What was the reason for organising an idea competition?
As head of research and development, I wanted to obtain new ideas for the future of our fastening systems. We had originally hoped that a couple of experts in our organisation would have the answers. However, that was not the case. There were experts, but simply not enough of them and the questions we asked did not bring the success we were looking for.
What specific benefits do you generally consider ideas competitions to have?
One advantage is that they bring forth a lot of creative minds to join me in thinking about a problem. We can also use them to make new contacts and potentially to recruit new members of staff. They are also good for public relations.
What were the specific reasons behind your decision to hold a competition outside your own organisation?
Experience has shown that after many years in the same profession, there is a lack of brilliant ideas. Therefor I simply wanted to ask a larger public.
How did you manage to do that?
Well, we were very successful in addressing the crowd. There was also an idea that we followed up in a certain way, although not exactly as it was submitted. But for the moment, nothing has led to a brand-new product. Nevertheless, I’m really pleased with what we did, the whole thing went perfectly.
What support did you have in running the online ideas competition?
We obtained two offers for idea management software or idea platforms, compared them and then decided on one provider. Having your own platform is nice, but also cost-intensive. For us it was wise to use already existing offers.
How did that work with evaluating ideas?
We received the ideas from our ideas campaign coordinator via a platform, we studied them, and actively posed questions in return. Then, when that process came to an end, I commented on the ideas, edited them and presented them to senior management; each idea was then evaluated according to certain criteria. We then considered which one was the best. The jury was made up of the senior management team, including the Head of Customer Service and Quality Management, as well as the business owners and CEO.
Rewards ranging from 500€ to 1000€ were offered as prizes. How did you come up with these rewards?
We followed the advice of our experienced campaign coordinator. We decided against tangible goods, because hardly anyone would get excited about a few nails and pneumatic nailer, unless they’re building a house. Other businesses can give away their consumer goods. In our particular case, financial rewards were better, because people can’t start working with industrial machines in their everyday life.
Do you feel these prizes were fair for the output you managed to generate?
In one way, yes, and in another way, no, because we weren’t able to implement any of the ideas. But it could have been so different. It always depends on the end result.
If you were to run another ideas competition, what improvements would you make?
Next time, I would choose a “more global” question. We restricted ourselves too much last time. If you make things more open, you stand to get much more back from it.
Would you recommend ideas competitions to other organisations?
Yes, definitely, because I am constantly aware that a lot of businesses are creative, but unfortunately not innovative! Businesses often only innovate when things are going badly. Cooperation from unrelated businesses can help in that respect to develop something new together. All of that is a great thrill. I think it is a very good idea and believe we need to continue in this direction.
What would you recommend to others wanting to do this for the first time?
They simply need to get in touch with a crowdsourcing platform provider who can set something up for them, and then give it a try. That’s just what we did, we didn’t have a clue either. It really is a clear investment. Small businesses really should try it too. Businesses that produce consumer products will find it a little easier and can obtain good information relatively effortlessly.
In any case, it should be a general question. In the end, you have to ask yourself: Can a non-expert, who is not familiar with the topic at all, answer this question? The question must be adapted to the audience, because we have noticed that the crowd consists of many non-professionals. You should also think about asking the question in several languages to address people globally, we only asked locally.
You can see here how the OI campaign was implemented on a practical level on the crowdsourcing platform Neurovation.net:
(Interview with Dipl.-Ing. Stefan Siemers conducted on 29/3/19 by Luisa Friebl)