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Challenge Driven Innovation (CDI) is an innovation framework developed by InnoCentive that accelerates traditional innovation outcomes by leveraging open innovation and crowd sourcing along with defined methodology, process, and tools to help organizations develop and implement actionable solutions to their key problems, opportunities, and challenges. We asked Dr. Frank Ermark, working with innovation portfolio management at Nokia Mobile Phones about his point of view on CDI.

–  For many companies the lack of ideas as such is not the main obstacle to ignite successful innovation, it is rather the opposite, especially when using open innovation or crowdsourcing approaches. In this context Challenge Driven Innovation (CDI) is an appropriate tool to channel the creativity of individuals, teams or “the crowd” towards a dedicated goal, from solving a tricky technical problem to new opportunities in the framework of the corporate strategy.

– Successful innovation lives from a combined bottom-up, ideation, and top-down, sponsoring and steering, approach and CDI is an ideal framework to implement and practice this recipe. Used on business unit or entity level, it provides management a channel to communicate key elements of the company strategy for which they are actively searching ideas and new opportunities in order to make the strategy defensible and differentiating.

–  For the employees it gives not only a signal, but concrete evidence that management is serious about innovation, as they explicitly ask individuals and teams to contribute to a relevant and concrete topic.

– In order to be successful CDI campaigns need to be sponsored by executive management, be well prepared and facilitated, then it also fosters communication across organizational borders around the specified topic, which is already a value as such.

– Having said that it is not only important to assess the ideas, but also to analyze the social communication happening during the challenge to see how the theme of the challenge, especially if it is about the company strategy, is “interpreted” and discussed. This gives a valuable indicator for the “consistency of understanding and buy-in” across the organization.

– Considering all these aspects, CDI is not just another tool for “ideation”, but also a way to create or strengthen a culture of innovation and foster communication.

Have you used it?

We used CDI in Nokia on different scales with different reach; from business unit level, global R&D level down to much more targeted challenges at one site. The effort for preparing, facilitating and finally harvesting scales naturally according to the scope of the challenge. Thus, we run local challenges quite frequently, about every 1-2 months, whereas the global ones occur only occasionally. Global campaigns are typically addressing elements of our business unit strategy. Here one important purpose is to involve different parts of the organization, like sales, marketing, R&D and supply chain teams from different regions across the globe in order to get diversity in the thinking and networking for the challenge.

What were the pros and cons?

Based on my own experience, I’d summarize the pros and cons as follows:

Pros:

  • Linking creativity to a specific opportunity to get more relevant results,
  • Framework and concrete cases to implement and live a culture of innovation,
  • Enforces the combination of a top down with a bottom up approach to innovation.

Cons, or at least “watch-out” points:

  • Higher expectations from the creative minds for their ideas to get implemented, as they explicitly have been asked for, so a careful management of expectation is needed as well as sensible communication when presenting the “winning ideas”,
  • Before initiating a new challenge, cross-check the existing “idea pool” to avoid disappointment on innovator and management side, if nothing “really new” is found,
  • Don´t expect disruptive ideas, they are more likely to come up outside any ideation tools or processes, but in an environment with a strong innovation culture.

Dr. Frank Ermark, Nokia Mobile Phones

What is Challenge Driven Innovation?

Challenge Driven Innovation (CDI) is an innovation framework developed by InnoCentive that accelerates traditional innovation outcomes by leveraging open innovation and crowd sourcing along with defined methodology, process, and tools to help organizations develop and implement actionable solutions to their key problems, opportunities, and challenges. In CDI, a portion of the innovation is formulated as a challenge, in which a “challenge” essentially represents the problem statement for a block. In contrast to ideas, which are often unstructured and loosely defined, challenges are specific, detailed, and actionable problems or opportunities.

Source: How to Accelerate Innovation through Challenge Driven Innovation by Steve Bonadio.

About Frank Ermark

During the last years I was responsible for the innovation portfolio management within our business unit. I was leading a cross-functional, global team, overseeing the innovation funnel from early innovation strategy definition, ideation campaigns up to defining and running prototyping projects.

I’m passionate about innovation, in the broadest sense, from product, software, business to new organizational designs, always balancing the technology, business and consumers angle.

The majority of my 15+ years professional career, I have spent in the front end work, creating new product concepts as well as driving operational and strategic technology management. My focus is always to combine strategic thinking with a strong path for execution in order to deliver real business value.

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