step 2: idea generation

Now that you better understand the market in which your organisation or research program operates (through either a market analysis or a business challenge), the next step is to create solutions to address the market trends and opportunities or the business specific challenged that you’ve identified. This means getting your creative juices flowing! Although there are many ways to promote creativity and generate ideas, the #guide2innovate explores two scenarios that have proven to work well in educational settings:

Organise an Innovation Jam

The purpose of an innovation jam is to stimulate out-of-the-box thinking through bringing different (multi-disciplinary) perspectives together in a creative workshop setting. Innovation jams are organised with a mindset of experimentation, doing (rather than theory) and collaboration. They usually take place in a short space of time (24 or 48 hours), using the element of pressure to foster greater innovation.

Step 1: invite people from various backgrounds and perspectives

Depending on the subject of the innovation jam, prepare a list of participants who can make a valuable contribution while also benefitting from participating in the innovation jam. It is essential to invite ‘problem owners’ who bring in the challenge to be translated into a research project idea. You may wish to invite the CEO/director of the business as well as an employee who can provide more detail on the particular challenge. Remember: with more diverse participants, it becomes more likely that unusual and innovative ideas emerge from the process!

Step 2: Form multidisciplinary teams that spark innovation

As organiser of an innovation jam, it’s important to have some control over the formation of teams to ensure that the relevant experience and expertise for the challenge is present in the group. At the same time, you can also invite the participants to express which challenge they are most interested in and excited about. In the context of education, as a general rule you sould try to ensure that teams include at least a researcher or lecturer (“the expert”), a student (“the innovator”) and an entrepreneur (“the problem owner”).

Step 3: design program and prepare materials

To prepare for the jam, ensure that you design a program offering a good balance between reflecting and doing (practical assignments). For effective brainstorming, the goal, process and procedures should be made clear from the start. Throughout the jam, your goal is for participants to go through a process of reflection, understanding the core problem as well as generating innovative ideas and testing this as much as possible within the given timeframe. To guide this process, you should make available tools and instruments that facilitate critical and creative thinking (e.g. a toolbox for innovation). 

Step 4: facilitate innovation jam

Good facilitation is necessary for an innovation jam to reach its objective. This means that the program should be clear, with an opening, practical assignments and a closing. Participants need to be given sufficient space to reflect individually, express their opinions and exchange with others. As a facilitator of the jam, you can delegate some of the practical matters (e.g. the venue, logistics), allowing you to focus on connecting the different sessions together and ensuring that the teams stay on track and deliver what is needed.  At the end of the jam, each team has to present and/or report back on their ideas, with an independent panel of experts and/or other participants providing feedback. As extra encouragement, a prize could be made available to the team whose idea best addresses the business challenge.

Organise an inducement prize contest

Inducement prize contests (IPCs) are competitions that award cash prizes for a specific technological achievement. IPCs are typically designed to overcome market challenges and promote innovative solutions by extending the limits of human ability. Prizes can be effective in creating innovation through promoting more intense competition, engaging a wide variety of actors, distributing risks to many participants and exploiting more flexible solutions through the less prescriptive nature of the definition of the problem.

There are two modalities of IPCs: first-past-the-post, in which the winner is the first team or individual who accomplishes the contest objective; or best-in-class, in which the winner is the team or individual who comes closest to achieving the contest objective within a specified timeframe. Some of the most famous IPCs include the Longitude Prize (1714 - 1765), the Orteig Prize (1919 - 1927) and the prizes from the X Prize Foundation.

step 1. Set up a goal and modality

Prizes work best when there is an achievable and measurable goal, so they are potentially most appropriate for applied research, prototyping and stretch innovation goals, but not for basic research where the goal is not always set from the beginning. This is why it is important to first identify specific innovation challenges to address.  An example of an IPC challenge could be to develop the tools and technology to build a home for a family using locally-sourced materials for $1,000 in less than 24 hours!

steps 2 & 3. Define criteria and rules of participation

Contests should be designed around clear rules and objectively-measurable criteria to give clear guidance to contestants. Key elements to consider include:

·       Eligibility: Who can participate (only students or also external people, e.g. entrepreneurs, lecturers, and professionals from other areas).

·       Application requirements and timeline: 1. What should the application look like? Is it a poster, full proposal, a video, or is it completely open? 2. How should it be submitted? In person, online, by post? 3. By when should it be received? Within 24 hours, one week, one month? These are the minimum requirements to define.

·       Evaluation process and criteria: Who will evaluate the applications (business owners, faculty members, fellow students, peer evaluation?) and what are the criteria?  

step 4. Raise awareness about the IPC

IPCs work best with large numbers of participants to foster variety and innovation. You should promote the competition in the most effective way based on the participants who you want to target (think back to the eligibility criteria set out earlier), e.g. within your organisation, via social/traditional media, through your network of partners.

step 5. Implement the IPC

Once you know exactly what your IPC will look like – what the challenge is, how and when people can apply, how the winner will be chosen and what that means – you’re all ready to go! It helps to create a plan where each step is explained in detail and where roles and responsibilities are well defined to ensure that everything goes smoothly.