Many organizations are in search of a self-sustaining Collaborative Innovation community. Once you have reached that, it’s fairly easy to maintain, as long as you have the right-minded people and resources at your disposal to turn ideas into actual projects. One important aspect in making and keeping a Collaborative Innovation initiative successful is effective communication and making sure the right buttons are pushed to maximize adoption and engagement. 

Obviously, you want to onboard as much creative minds as possible. Once onboarded, you also want them to be actively engaged, by submitting ideas or enriching them in any way they can. The key to success lies in what you do, but also in what you preach.

“Communication to a relationship is like oxygen is to life. Without it, it dies.”

Tony A. Gaskins Jr., life coachLindbergh

Consider your Collaborative Innovation program as a multitude of different relationships. Without communication, they die.

“Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.”

Jorge Luis Borges

Communication is challenging when things have been silent for a while. Unless you give up, it is never too late to start communicating a meaningful message. The “4Ps” that you will discover further in this blog post are something that will help you to break your silence or to prevent it. It doesn’t matter if you are just getting started with Collaborative Innovation or if you have already been doing this for 10 years. By including these tips at the right moment your message will be spread and more importantly, it will be amplified.

#1 – Purpose

Purpose allows us to do the things we do with extra motivation. Research shows that people perform better when they have a sense of purpose, when their work feels meaningful and has a positive impact on others. Every company’s purpose is to be profitable, but try to give it a twist in your communication. Purpose for profit won’t turn on your Collaborative Innovation engines, there needs to be a social aspect too. Use every opportunity to highlight the bigger picture and start motivating your champions!

As a guideline in writing your emails, blog posts or whatever form of communication is best adopted, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • “What is the mission of the project?”
  • “What is the problem / challenge / opportunity?”
  • “Why do we need to keep innovating?”
  • “How does our Collaborative Innovation program help us to fulfill our purpose?”

As W. Clement Stone states it so beautifully: “Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement”. So let’s define that purpose and make it crystal clear to your Collaborative Innovation community!

#2 – People

Obviously, people are your organization’s most valuable assets. This isn’t any different for your Collaborative Innovation program. After all, you are looking for their ideas and insights on how to make things better and innovate, right? In the end the target is the same: engaging your people, your innovation champions. If you do it right, they’ll even spread the word for you. Never forget to recognize your champions. You want many of them to become your ambassadors and help you with the heavy lifting. Not because they have to, but because they want to.

Proactively answering the following questions in your messages will help people to board the Collaborative Innovation train. If you repeat the answer to these questions frequent enough, well, maybe they’ll even join for another ride (or two, or three,…).

  • What are the benefits of participating? What’s in it for them? Any rewards?
  • Who did a great job? Who deserves a round of applause?
  • Why do you need the people you are sending the message to? 
  • What is expected from innovators afterwards?

You might also recognize this subject as WIIFM or “What’s in it for me?”. It’s an always present subconscious question that needs answering to get people on board. When you are reaching out to increase participation, you are basically marketing your Collaborative Innovation program. Marketing experts have already done the heavy lifting for you, so have a peak at some tips on making the WIIFM crystal clear here. You only have to apply some Collaborative Innovation coating to it and you are all set 🙂.

#3 – Process

When collecting feedback on Collaborative Innovation programs, we sometimes hear that people decided to withhold from submitting their idea because the expectations weren’t clear. They often feared that submitting an idea would flood them with a number of responsibilities. All of that on top of the work they already have. Are you crazy? Even though we spend less time in traffic because we are working more in our home office, this doesn’t seem to be a guarantee for extra time. On the contrary. In order to prevent holding your Collaborative Innovation community back from sharing ideas, make clear what will happen with their idea submissions. Don’t forget to bring to their attention what is expected from them and if there are any possibilities to hand over their idea.

Another common barrier for employees to participate is unclarity on where the organization and ideas are currently situated in the Collaborative Innovation process. To counter this paralysis by unclarity, you should inform your participants or target group on what is currently happening. It is never a bad idea to inform your participants on what is happening and what needs to be done – even if it is you who needs to do something 😉. Your innovation process typically consists of a set of different steps or phases. A common approach is communicating at the end or beginning of a phase. On top of that we would like to recommend giving additional updates. Sense of progress is crucial.

By providing an answer to the questions below, you might already take some of the uncertainties away and lower the barrier for participation by simply communicating the expectations.

  • How can one participate?
  • What happens with idea submissions? What is expected after the idea submission? How do ideas move through the funnel? Can one launch an idea and indicate an idea caretaker?
  • Where in the process are we? What’s next?
  • What is currently happening with the ideas?

Giving perspective on the process and progress of ideas is a necessary factor to ensure that people keep sharing ideas and participating. This is true for your current Collaborative Innovation campaigns, but even more for your future ones. You can get this message out via many different channels: via email, on your Intranet, screens in the office, in your corporate magazine or through your Collaborative Innovation platform – which ideally allows you to automate these messages, so you can focus on getting things done 💪.

#4 – Projections 

In order to motivate your participants, we recommend to add some projections on where you want to be with the program in 1 month, 2 months, 6 months, 1 year,… from now. Goal-setting theory (Locke & Latham, 1990) has proven to be one of the most influential and practical theories of motivation. Research also indicates that effective goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Aggressive, Realistic, and Time-bound. These goals are good motivators because they provide a certain challenge and will trigger your employees to think different, to think outside the box.

Giving regular updates on where you are in reaching these goals can be an additional push to increase the number of idea submissions. Think about the following things:

  • How many joiners do you want after 1 month, 3 months, 6 months…
  • How many idea submissions are you aiming for ?
  • What is the desired outcome? (# ideas implemented? # hours saved ? # customers helped? …)

Reachable goals are like a snowball, the more you reach, the more you can communicate about your success. This allows for new reachable goals to be set and more to be accomplished. You will notice a compounding effect, just like that snowball that you pushed down and picks up more snow as it rolls further and further. Well ain’t that wonderful? 😊

Final Thoughts

Honestly, there is no single recipe for success when it comes to getting your message out and delivering it with the desired impact. We can only give you our best findings and recommendations 😊. Different people will be triggered by different things and they will be reached by different channels. You know best what works for your organization and as a consequence for your Collaborative Innovation initiative. That is as close to a single truth as it gets. So to maximize your success, it is wise to mix and vary the different elements (Purpose, People, Process & Projections) in your messages and most importantly, that you communicate regularly via your best adopted communication channels.