning teams for its Innovation Management Awards. The City of Calgary (Canada), Oak Ridge National Labs and the U.S. National Cancer Institute were the 2016 winners. The innovation qualities they shared are summarized by IdeaScale co-founder and CEO Rob Hoehn in the following article, which is adapted from the July/August issue of the CIMS Innovation Management Report.

An in-house innovation program is becoming a common fixture in the most competitive organizations. However, in a recessed economy, these research and development programs can sometimes get eliminated because they struggle to prove or articulate value.

Every year, the Innovation Management Awards invites innovation teams to share their best practices for their internal innovation programs: best practices about how to engage the workplace in the innovation process, how to refine and select the best ideas, and how to identify and prototype meaningful innovations.

Our 2016 winners share a few key qualities that help define a successful innovation management program:

A great communications strategy. Innovators have the ability to communicate ideas effectively; innovation teams need to be able to facilitate communication and collaboration. So large-scale innovation programs need to have a great communications strategy in order to leverage the full value of employee engagement.

Talented moderators. Innovation moderators encourage feedback and drive the discussion among ideators. Good innovation teams will train moderators to become mentors and stimulate good discussion.

Ongoing engagement. Winning innovators get employees involved throughout the innovation process, seeking ideas for improvement, letting people volunteer to join implementation teams, and testing assumptions. Engaging your workforce doesn’t have to end at the ideation stage.

A sense of urgency. It turns out that some of the most successful campaigns have deadlines for ideation. Sometimes these boundaries help make people more creative and get them to submit their thoughts where they otherwise would have doing forever.

The ability to share successes. Taking a victory lap helps build faith in innovation programs and keeps them around for a long time. When the team has success, celebrate it. When the team has a failure, celebrate that too. Even though failure is disappointing, it’s a valuable teacher.

Measurable outcomes. Part of telling the story of your successes is to have not just outcomes, but to be able to demonstrate their value. How much time did you save? How much revenue did you create? Great innovation programs have answers to these questions.

The article from which this post is derived was reprinted in the IMR with permission from, March 23, 2017; Copyright © 2017

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