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In my previous article ‘Establishing the Foundations for a Balanced Innovation Portfolio’ I discussed the important role played by key innovation foundations in the success of a systemized collaborative innovation program. Even though you’re in a less than perfect position, the important step is to recognize the relative strength (or weakness) of each foundation, then put actions in place to improve each one. In this article I’m sharing the experiences of PSA Peugeot Citroën on their first ever collaborative innovation campaign.

The three key innovation foundations for managing a systemized collaborative innovation program are:

  1. Business focus – A clear linkage between core daily innovation initiatives and long term corporate targets
  2. Openness – A culture that’s happy to share, collaborate and trusts the innovation process
  3. Inclusiveness – A program that’s inclusive of a broad range of opinions, skill sets and experience at every level and fringe of your organization

Organizations can run large scale systemized programs without a strong position in any of these foundations, but each limits what they can achieve. For example, if the culture in your company is reticent to share, your audience will be smaller than its potential for an online idea campaign.

It’s easy to look critically at each foundation and feel you’re in a less than perfect position.  The important step is to recognize the relative strength (or not) of each foundation, then put actions in place to improve each one.  By way of an example,

I’d like to share the experiences of PSA Peugeot Citroën on their first ever collaborative innovation campaign.

The challenge at PSA Peugeot Citroën

The innovation team at PSA felt they were in a good position when considering each foundation. There was a clear linkage between the initiative they wanted employees to address and how this could help the company longer term; in addition, they would deliberately select a large group of employees to gain diversity of opinion.  The one question mark: Whether the corporate culture would support sharing of ideas and enterprise collaboration.  Anecdotally, it seemed there was a general enthusiasm to be part of innovation process, but nothing approaching the tens of thousands of employees in scope had been tried before.

Anecdotally, it seemed there was a general enthusiasm to be part of innovation process, but nothing approaching the tens of thousands of employees in scope had been tried before.

The innovation team wanted to show how powerful idea campaigns could be, so they needed two things to justify further investment in the program:

  • Enthusiasm for the approach, demonstrated by good levels of participation
  • Ideas they could implement, to show employees that they offered value to the business when they did participate

Essentially, the innovation team needed their first innovation campaign to work well, so they could do more.  There wasn’t a chance to learn and refine the approach, so they needed to work hard on each foundation to help ensure they were as successful as possible.

The foundations in focus

1. Business Focus was established early on. The question had a close connection to the workers of PSA and its customers – share ideas or innovations for the consumers of PSA Peugeot Citroën.  There was a senior sponsor who would put their name to the activity and an innovation team to manage the content.

2. The level of openness between the employee groups was the largest area of uncertainty, so PSA invested time in the following activities to help ensure the audience knew exactly what to do:

a. Demonstrated senior sponsorship.  Everyone knew the campaign was a corporately endorsed program that top management cared about.

b. Wrote a compelling question.  It not only explained the challenge, but also offered details on the process to ensure employees wouldn’t think they were wasting their time by participating.

c. They asked for people to collaborate and help each other.  Not just to share their ideas.  This not only helped boost idea quality, but showed where the crowds’ enthusiasm was for specific ideas.

3.  The audience selected was tens of thousands in number, yet the Innovation team didn’t want tens of thousands of ideas.  They needed to keep the focus tight and quality high, so asked a very specific question.  They wanted to be inclusive but also needed to show value by demonstrating high-quality ideas. Key initiatives included:

a. Marketing the program very effectively to the corners of the organization, raising awareness of the scale of the campaign, helping to ensure those that wanted to be part of something should participate.

b. They ‘seeded’ the campaign with example ideas, showing what type of solution would be well received. This helped set a benchmark for quality.

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Each of these initiatives alone would not have promoted the results PSA wanted, yet aggregated together they presented their employees with a consistent approach that fostered belief in an audience that had never participated in an idea campaign before.

  • 1300 ideas were submitted – from 70 different sites, offering a good balance of participation and focus from a large audience.
  • Over 3000 comments were received – showing great acceptance for the value of collaboration to make the ideas of others better.
  • 85 ideas made it through a special audience filtering stage, called ‘community graduation’, ensuring that close attention was paid to these ideas by the innovation team.

This is a great example of taking special care to maximize the impact an of an innovation foundation, such as corporate sponsorship, and a desire to include as many people as possible, then working hard to address weaker foundations.

Like any company, the first campaign is a tremendous learning experience. From these new experiences an even better program can be built.  Harnessing the latent enthusiasm from the audience and support from senior management will play a large role in developing a sustainable solution with solid foundations.

By Colin Nelson

About the author

Colin Nelson is Director of Strategic Consulting at HYPE Innovation, a leading provider of Innovation Management software and solutions for over 11 years. Using the power of the workforce, third parties and customers, Colin helps clients engage disparate groups to support existing or newly established programs on Innovation, Cost Reduction, Business Transformation and Business Improvement.

He works as a subject matter expert and thought leader on how people engage to share ideas and collaborate with others, online and at scale with global innovation leaders such as Continental, General Mills, Hershey’s, Peugeot, SCA, WD-40 Company, and many others, focusing specifically on processes and innovation behaviors.


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