Competition is tougher in many industries these days and the only way to stay competitive is to continuously innovate. 79% of CEOs believe that their innovation process will drive efficiencies and lead to competitive advantage.
Research and development is thus an integral part in discovering these innovations. However, while essential, it can also be very costly. The key lies on how management can pursue research and development initiatives that minimize costs yet produce sustainable competitive advantage.
In this case, traditional innovation methods will no longer work. The current business environment calls for speedier methods that set goals and not rigid instructions. Companies need to be more collaborative and cross functional, experiment and fail fast. This calls for an agile innovation approach.
An agile innovation approach believes that businesses can use competition in the workplace to drive innovation. Internal competitions can be utilized to identify high value business opportunities for organizations wherein employees are encouraged and empowered to compete in devising new ways to provide service or in creating a new product faster.
Below are some ways on how internal competition can be used to drive innovation.
Make Healthy Competition a Part of Your Work Culture
To encourage continuous transformation, the innovation process must be integrated into the corporate culture. Rather than it being something to be done every so often, management must make innovation a way of life in the organization.
The same goes for competition. Competition is common in any workplace as employees constantly try to perform better than their colleagues. It can be used to motivate employees, keep them engaged and satisfied with their work. However, competition must be managed in such a way that it focuses people’s efforts and energy into creating solutions for problems.
Elicit Excitement Rather Than Fear
Competition has pros and cons and it is important to distinguish those that elicit excitement from those that cause fear and anxiety among employees. People behave or react differently in the face of competition. If not managed properly, competition can produce negative results wherein employees turn to unethical practices just to outperform others.
Competition that elicits excitement, such as those that provide rewards and recognition, helps employees focus on a goal, motivates them to collaborate and think creatively towards finding solutions to problems. Instead of using competition to pit employees against each other, it will create an environment of collaboration, teamwork and innovation.
Use Technology to Facilitate Competition
More and more companies are using technology not just to achieve operational efficiencies but also to achieve competitive advantage. Almost 70% of CEOs are investing in IT to reduce costs and be more efficient while 54% do so for growth initiatives.
One such technology is called an Innovation Management Platform. Innovation Management enables businesses to use programs, activities and tools within an organized collaborative system that drives innovation and facilitates fast and effective decision-making.
Planbox, for instance, develops a system, such as Shark Tank, that consists of a steady stream of creative innovation activities for a diverse group of participants to generate fresh new ideas, get actionable feedback, and generate consistent results.
Shark Tank is a complete internal business competition platform, organized online and in stages. Its focused nature spotlights issues into themes, areas and challenges. It has a team based approach that gives employees a unique opportunity to share their creativity, insight, competitive spirit and business decision making skills.
Follow a Challenge-Driven Innovation Process
While technology is a crucial part of the innovation process, it is likewise imperative to follow a process to manage competitions and ensure their success. This is where Challenge-driven Innovation (CDI) Management becomes useful.
CDI combines processes, business rules, workflows, tools, and principles into a single unified solution that serves as the system of record for innovation. This includes idea and suggestion management, enterprise and social network and collaboration, workflows, gamification, and reporting. It also ensures that the reward and recognition systems are designed to motivate and engage the individuals involved in the challenges.
The infographic below shows the 7 steps involved in a challenge-driven innovation process.
Step 1- Identify Key Focus Areas
The best innovation opportunities can be identified by looking at the full spectrum of customer interactions and the entire product or service delivery chain.
Step 2 – Define the Community for Focus Areas
Select a diverse group of employees, customers, and suppliers from diverse backgrounds, expertise, interests, and life experiences, to tackle focus areas.
Step 3 – Design a Community-Specific Reward System
The reward system must be tailor fit for the challenge participants and contributors for it to be an effective motivation tool.
Step 4 – Formulate an Effective Challenge Statement
A challenge must be SMARTIE - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant or Result-Oriented, Time-bound, Intriguing or Interesting, and Emotional.
Step 5 – Designate a Challenge Owner
Assign a challenge owner to manage the challenge, usually the one who has the most vested interest in seeing it solved.
Step 6 – Promote the Challenge
Creativity, outside the box thinking and taking chances on new ideas need to be part of everyday deliverables and performance measurement.
Step 7 – Measure Engagement and Innovation Results
Measure user engagement, innovation activity, outcome, and results.
Innovation is essential for businesses to get ahead and stay ahead. To achieve sustainable competitive advantage, management must not only foster an environment of healthy competition within the organization but also know how to manage it well. It is through this that creativity and innovation will flourish.
Author bio: Rana Tarakji is an entrepreneur and a contributing writer at Stylerail as well as Theflightacademycali.com who lives in Beirut, Lebanon. Rana Tarakji is passionate about digital marketing, startups, helping entrepreneurs grow, and empowering them to live their dreams. She has worked as a digital marketer, a technology co-founder and business developer, and a writer.