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Every year, one question tops all the others that our customers might bring to us: how do I increase engagement in my innovation community? We see this question even in the most robust and activated innovation programs.

Once you understand the value of bringing in diverse voices to your decision-making and creative process, you inevitably want to grow that impact by engaging even more people. Offering some incentives to participants is one of the most common ways to improve program engagement. Try any of these seven incentives and share your results.

Send an email to the person’s manager. NASA and Harvard Business School recently discovered that the number-one reason people participate in a crowdsourced ideas community is to impress their managers. If that’s the case, then there’s no easier or more effective method for honoring someone’s participation than sending an email to that person’s manager to tell them all that they’ve achieved. This sort of recognition builds confidence, goodwill, and culture as well as your innovation program.

Naming rights. Whether you’re creating a new product, a new line of business, or a new flavor of ice cream, then you could always commemorate your ideator’s contribution by giving them the opportunity to name the result. This incentive has historically backfired from time to time, however, so it’s good to have some parameters around naming conventions.

VIP invitation to launch day. It’s important to honor the results of your innovation program anyway, so plan a party or a ceremony of sorts. And your leading innovators? Make sure that they have a special experience at launch day. Do they get to stand on stage alongside leadership? Do they get an extra drink ticket at the party? How can you celebrate them?

Facetime with the CEO. Sometimes in these large-scale program it is unlikely that the contributors will have had much exposure to an organization’s executives at all. Offering the ability to pitch to, learn from, or just have a chat with the CEO or organization’s top leaders can make a huge impression.

Continuous learning. Any HR professional will tell you that investing in the professional development of your workforce can lead to huge gains. This goes doubly-so in an innovation program where your most creative contributors can further refine their skills by gaining meaningful training, access to classes or events that interest them, or even skills that don’t apply to their current position. One of our customers knew that their innovator wanted to get their pilot’s license, so they paid for extra flight time so that they could make that dream a reality.

Paid time off. Some of our customers are forbidden from offering financial incentives, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t change the workplace experience. They’ve given whole offices an afternoon off or an additional day of PTO for the winners. Is this type of reward something you can offer?

Financial incentives. This is the most commonly thought-of set of incentives: gift cards, bonuses, revenues shares, etc. Although it’s a tantalizing offering, sometimes offering the more creative or common rewards above will not only produce more participation, but better ideas. Or maybe try them in combination with financial rewards.

For more ideas, download our complimentary infographic on the subject of innovation incentives.

About the Author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

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