A growing trend over the past several years has been to host internal innovation challenges. Companies do this because they find it’s an excellent way to find solutions to long-standing problems, positively create culture (particularly in a remote workplace), and also to nurture the budding intrapreneurs who want to find career growth and new opportunities.

Xaxis is the world’s largest programmatic media agency, transforming media into outcomes for more than 3,000 brands in 47 markets around the world. Its global client list includes Ford, IKEA, and Mars.

With all of those creative thinkers spread throughout the world, Cecile Blanc, Senior Director of Global Solutions and Innovation at Xaxis realized that there was no global mechanism to capture and scale the power of their global team’s ideas, so in 2017, Xaxis launched the Xcellerate Program using IdeaScale technology.

What’s unique about the Xaxis program is that they have a simple six-step framework to inviting participation and vetting winners that they celebrate in a final all hands event This is the process that Xaxis follows:

  1. A Submission Phase: Everyone across the entire company (no matter their business unit or experience level) can brainstorm and submit a solution that will improve the Xaxis customer experience.
  2. A Voting Phase: Each proposal is open for public voting. Everyone in the company receives three voting tokens which they can cast toward any idea they want – splitting their votes between three ideas or giving all their votes to one.
  3. Regional Judging: Regional panels review all votes and assess ideas against their key criteria of potential to scale, how quickly it can be taken to market, whether it addresses a clear market need, and more. Once completed, the ideas receive an overall impact score and the winners are shortlisted for the incubation phase.
  4. Incubation: Xcellerate teams must finalize their investment request and pitch their solution to clients in order to gain meaningful feedback on their idea. All participants in this stage are assigned a mentor to help guide their process, remove roadblocks, and provide professional development (for those who aren’t sure how to pitch or build a business case for example). Xaxis has also created a library of videos that coach participants through the process.
  5. Pitch Day: Teams pitch to the executive committee who draws from the dedicated innovation budget to fund minimum viable product solutions to the team’s ideas.
  6. Development & Final Selection: Finally, the teams with executive budget support create a minimum viable product of their proposal, which could mean creating a new offering, establishing a potential partnership, gathering client testimonials, or otherwise in order to create a final pitch video for their proposal. Then, executives have two weeks to select a winner and runner up. The winning team gets to fly to the headquarters of their choosing and work on scaling their solution.

The secret to Xaxis’ success is the company commitment of time to the project: the teams who can step away from their day-job to develop a proposal, the executives and managers who evaluate and vet suggestions, the mentors who provide guidance, and more. But the good news is that their rigorous process and approach can be applied at any organization.

To read more about the Xaxis model for an internal innovation challenge, download the case study here. 

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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