So back in Part 1… We had the thought to give Idea Management a go. We appreciated from the start that it’s an investment. We set some reasonable expectations and prepared ourselves for the notion that the best bits might not actually just come from realising Ideas. We set out a nice clear process for how Ideas are selected and realised.
We sold all this to our bosses and got not just their money, but their buy-in and appreciation for the impact the Programme might have. We looked at the market and selected an Idea Management tool to keep this all straight and have a Facilitator to handle Process, communication and help Ideas develop. Finally, we lined up some early adopters to kick start the whole thing. What’s next?
8 – Gamification & Reward
Messing around with the order of my slides a bit again, but this is something to do before you launch your Idea Programme to you Participants – you’ll want to include it in the briefing!
Try and get past any concerns you might have about the topic and decide (early on) whether or not to use Gamification in any way as part of your Programme.
If you’re using an on-line tool, odds are pretty good that it’ll have some kind of system built in. IdeaScale has a points and badges system which is a giggle, but we didn’t focus too much on it as a big part of our participant community culture wouldn’t be that accepting of it.
You can still adopt Gamification if you’re using “meat-world” methods, like Idea-walls, drop-ins, pop-ups or any other kind of hyphenated activity. It just takes a little more creativity.
There’s a whole lot of psychology behind Gamification, but fundamentally it’s about reward. If you imagine how as a child you might have obsessed about collecting Panini stickers (I’ve never been big on football, for me it was He-Man) – that’s how people can get about badges. Use this to your advantage.
However you decide to use it, firstly be clear to yourself that it will encourage the kind of activity you want and beware of “gaming” of the system. For example, linking some kind of (real / virtual) reward to the number of votes just encourages indiscriminate voting. Secondly, make sure it’s all explained clearly to your participants when you launch – and be clear it’s optional. I believe Gamification has a valuable role to play in motivating certain types of people, but it’s not for everyone so don’t make people feel they have to compete if they take part.
But always reward, in some way, notable contributions and successes – just as we should already be doing elsewhere in our organisations. For your “winners” it’s an nice acknowledgement that they’ve added value and potentially a nice professional development event. For everyone else it’s further reinforcement of the notion that this means something and is taken seriously. We were only able to give out certificates, but I know from feedback they were appreciated by the recipients and that those who came close have expressed a renewed enthusiasm for the Programme!
9 – Sell Sell Sell
Time to sell this to your participants and get them submitting ideas, voting, commenting – whatever your Process calls for, your tools/methods enable and your Facilitator stands ready to… facilitate.
This is largely traditional Change territory, with one twist. You don’t just want your participants to come on a journey through a Change with your organisation – you want them to steer as you go. It’s not a case of persuading them of the benefits of it all so they go back to their homes and offices thinking “that’s nice”. You want them contributing. So consider these questions:
- What’s in it for you (i.e. the organisation): Delivering a better project, saving money that can be used elsewhere, addressing specific concerns (e.g. after a staff survey highlights some themes for improvement). Be honest here.
- What’s in it for them as a community (be they internal or an external group): Addressing their concerns, bringing them better / new services. Again, be honest! Don’t promise more than your Programme can deliver.
- What’s in it for them as individuals: Perhaps more of a subject if you’re running this internally as we did. This should be a professional development opportunity for many and in a large organisation a chance to make a mark. If you’re running an awards / Gamification scheme of any kind then explain it.
Be sure to explain clearly how people can get involved, what will happen to their contributions (the Process) and the role the Facilitator will play in it all. Depending on your culture you might need to emphasise ground rules about being civil(!) Bonus points if you can end your briefing by saying “Now go forth and Ideate!” Super bonus points if you say it with a straight face.
10 – Maintain Tempo
You’ll get an initial rush, principally from your carefully briefed Early Adopters. But once the excitement of something new, fun and forward looking has passed you’ll need to keep the tempo going. Don’t let it grind to a halt, you’ve put too much effort in!
This is where your Facilitator earns their pay.
Your facilitator can maintain tempo in 3 ways:
- Process: As ideas are selected, through whatever method, and tracked through to realisation, the value of the Programme will be revealed to not only the individuals who submit ideas, but the participant community at large, reinforcing the notion that their contributions have value and are taken seriously.
- Communication: Regular updates on progress provide a reminder to your participants that the Programme is there for them to participate. Good communications will demonstrate progress and value in ways that are meaningful to the participants and encourage them to remain engaged. Emphasise progress – Ideas being realised and recent successes. Highlight hot topics to invite further comment. Shine a light on new ideas to help them stand out against what might be a busy field. Never forget the power of a story – or of using humour!
- Debate: Being involved in discussions about ideas helps maintain the debate. I suggested in the last blog that the Facilitator shouldn’t be the person (or part of the group) that chooses Ideas to realise – this means that they are free to participate just as everyone else is. However, the Facilitator’s involvement should have purpose behind it- to further discussion and help ideas develop. The best way for this to happen is by asking questions (“How would this work if…”, “have you considered looking at it from this POV” etc.) and inviting broader discussion (“Do you know if Joe Bloggs has seen this?” or even offering to point this out to Joe yourself).
11 – Provide Constraints
This point I presented at the end of my “how-to” wrap up at the end of the presentation and I was pleased to see how many nodding heads there were in the room, even though I hadn’t referenced it at all in the “journey” which made up the bulk of the presentation.
Even the most innovative, creative, broad-minded, energised, Californian start-up will experience “idea fatigue” if you try keep an Idea Management Programme running for any length of time. While It might be possible to reach a point where such a Programme effectively forms part of day-to-day running, for most that simply won’t happen.
If you just have an open Programme that runs and runs, it will eventually lose steam. But like a bush-fire, you can’t just leave it there untended when it looks like the fire has stopped. You have to keep your Facilitator on hand in case of a flare-up, otherwise you run the risk of discrediting the Programme and devaluing all the good stuff it might have achieved to date.
So my recommendation is to give serious thought to running campaigns – invitations to contribute ideas around specific themes, topics or projects which run for a fixed period. This gives focus for those involved and defines a clear scope for potential ideas. But it also takes away the risk of the programme just quietly dying out, meaning you can bring it back time and again for new topics.
A tidy end to an Idea Management Programme also has the benefit of giving an opportunity to reward contributions, acknowledge successes and (if you identified some measurements earlier on) review how things went and what you might do differently next time.
12 – Don’t forget, this is all about People
The important thing to remember, perhaps even above my very first point about this being an investment, is that at the end of the day this is about people, their ideas and their time. Your participants, be they staff in your own department/organisation, customers or users or total strangers, aren’t “resources” to be milked for ideas and cast aside. That kind of approach will reflect badly on your organisation, turn people off contributing to this kind of thing in future and, if I find out about it, will put you on the receiving end of a very snotty email.
Be sure to respect that above all and you’ll do fine.