Back to Top

Part 2: Accelerating the impact of Innovation Campaigns

Part 2: Accelerating the impact of Innovation Campaigns

Part 2 of 3: Professional knowledge and motivation: essential, but not sufficient

IT-based platforms for enabling innovation have variously been called idea management, crowdsourcing, or innovation management systems. The 2016 State of Crowdsourced Innovation report from Spigit, the largest vendor of innovation management software by revenues, gives us some idea of how these software systems are used with their customers:

  • 64% of surveyed customers use the platform company wide, rather than in just a few groups
  • 57% of surveyed customers report results of those programs to the executive leadership
  • The average number of crowdsourced innovation projects per year, over 13 industries, ranged from 7 (retail firms) to 17 (financial services firms)
  • With clients of tenure 3 years or less, an average of 43% of the ideas selected through Spigit were funded or fully implemented
  • Typically, campaigns are focused on 2 types of ideas: growth ideas (new products, new business models, etc.) or operational ideas (process improvements, greater efficiency, etc.)

What do these kinds of innovation campaigns promise to accomplish? A review of websites from innovation management system providers reveals 5 typical goals:

  1. Driving results – solving business challenges
  2. Keeping pace with disruption – becoming the disruptor instead of being disrupted
  3. Increasing speed and agility – optimizing response to the market, including streamlining innovation across business units
  4. Forging wide-spread employee engagement – expanding available “brain power” to find the right solutions, even tapping into the voice of the customer
  5. Cultivating the mindset and culture for collaborative innovation – breaking down the silos



The results are certainly impressive. In Gartner’s 2016 survey of 2,944 CIO respondents in 84 countries (“The Practices That Deliver the Biggest Bang for Your Bimodal Buck”), they reported that crowdsourcing and formal innovation management systems were “the top capabilities that yield return.” The various innovation management firms are quick to report client successes such as “75x ROI,” “$5 million in energy savings,” “75 patents in a single year with 10x return on investment,” “surged sales by 23%” “increased overall efficiency by 20%,” or “28 challenges, 86 ideas implemented, $60 million financial impact.”

Without doubt, IT-enabled innovation campaigns are making a significant contribution to the first 3 goals of driving results, keeping pace with disruption, and increasing speed and agility. The quantified resuts above demonstrate a wide-spread trend reported in Forrester Research’s Q2 2016 report, The Forrester Wave™: Innovation Management Solutions:“Crowdsourcing innovation drives two distinct areas: ways to optimize operational efficiency and opportunities to drive new business.”

However… CEO priorities go beyond those areas to include innovations in areas such as human capital management, sustainability initiatives, and business models. That evokes the question:

Are these campaigns living up to their full potential for high value impact? Could they do better?

Even further… Are these campaigns reaching high levels of success with the other 2 goals: forging wide-spread engagement, and cultivating the mindset and culture for collaborative innovation?

As we seek answers to these questions, Teresa Amabile of the Harvard Business School offers an important perspective. She has described creative activity as having 3 components:

  1. Knowledge and skills in one’s professional domain
  2. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
  3. Knowledge and skills in creativity and innovation

From the perspective of innovation campaigns, the 1st component is addressed by expanding the network of participants to access more brain power and the right brain power. The campaigns tap into the 2nd component through intrinsic and extrinsic motivations such as “making a contribution through your ideas” and “competing for recognition and rewards for best ideas.”

But for the 3rd component, campaigns almost always rely on whatever innovation knowledge, skills, and confidence employees already have, while offering few if any learning and development opportunities to build their innovation competencies and behaviors as campaign participants. Even employees who are experts in their field can be under-developed in their competencies for creativity and innovation.

This brings to light one goal for campaigns that is typically left out (or at best, under-utilized): building the competencies and behaviors for innovation with individuals and groups – and thereby strengthening an organization’s capacity for on-going, sustainable innovation.

Providing new, relevant learning opportunities as people engage in innovation campaigns can significantly boost not only the quality of innovative input and results, but also the confidence, motivation, and openness necessary to engage the entire workforce to formulate and implement innovative solutions.

Regarding the quality of innovative input and results, research by Scott Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (reported in Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind found that the desire to learn and discover has significantly more bearing on creative accomplishments than cognitive ability does. This finding has actually been recognized in the corporate world since the 1950s, when the principles for developing creative executives at the IBM Executive School included:

  • One must become creative experientially rather than learn by the book
  • Creativity is highly correlated with self-knowledge, specially about one’s own biases

The latest findings in neuroscience, as reported in Scientific American, have shown that the process of creative thinking requires forming new mental connections between different elements of information – seeing new relationships that bring old elements into new combinations. This means that there needs to be sufficient up-front information and knowledge to be the “raw material” from which to make these creatively rich associations.

Furthermore, a multitude of research studies over the past 45 years has clearly demonstrated that creativity and innovation can best be enhanced by the combination of:

  • Training in creative/innovative thinking
  • Providing disciplined processes for problem solving and innovation
  • Focusing on meaningful and motivating goals
  • Stimulating with a generous supply of “raw material” input (as information and knowledge)
  • Offering the opportunity for new personal and professional learning

With respect to engaging the entire workforce, research has revealed that when professional development opportunities are offered to build innovation skills (and thereby build careers), employee engagement, retention, and satisfaction are highly likely to increase – along with the overall mindset and culture for innovation.

This conclusion is reflected in the findings of AON Hewitt’s report 2013 Trends in Global Employee Engagement where they identified 6 drivers of employee engagement: Work, People, Opportunities, Total Rewards, Company Practices, and Quality of Life. Of these, the #1 global driver of employee engagement was “Opportunities: career opportunities and learning and development activities.”

Furthermore, Blessing-White and GP Strategies’ global Employee Engagement Report 2013 found that:

  • Opportunities for learning and development and opportunities for “doing what I do best” are the #1 and #2 drivers of SATISFACTION
  • Lack of opportunity for learning and development is the #1 reason to LEAVE(ahead of finances and not like the work)
  • The opportunity for learning and development is the #3 reason to STAY at a company (behind “liking the work” and “believing in the company’s mission”)

Learning and development opportunities help to build employees’ self-esteem and confidence for being innovative – that they can be valuable contributors and make a difference. This is essential to maximizing their engagement in innovation campaigns. And when the IT systems allows it, they are also more likely to adopt the system as a productivity tool they use in their everyday work.

When employees have the opportunity to develop innovation skills and apply them real-time in innovation campaigns as well as daily work, 6 benefits accrue:

  1. Strong innovative solutions to top CEO business challenges
  2. Increased potential for disruptive solutions
  3. Readiness for fast, agile responses to the market
  4. Enhanced motivation for wide-spread employee engagement
  5. Stronger culture and capacity for sustainable innovation
  6. New knowledge and skills, as well as mindset, for collaborative innovation

If developing and applying innovation competencies can accelerate the impact of innovation campaigns, what resources and strategies are needed to make that happen successfully?

Let’s explore that in Part 3: Talent Development as an Enabling Force for Innovation Campaigns

Read Part 1: Innovation is the core driver to meet critical business needs



William Miller's picture
About the author

William C. Miller, co-founder of Values Centered Innovation, is passionate about integrating emotional intelligence, human values, and mental discipline with our innate capabilities to be innovative.