Why your innovation contest won’t work

I enjoyed Tim Kastelle’s HBR post: why your innovation contest won’t work. Tim argues that we can divide innovation into three stages: having ideas, selecting ideas and implementing them. The tendency is for organisations to think the difficulty is in the first and to ignore how terrible they are at the other two. Based on his own research he suggests that only about a tiny minority of organisation are really “ideas poor”. This is just one of several reasons why offering prizes for ideas can fail, read the whole thing for more.

That makes intuitive sense to me; I think many conversations in organisations are quite toxic to the new and the tentative without anyone really noticing.

At another level, I think there’s a danger in thinking of those three stages as very separate. One conversation might surface new ideas, finesse existing ones and help others to happen. We might meet around a lathe to finish our new model door handle, but while doing so daydream together about a new way of treating our customers. The creative conversations that satisfy me seem able to support a lot of spinning plates.


2 thoughts on “Why your innovation contest won’t work

  1. Tim Kastelle

    Great points Johnnie. I fully agree with your last one – it’s not a linear process. Things happen at the same time, and the way you do one part influences how the others happen. For example, if you selection process is “Do whatever the CEO says”, then you end up only getting ideas that people think in advance will appeal to the CEO. This is a terrible system, but it’s the type of feedback loops that you get.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.