Communication is essential if an organization wishes to engage its employees in its corporate innovation program, while also aligning participation with the organization’s objectives.
Gartner cites crowdsourcing with employees as one of the five innovation methodologies with greatest potential; but obviously not all employees are necessarily innovators. Nor will all ideas generated in the program have an impact on the corporate income statement.
What can you do to allow the greatest possible number of ideas to do so? How can you reach your employees and instill them with an appetite for innovation and good ideas?
Internal communication and the role of this department will be crucial to informing of the different activities within the innovation program. Also, to achieve high participation, aligned with objectives.
Technology–and particularly the use of innovation communities–enables the creation of a collaborative framework around the program, but also active listening between employees and the organization, as equals, as a way of communicating the organization’s strategic lines.
More communication = more innovation
The traditional conception of innovation occurs within a select group of offices (top management) or only in a department that carries its name. In such a scenario, the organization’s communication around innovation is very limited.
In contrast, an open innovation model decentralizes innovation and benefits from different types of talent and expertise. It is what McKinsey has defined as a netarchy, and is evidence that innovation is faster and makes more impact when there is collaboration, and multiple intelligences are involved.
Unsurprisingly, communication gains special importance in netarchy innovation. Messages should set out the objectives of the program, and be accessible to all areas involved, with their disparate types of knowledge and skills.
In other words, communication should create a shared vehicle for all members of the organization, in their journey to innovation.
But, what should you focus on?
The following points are in no particular order, and several of them could, in fact, occur simultaneously.
1. Fertilize the ground: prepare the organization
Launching a program like this tends to bring about a change in the organization’s internal culture. Working on communication to highlight the need to innovate, and its benefits, will be important. Also, conveying top-down messages that reach the entire organization (from hierarchy to netarchy), as everyone will be part of this journey.
2. Eliminate innovation antibodies (fears and barriers)
The openness of an innovation program can arouse fears and skepticism. Sometimes within hierarchical positions, usually in middle management, who may feel threatened by the empowerment of their subordinates.
But also, employees may be fearful of participating (my ideas aren’t good, my bosses will read my ideas), and this inhibits creative thinking and more disruptive ideas. That is why communication needs to be inclusive (count everyone in) and inspire trust (no idea is bad ‘per se’, we can all have good ideas).
3. Listen, listen, and listen
Active listening and giving participants feedback on their contributions will be key for them to engage with the program, and once again highlights the importance of communication. The use of innovation communities makes it possible for all employees to share and participate in the co-creation of ideas, in an environment where they interact with the organization in real time, democratically and transparently.
The great advantage is that the organization can scout and detect new ideas it incorporates to the program, while there is a dialogue with participants that reinforces their engagement. The organization can also launch ideas competitions, where employees are asked to come up with solutions for specific challenges.
Integrate our innovation communities in your Corporate Innovation Program (CIP) to gather ideas from your employees on a large scale.
4. Communication is inherent to CIP
In principle, less participation yields less ideas; and less engagement with the innovation program and its objectives. Given that innovation programs usually combine online and offline activities, having a channel where you can centralize and communicate the program’s initiatives will also be useful, as it provides employees with a complete pictureof the program.
Discover our innovation portal, which you can use to bring together and get across all your activities and program milestones.
5. Provide the necessary resources to understand the context
If you want quality results, it may be necessary to offer relevant information that frames employee participation within the desired context. Diversity–in functional areas, expertise…–enriches and promotes cross-fertilization of ideas. And this collaboration will be even more enriching if, from the start, it is aligned with the context and needs of the corporation. In this sense, communication includes documentation and valuable resources–like industry white papers, inspiring infographics…–that reinforce participation and associate it to desired goals.
Our trends observatory gives your program access to the state of the art in your sector, to contextualize all your innovation activities.
6. Messages to collectives; messages to all
As we discussed, when a message is intended to only one collective or area within the organization, communication must adapt to its singularities. By contrast, if the activity includes all employees, there must be a harmonized message that is understood by all. In all cases, messages should always encapsulate the organization’s objectives and provide context to understand them.
7. … Increase trust and recognize everyone
Lastly, communication should be based on transparency, create trust and be coherent with the motivation of gaining everyone’s participation. At the same time, there must be public and private recognition. Innovation communities have gamification elements that empower participants within the organization (votes, comments, competitions, outstanding ideators…). The contribution of employees should also be acknowledged, rewarding ideas that can truly bring value and change to the organization.