Top 10 Innovation lessons for success

Apr 27

I have encountered many innovation lessons over the last 15 years during my business innovation tenure, as a contributor, as digital product owner and as initiative leader. These are my top 10 innovation lessons that any organisation thinking of starting an innovation initiative / program should be thinking of embracing in order to be successful.

Top 10 Innovation Lessons

Lesson 1: Leaders must show the way

Leading the wayThe quickest way to engage employees in innovation is for them to see their own leadership teams active and engaged themselves. Lead and others will follow!

Whilst having leadership teams communicating updates and acknowledging individual accomplishments, nothing actually beats having them interfacing directly with ideas and participating in the innovation process itself. It is this active engagement that sends a ripple effect through an organisation and encourages employees to also participate.

And probably not surprising, the quickest way for any innovation initiative to fail is to see their leadership teams disengage. This leads me nicely onto the next of the innovation lessons.

Lesson 2: Don’t let that initial momentum die

This is true for most company initiatives but particularly true when it comes to innovation. I have seen this too many times. There is a great push to launch a new innovation initiative, but that initial momentum soon begins to slow and longer periods of inactivity creep in. There are generally two main causes for this:

  1. poor (or lack of) communications
  2. little or no engagement by the leadership teams

The first is fairly easy to resolve with a clear communication strategy and regular updates. The second however is much more difficult to prevent as leaders become more and more distracted by other business priorities. There is one solution to this problem which again leads me nicely onto the third of my innovation lessons.

Lesson 3: Lead with passion and influence

Innovation is a business critical initiative, though by many organisations today it is still seen as a second tier objective.

66% of the 800+ executives surveyed worldwide confirmed that their organisations could not survive without innovation.

source: PA Consulting Innovation Matters 2017 report

Therefore, the leader has to have passion for innovation to drive adoption with employees, and the sponsor must have the influential skills and willingness to keep innovation at the forefront of the executives minds.

Innovation is an initiative that every company should be embracing. With the right leadership, success is only an idea away.

Lesson 4: Not all innovation platforms are the same

Once the step has been taken to embrace innovation as a key business initiative, choosing the right digital innovation platform to capture and refine ideas is critical to the success. Any innovation digital platform should:

  • be simple to use – nothing worse than a platform that is too complicated
  • be easily accessible (including mobile) – inspiration can strike at any time!
  • allow discussions around an idea – collaboration turns a good idea into a great innovation
  • integrate into the existing digital landscape – makes innovation an everyday activity
  • include Artificial Intelligence – accelerates the decision making process

This is one of the key innovation lessons that has taken me a long time to get right. It has required a lot of trial and error in platform iterations along with great user feedback. But the final results make the journey worthwhile.

See how WIDE IDEAS can transform your Microsoft Office 365 product suite into a powerful digital innovation solution.



Lesson 5: Don’t make it standalone

People are inherently creatures of habit who do not always embrace change easily. Consequently, a standalone innovation platform is much more difficult to attract employee contribution than one that already integrates into their existing company’s digital landscape.

Having the latest business challenges, ideas and discussions feed into a company’s intranet, allows innovation to filter through and become part of the daily business work flow.

Lesson 6: Artificial Intelligence is your friend

Business innovation cannot be successful without Artificial Intelligence!

AI is your friendBold statement but let me tell you why. Over the years there has inherently been two major flaws with innovation platforms once employees begin submitting their ideas. The first is how to identify Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) to collaborate on ideas and help turn them into potential innovations. The second, and the biggest bottleneck in the innovation process, is how to identify the right ideas to progress with.

Once ideas are selected, time, money and resources are put into turning the selected ideas into real business innovations. Therefore, the responsibility and time-consuming exercise of fishing for the right ideas from a sea of hundreds (maybe even thousands) of ideas is generally left up to management teams whom are already under incredible time pressures.

This results in a bottleneck in the innovation process and where innovation initiatives often fail. I have experienced this situation many times both as a contributor and as an innovation leader.

It is a similar story in knowing who the right Subject Matter Experts are. Ideas submitted by employees are in their rawest form and often need refinement before being put in front of management for a decision.

The Solution

Artificial Intelligence can help in both these situations by analysing all the Big Data captured, including all user interactions with each idea, and applying a machine learning algorithm. In laymen terms, this means over time it can learn who the successful contributors are to specific types of ideas and automatically recommend (or even assign) them to similar ideas in the future. Artificial Intelligence can also be used in the same way to predict the best ideas for management to move forward with.

Did you know?
In a recent scenario, the Wide Ideas unique Artificial Intelligence predicted 8 out of the 10 ideas in under 5 seconds that a management team took over 2 months to identify and agree on!

And the best news is that whilst the more ideas submitted cause an even bigger bottleneck in the innovation process when having to select ideas manually, it actually increases the accuracy when you allow Artificial Intelligence to do it.

This is the most important of all the innovation lessons.

Lesson 7: Acknowledge the idea-makers and contributors

I ran an internal survey a few years ago asking employees what type of rewards would encourage them to be an active contributor to innovation. The results shocked me as I was expecting “money” to be the top response. Actually “recognition by ones peers and leaders” was the overwhelming winner.

Therefore, including a way to recognise and reward successful contributors to innovation and making it a part of the communication strategy, is often a great way to organically influence other employees to get involved.

Lesson 8: Avoid the dreaded idea black-hole

Many employees interact with customers regularly and therefore they are a critical knowledge asset to solving a company’s business challenges. But for employees to continually participate in innovation they need to be kept motivated. There are many ways to do this, but an employee can quickly become demotivated if ideas they have submitted just sit there with no feedback.

So avoid ideas falling into a black-hole, and demotivating employees, by creating a feedback process on ideas. This can be done by appointing ambassadors which leads me to the next of my innovation lessons.

Lesson 9: Bring on the Ambassadors


Build it and they will come!

This is something I have heard many times when it comes to digital platforms. Unsurprisingly it is very rarely true. And even less true when it comes to digital innovation platforms in large enterprises.

The solution to this is to create an Innovation Ambassador role, where the primary responsibility is to drive awareness, encourage engagement and support groups within the organisation (this could be split by country, industry, line of business or even a mix). This role should be an add-on to an existing role and shouldn’t be more than 5-10% of someones’ time. However, it is an essential role for organisations with an employee base typically over 1,000 people.

Lesson 10: Make it fun!

Ideas flow best when the environment created to do so is enjoyable. I have seen some of the best innovations spawned when countries have hosted Innovation Days where employees come together and collaborate in a relaxed and fun way. So don’t be afraid to get creative to encourage employees to engage in innovation.


David Christopher

David Christopher


With enthusiasm for the creative and an eye for the detail, fused with 15+ years at Oracle leading cloud software teams to create complex innovation solutions, David drives the digital marketing strategy.


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