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How to Run an Innovation Challenge? - Step-by-Step Guide

Do you want to organize an innovation challenge but don't know where to start? This guide will walk you through the process of how to run an innovation challenge with our innovation platform Orchidea, from coming up with a topic to choosing the winners. Orchidea makes it easy for you to collect, develop, and review ideas with your team or customers. With our software, you can launch an innovation competition in minutes and start collecting ideas right away.

Follow these steps and you'll be on your way to finding innovative solutions from your community!

Innovation challenge software


Innovation challenge basics: How to organize your competition?

Innovation challenges are a great way to engage your community to solve problems and generate new ideas. Challenges can tackle strategic problems in your business from enhancing production processes to improving the working environment of your company. Innovation challenges can help you align all important stakeholders to a strategic objective, build an innovation culture in your organization, or energize ideation.

But running a successful innovation competition takes more than just posting a topic and picking a winner. There are a few key things you need to keep in mind. Using a proper tool for the challenge helps you make the steps easy and Orchidea is just the tool you need.

For running an innovation challenge, follow these 6 steps:

  1. Plan the challenge
  2. Idea collection
  3. Idea development
  4. Idea evaluation
  5. Top idea selection
  6. Post challenge activities

Let's take a closer look at each of these steps.


1. Plan the challenge

The first step is to come up with a plan for your innovation challenge. You'll need to decide on a topic, tools, deadline, and target audience. With Orchidea, you can launch the challenge to your team or employees or run an open innovation challenge with customers or other relevant stakeholders. The platform is versatile and can be used for a wide variety of topics.


The key steps to consider in planning are:

1. Find a sponsor

To ensure the success of your innovation competition, it is critical to find a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who has 1) a need for ideas/solutions 2) a desire to engage the target group 3) the power and willingness to implement the best ideas.

A sponsor guarantees that the ideas generated throughout the competition are taken seriously and have a chance of being implemented. This way, you make sure the willingness to participate won't suffer from ideas that won't be implemented. It also allows you to put on a bigger and better event to attract more participants.


2. Define the topic

To get started, you first need to come up with a topic or problem with your sponsor that you want to solve. This can be anything from improving customer service to developing a new product.

A good example of a challenge question form is "How might we [verb] [desired result]?". Forming the topic is described in more detail in our article about designing an innovation challenge.

After you have formed a challenge question, envision what kind of ideas you are likely to get with your topic inquiry and compare it to the results you want to achieve. If you're not pleased with the results, make any necessary adjustments. Having a well-defined topic is half of the success, so it is worth using time on this step.

Once you have your topic, you need to create a brief. This is a document that outlines the problem and objectives for the challenge. The description should be clear and concise so that everyone understands what is expected from them. The objective should state what you want to achieve with the competition.

Ready to start planning your next innovation challenge? Download our free  checklist and timetable now


3. Marketing

Communication is just as important as planning. If you want to run a successful innovation challenge, you need to make sure that your target audience knows about it. The more people you reach, the more ideas you'll get.

The best way to do this is by utilizing all the channels of your organization, such as social media, blog, email, and your organization's internal channels. You can also use traditional methods such as flyers and posters. When you're promoting your innovation challenge, make sure to include a link to Orchidea. This way, participants can easily find all the information they need in one place.

Make sure that the marketing continues throughout the challenge so that participation is maintained.


4. Prepare your tools

Make sure you have effective tools for every step of the challenge. It is possible to run your innovation challenge without specific idea management software. For instance, collect ideas via email, share them on the intranet, use Google Sheets for reviewing, and let people send you ideas for development.

A simpler solution is to use a focused innovation challenge software that guides you through every step and makes management seamless. In this guide, we will focus on how to use Orchidea for your innovation challenge.

When you have planned all the relevant details, it's time to prepare for the challenge by setting up the Orchidea platform. Create an innovation challenge in Orchidea easy by choosing a pre-made template for the challenge. Fill in the challenge name, brief, timetable, and other useful information for everyone to see. You can modify the challenge phase descriptions to make the challenge more appealing to your audience. Then adjust the proposal form, invite participants, and start your innovation competition!


Innovation challenge steps


💡 Tip: Take a closer look at the planning and read our previous articles on innovation challenges before you start your competition


2. Idea collection

Collect ideas with Orchidea

Now it's time to start collecting ideas!


This is where Orchidea comes in. Orchidea is a powerful idea management tool that makes it easy to collect, track, and evaluate ideas. Before you start collecting proposals from the participants, make sure there are already some ideas submitted.


💡Here are tips for avoiding the white paper syndrome:

  • Engage a few active members to submit ideas beforehand
  • Run a brainstorming session to inspire participants and move the ideas to the challenge in Orchidea
  • Submit the first ideas yourself


innovation challenge proposals


Now it's time for the ideas to come rolling in! The users may simply go to Orchidea, share their thoughts, and get inspired by other people's proposals. You can monitor the progress of running an innovation challenge and track submissions through Orchidea's challenge overview.

Conduct innovation challenges with Orchidea for free

Engage to participate

Maintaining a high level of participation is essential for the success of an idea contest. A good practice is to communicate the progress and status to the participants twice a week at first, and daily in the final few days of the challenge.


Monitor innovation challenge progress


The best way to promote the challenge and get employees engaged is through multi-channel communication and by sending reminder emails. Make the subject line interesting to get more traffic on the challenge. For example, "Only a few days left to submit your ideas!", "See what ideas have already got 10 votes!" or "How to improve remote work by 10%? Read the ideas!". Also, ask participants to invite their peers to the challenge.

