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Driving Remote Innovation While Working From Home

Successfully managing Innovation is critical for any company looking to retain its company's speed and performance. Not being able to drive Innovation is risky and costly both in the short and long term. With this in mind, a robust Innovation Program is one of the most worthwhile investments you can make in building effective outcomes for your company's future.

Now that many companies are making the shift to remote work, managing Innovation becomes even more challenging because it presents more significant barriers to Innovation, with communication and trust-building. When people are physically distant from their team, you want them to feel included and empowered to engage in the innovation process and still be a part of the company's development.

Some of the top mistakes companies make when it comes to engaging people in Innovation are:

  • Creating complicated barriers – Most companies want to get as much information as possible to make decisions. But making it too hard for people to develop insights or ideas from the start will only result in having way too low engagement early in the process.
  • Not having a structure to manage the engagement – No matter internal or external, people who submit valuable information into your innovation pipeline will feel forgotten if you don't have an easy way to manage or give feedback on their engagement putting in.
  • Lack of transparency – One of the most heard complaints from people around Innovation is that they don't know what's going on and that it's too mystic to engage in. Be transparent about your focus areas and what's happening in them and try to demystify Innovation to make people care.
  • Facilitating too complicated workshops or programs – The most effective innovation programs are those that are easy to understand for the people you'd like to engage and which follows a process that's familiar enough to most people.

Thankfully, these mistakes are easy to avoid with a thoughtful approach to ramping up Innovation. Here are some of our top tips for avoiding these mistakes and successfully engaging people in remote Innovation.

How to manage and engage people in remote Innovation

  1. Prepare areas where you would like to explore Innovation
  2. Set the tone to demystify Innovation
  3. Create your first Innovation Challenge
  4. Setup a digital hub, or some digital opportunity, where people can engage
  5. Set clear expectations
  6. Encourage engagement and collaboration

1. Prepare areas where you would like to explore Innovation

If you don't already have that, the first thing to start with is to prepare one or a few areas where you would like to focus your innovation efforts. I would strongly recommend looking at the company strategy and goals and picking something related to those. 

Here at hives, we usually call a focus area like this a Hive. Simply because it's a nice, and not too stiff, term to gather around :)

A focus area could then be something like:

  • Sustainability
  • Business margins
  • Sales
  • Customer happiness

But be sure to pick an area that's important to you and your company, to be able to spend time, money, and efforts into it.

2. Set the tone to demystify Innovation

In addition to setting your focus areas for Innovation, I would say that setting the tone to demystify Innovation will help in getting enough people to engage. Having a general picture of Innovation as something based on mystical apples falling into people's heads, flying cars, and advanced robots will scare most people away from participating.

For people, external or internal, having the right attitude towards Innovation is crucial to participate and create enough engagement in your Remote Innovation Program.

Depending on what resources you have available, arrange some communication with everyone to understand how you are defining Innovation clearly. Additionally, make sure that information is always easily found and accessible for everyone, preferably in the same place where you are aiming to run your innovation efforts.

3. Create your first Innovation Challenge

Now, maybe you have already set up tons of Innovation Challenges, but if you haven't, I would like to make it as easy as possible to get started with one. 

Before engaging people in ideas and insights, the first thing you need to do is state a Problematic Area or a Problem Statement for your Innovation Challenge. 

Depending on your problem's level, you might need to define a problematic area, start gathering insights and knowledge around that area, and then state the specific problems based on your insights. Doing that will help you make sure you are focusing on a problem worthy of solving.

4. Setup a digital hub, or some digital opportunity, where people can engage

If you don't have a place to gather your innovation efforts, now is the time to set one up. And it doesn't have to be complicated or become an eternal project with a two-year pre-study. Just pick something that works for you to get started with, and hey... maybe be that spontaneous person you've always wanted to be.

What's important here is to pick a place or a tool that will make it easy for people to engage in and make it easy for you to qualify, evaluate, and overview the initiatives, ideas, and efforts. Doing this will help you get real results from your Innovation work.

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5. Set clear expectations

Communicating expectations around your innovation program will spare you some headache later on. While some people are just fine with not knowing too much, others may need clear instructions and communication from what they can expect.

Setting clear expectations around participation in your innovation efforts is essential to people when they join. Doing this can look like clearly stating how people can participate, what they can expect in the form of feedback, and what will happen with their insights or ideas.

For example, if you will manage insights differently or have a set model for evaluating ideas, make sure everyone knows that when you want them to engage.

6. Encourage engagement and collaboration

When working remotely, regular communication is essential. As an employee or external guest in your innovation program who is engaging, receiving regular communication and information helps get more engagement time over time.

You can use your initial focus areas to check in on significant milestones in your innovation program. It might be going through with a problem statement, when you have settled your insights work, or when you reach a certain number of ideas. Engaging in regular conversations and encouraging collaboration is an effective way to begin building trust.

Regardless of which approach you take, keeping it simple enough initially and communicating a lot will set you up for innovation success in your organization.

Ready-to-use templates for evaluating and qualifying innovation ideas