Eight Tools for Creating Engagement... and Making it Last!

I was recently at an event for corporate innovation leaders in which we spent nearly an hour talking about Innovation Tournaments, which one of the participants had used to create a pocket of engagement that felt exhilarating within his company.

And that's not an isolated occurrence. At other meetings, the tone of excitement about other instruments – such as Jams or Challenges – has approached messianic levels. To each person, their particular mechanism of engagement was a major milestone. But do these effects last in time? The most common answer is...not much. Typically they succeed, sometimes spectacularly, for a while... and then fade. The initial enthusiasm dwindles over time, until everyone returns to business as usual.

It doesn't have to be in this way, if companies change the way of understanding these tools. Each has its own purpose as a lever for driving change and innovation, but none is a panacea. Because of this, they are more effective when conceived as a portfolio of levers, to be used in concert as a part of a larger whole.

Over nearly 20 years helping companies innovate, here at Imaginatik we’ve identified eight different programs for engagement that have been proven to work:

  • Challenges
  • Communities of Interest
  • Hackathons
  • Jams
  • Shark Tanks
  • Tournaments
  • Speed Dating
  • Q&A Forums

All of them can create a sustainable, growing engagement rhythm, but each requires dedication, persistence, and a more nuanced understanding of which programs to use, and for what reasons.

So, depending on your objectives at a given moment, you may be best suited picking one or another engagement program.

For instance, Jams are great for raising awareness of larger issues, isolating areas of common interest, but they are not a good format for building concrete ideas, and even less so for delivering tangible solutions. Challenges and Tournaments, respectively, are far better forums for these aims. Challenges tackle concrete business issues by collecting, and then progressively vetting, ideas from a large group of contributors; Tournaments solve problems through contests or competitions, sometimes involving external talent.

The rest of engagement programs have their own objectives and methods as well.

The various time horizons for payback must also be taken into account. In particular, Communities of Practice must be developed organically. They take time and effort to build, but then can be surprisingly resilient and valuable once established. On the opposite side is Speed Dating: a quick shot-in-the-arm that produces immediate effects, but does not create any meaningful platform for future value.

Besides, you'll meet different specific obstacles when applying each of these mechanisms. Anticipating them is essential to find solutions. For example, when you are launching a Challenge you must be prepared to manage thousands of ideas efficiently in a brief lapse of time, whereas hackathons force you to look for ways to maintain the creative “momentum” once the sprint has ended. With Communities of Practice, on the other hand, the main difficulty is to make them self-sustaining over the long term.

Eager to take advantage of engagement mechanisms to create sustainable innovation competence in your organization? Don't look for universal solutions…just get started building your portfolio of engagement levers!

I’d be more than happy to discuss these ideas further with you. Please reach out, and/or leave your comments below.

Some of Our Clients

A Foundation of Experience Spanning over 20 Years