Idea competitions are a great way to engage people in your innovation efforts. You can create engaging comms around a competition and to provide an opportunity for anyone, whatever level they are in the organisation to pitch their ideas to the most senior people and win a prize is fantastic is a story worth shouting about. Here’s an infographic with some pros and cons to consider and the really important things to think about before you get started. You can click on it to make it larger.

The process that I would highly recommend is this;

1. Launch the competition with clear insight into what ideas you are expecting (and not). Even better, give them a theme or themes to ‘ideate’ against.

2. Give them 2-3 weeks to consider their ideas, and then no more than 2 weeks to enter their idea. Idea campaigns typically follow this curve participation curve The longer you give them, the longer the lull. You’ll have some early adoptors but overwhelming the most ideas will come in the last few days before the deadline regardless of how long you give them.

You can download a full guide by clicking the button below, or carry on reading for the main headline points.

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3. Turn off the competition submission phase and triage any stupid, duplicate or incomplete ideas.

(btw. If you prefer, you can listen to this blog on Soundcloud).
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4. Now you have three choices;

  1. Publish the ideas to everyone in order to inspire and engage them and ask them to vote for their favourite ideas and accept the risk that someone will steal the ideas and go and start a business. Regular readers of this blog will know that I think this is rediculous, but I will put it out there because it’s what many will think
  2. Publish the ideas for public votes but just from the people that bought-in and offered an idea (this help participation next time)
  3. Ignore this step and keep all the ideas secret and leave any benefits of engaging and inspiring on the table

5. Start the judging round. This is REALLY important, if the staff don’t trust the judging process and feel as though the winning ideas were plucked from thin air, they will dismiss the whole initiaitve and you won’t get the benefits you had hoped for. The most important thing you can do is to anonymise the ideas so no-one will know if they are judging an idea from the receptionist or the CEO. This step needs to be done by a wide range of Managers. I’ve seen innovation activities work without a great deal of Senior Manager support, equally you don’t need a high percentage of the workforce on-board for it to work. I’ve NEVER seen them work without engaged middle managers (or to put it another way, middle managers can kill the scheme) so if you want any ideas to be implemented other than the few winners you need to involve them. This is where a system is essential. I can only, hand on heart, recommend one system here, TalkFreely. Ask them to judge ideas (1-5 stars) based on;

Novelty | Feasibility | Attractiveness | Potential Value

Then ask them to choose their first and second favourite ideas. That curve I showed you above that basically said no matter how much time you give people, we all leave difficult things to the last minute. If you allow the managers to leave it to the last minute, they will do exactly that and the quality of the judging will be terrible.

6. You will end up with a prioritised list of ideas (all those that have been 1st or 2nd favourited) for the Senior team to see and choose from. Don’t let them choose without this pre-filtering. It’s just too difficult. I look at ideas all day long and please trust me, you can’t fairly choose ideas just looking at a list.

7. Create an event to celebrate the initiative and more importantly reward the winners!

I hMike Michael Allen TalkFreelyave a bunch more information and experience to pass on such as; processes and guidelines, or if you simply want to pick my brain, get in contact with me by emialing me,


Idea Competitions the Pros and Cons