Start your innovation challenge with Orchidea for free

3. Idea development

Once the ideation phase is over, it's time to start the next step: idea development. In Orchidea, you can move from one step to another with one click. Orchidea sends a notification email to participants when moving to the next phase.

Idea development is all about co-developing ideas into something that can be implemented. To do this, you'll need to collaborate with the participants to flesh out the details of their solutions. This is where Orchidea's commenting features come in handy. Use comments to ask questions, give feedback, and develop ideas further.

To ensure that participants are actively developing each other's ideas

  • Monitor the development in Orchidea
  • Encourage to comment and develop through multi-channel communication
  • Engage a few active members to help get the development process started
  • Instruct the active participants to activate others with @-mentions and comments, and bundle up ideas with hashtags
  • Ask expert evaluators to go through all ideas and ask any open questions from the ideators


idea development features


4. Idea evaluation

Choose the criteria and review the ideas

After the development stage is over, it's time to move on to evaluation! Idea evaluation is all about figuring out which ideas are the best because you typically don't have the resources to implement all of them. To do this, you'll need to come up with criteria.

In innovation challenges, the assessment is always numerical. The criteria can contain factors such as feasibility, impact, and alignment with the challenge question. Clear criteria will help you to be more objective in your assessment of the ideas.


Expert evaluation

Invited experts will carry out a detailed numerical review. It's a good idea to have the same individuals who were engaged as active members in developing the ideas also evaluate them. The benefit of this is that they are already familiar with the concepts, so there will be no learning curve for them. They should rate the ideas based on the chosen criteria. Set the factors in Orchidea and evaluate the proposals systematically.


idea evaluation tool


Crowd voting

This is where Orchidea's reaction features come in handy. The crowd can vote for their favorite ideas by reacting with likes, diamonds, and lightning. Specify the number of votes each participant has. Then see what ideas rank highest and use the results to prioritize the best ones.

The Orchidea platform is designed to allow you to easily use both crowd voting and numerical evaluation simultaneously. It is useful to take into account the views of the participants to identify what they find important. In addition to getting more insights into the best ideas, you'll also boost activity and engagement in the process. We suggest you use a mix of expert evaluation and crowd voting to identify the best ideas.


Jump-start your innovation challenge today with Orchidea's free plan!


Reporting helps you to identify the best ideas

Use reporting features to quickly see which ideas are the most popular, what the average rating is, and how many votes each idea has received. This is a great way to get an overview of all the ideas and make sure that no good ones are left out. You can use Orchidea's versatile reporting features to review ideas in multiple ways, for example using a bubble chart.


Double evaluation 4 bubble


5. Top idea selection

Finally, you'll need to decide which ideas should move on to the next stage of the innovation process. Remember to improve the ideas further before deciding on the winners.


Selection process in Orchidea

In Orchidea, you can go through the top proposals, see the points they received in the evaluation, and select the best ones. It is also a good practice to take into account the crowd votes.

Select the ideas based on the evaluation in the last phase. Are you surprised by some ideas selected? Or are there ideas that should be added to the top solutions? Go through the proposals and make the necessary changes.

select ideas

Once you have selected the top proposals, the challenge is finished. Selected proposals will be published on Orchidea. Before you archive the challenge, let it be active for at least a few weeks so that everyone can view the results.

Start your innovation challenge with Orchidea for free


Different ways to select ideas

  • Experts make decisions based on the scores of assessment
  • Top ideas are pitched to the management in a lion's den-type meeting
  • An expert involved in the evaluation process presents the top ideas to the business manager. Based on the presentation, the manager decides on the winner ideas.


6. Post-challenge activities

Closing the innovation challenge

After the innovation challenge is over, there are a few things you'll need to do. First, you'll need to announce the winner. This can be done for instance through social media, email, or intranet. The winner ideas are also published in Orchidea for everyone to see. Finally, you'll need to close the challenge. This includes thank you messages, final reports, and anything else that needs to be done to officially end the challenge.


Keep track of the ideas

After the top ideas have been selected, it's time to start implementing them. This is where the real work begins! Remember to keep track of progress and results so that you can learn from your mistakes and success. Always remember to implement all worthy ideas. This will be beneficial both to your company and to the motivation to participate in the future.

By tracking the ideas after the challenge is over, you can ensure that all the great ideas generated during your contest are properly implemented. Remember to also let participants know how the ideas are progressing over the following year. This will increase the willingness to participate in the future and attract new participants when they see that their participation is actually impactful.

Put the date in your calendar for up to the next two years, so you remember to check back on the lifecycle of ideas and see how the solutions have developed. If you're happy with the progress, great! If not, consider giving feedback or offering suggestions to help nudge the process along.

Another way to keep track of progress is by using Orchidea in your idea management. Archive the ideas or move them to continuous development.




So there you have it! By following these steps, you'll be able to tap into the power of crowdsourcing and come up with some truly innovative ideas with innovation challenges. With Orchidea, organizing an innovation challenge is easy and smooth. By following these simple steps, you will be able to launch your idea contest in no time. If you want to try out Orchidea in organizing your innovation challenge, get started for free.

Do you have any tips on how to run a successful innovation challenge? Let us know in the comments below! And if you're looking for more inspiration, check out our other posts on innovation.

free innovation challenge platform

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