How do you generate ideas for innovation? And what triggers the innovation engine? Every organisation has a different answer for these questions: ‘from the customers’, ‘from the employees’, ‘sales’, ‘from the research’ et cetera. If you take a look at the different answers, there are a number of categories to define which we call ‘levels of engagement’. I think power and the maturity of innovation is defined by the extent of the quantity of different sources involved in running the motor.

Innovation motor

The entire process of innovation is called the innovation engine. It starts with the people who generate the ideas and it ends with a successfully executed innovation project. If the engine is running well it can handle a lot more projects, thus deliver more innovation success. The engine doesn’t run on one person or idea. It runs on suggesting ideas in a proactive and reactive manner. Proactive because there are specific challenges which need ideas. Reactive because somebody has a good idea and wants to add it. This process is comparable with the selling process or marketing process. It is an engine which you can accelerate, brake and put in the right gear.

Level 1: Top down (traditional organisations)

In traditionally arranged organisations the ideas are often generated from the board (MT/DT). They know the market and challenges, know what the strategy is or have the overview to get these ideas. The ideas are developed to a business case and the only thing that needs to happen is the organisation executing them. Sounds familiar? This method works… But you’re not building a smart organisation. The management decides the direction and the rest of the organisation can feel that it’s exclusively involved in the execution. Ideas from the organisation are less heard by the top. In this phase there is no innovation culture.

Level 2: Bottom up

Ideas/initiatives arise from the workplace to participate more in innovation. This happens a lot in companies who aren’t really innovative and mostly work without budget or buy-in from management or the board. It is a good start, but it is not a structured way of working. In financially good times this space can be created, but if there is pressure in the organisation these are the first initiatives that will be placed on hold. This level can also originate if the top of the organisation decides that they are open for ideas from the organisation, without giving the right direction.

Level 3: Hybrid

This variation is mostly the up follower from the previous two levels. The board/management shows (based on the strategic goals) where the organisation wants to go, and which domains are important to get there. Based on the clear strategy and domains employees are asked to brainstorm and generate ideas which will contribute fundamentally. The management and board can also generate ideas, but they need to be careful. When this method is properly executed, you will build a more involved and smarter organisation who can think in one line with the strategy. It is clear for everyone how new ideas need to be tested. The result: less outside-the-box ideas and more ideas in conformity with the strategy. The special out of the box ideas will still be there but with a lower ratio. The quality of the ideas becomes stronger and stronger.

Level 4: Hybrid extern

This level builds on level 3 hybrid. The extra boost here is that ideas are no longer exclusively generated internally. Customers, partners and suppliers will also be involved in generating ideas. This asks for trust and transparency. Not every matter is qualified for this but the more experience you get, the more matters can be shared. In our experience we’ve noticed that when externals get involved, even more special ideas arise. A variant of this version is the ‘open innovation’ part, where specific matters are interviewed openly. Individuals and companies can sign up to deliver a substantive contribution to one of the matters.

So, what now?

Even though it doesn’t seem necessary to develop everything in the right order, in the most cases it’s the best way. You can involve customers without involving employees, but this often goes wrong. It is good to acknowledge where your strengths and challenges are in the area of people, culture, management, goals and strategy to decide the best way to transition from one level to another.
Of course, there is no one-sided answer. Every company/situation is different. We can share a lot of experience about organisations which are developed in this matter. Some activities work better than others. Do you want to brainstorm about your specific situation? Book a demo, so we can show you what a logical follow-up path is. You can always head to Accept Mission (see below) as a support.

Accept Mission-Innovation Management Platform

With our self-developed platform Accept Mission you can use all four levels of engagement. Involve employees, customers, partners and the market to generate the best ideas, solve challenges and finally realize the best innovations.
To get a better look of what you’re able to do with Accept Mission to connect people (people engagement): send users on missions, users going undercover (optional), ideas can be added with different tools and methods (qualified and approved), users earn points, leader boards, project teams,. All of the costs and results are being monitored and can be adjusted. And this is just a small selection of our opportunities. We can show you in a demo which opportunities will have the best effect for you and your company.
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