Every year, IdeaScale hosts the global Innovation Management Awards and honors winners in three different categories: engagement, process, and implementation. We see these categories as the cornerstones of any successful innovation program, so the winners this year actually excel at each of these things.

But there were a few notable traits shared between some very diverse organizations: NASA, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and PSA International. The techniques that they all use to engage, decide, and build new ideas that we thought were particularly noteworthy are: recognition, gamification, and professional development.

Recognition. Whenever you’re building an innovation program, you depend on the ideas of others. Sometimes they come from within a dedicated team, sometimes from unexpected places, but wherever they come from, rewarding those who seeded ideas and helped build them is more about an investment of attention more than dollars. Be sure to celebrate your contributors and one of the best ways to reward them is to invest in their future. Recent research suggests that  one of the most valuable ways to recognize someone is to acknowledge their accomplishments to their manager directly – even if it’s just an email mention. NASA, in particular, excels in this capacity – including it as part of every campaign that they complete, but it is easily replicable by any innovation program.

Gamification. There are tons of ways to gamify the innovation process. You can incentivize for participation in the process, for decision making, for implementation, and you can show the network of connections that make ideas possible. After all – every idea that you see is a representation of a group of people who conspired to build and deliver on it. Some people create tournament-like competitions (like the Cleveland Cavaliers), some rank ideas and participants, others have live hackathons that honor creators, but however you’re engaging others in the innovation process, you should make it fun.

Professional Development. Innovation is an investment in people more than it is an investment in technology. The best innovation leaders recognize this and are finding ways to train their workforce: in how to come up with ideas, in how to build on one another’s ideas, in how to network for resources that will turn ideas into projects. PSA even reported that they track what percentage of their workers are trained in how to use innovation software and are proud to report that that number is growing.

To learn more from the winners of this year’s Innovation Management Awards, read the full stories from the Cleveland Cavaliers, NASA, and PSA International.

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.