Recently, I was considering the idea of creating teams within your ideation process that use competition as an incentive for creating ideas that convert to development projects. Recent research states that “43% of respondents said that they have converted fewer than 20% of ideas to development projects, and just 12% reported moving more than 60% into development.” Obviously, the conversion stage during this process is a crucial stage that is lacking in consistency.

There are two aspects within the idea generation process that are vital. First, is the ability to generate ideas, and the second, as mentioned above, is the conversion of ideas to the development stage. The majority of companies report great success in generating volumes of ideas, however once collected, they create a disorganized overflow of ideas in the funnel. This has the potential to cloud their visibility into which ideas are worth pursuing and so many of them die waiting in the funnel.

How do we create solid ideas that have the potential to become great products and then move these ideas into the development stage? One option is to create teams that generate ideas and put them into a competitive setting. By offering a reward or incentive for the best ideas generated that eventually move through the innovation process to become a product, has the ability to ignite a need to beat the competition within each team. This competitive setting can lead to ideas with the potential for developmental success.

For example, LinkedIn has created their “Innovator Challenge” that consists of a one-day event where LinkedIn employees spend the day brainstorming new and innovative ideas and have the opportunity to “pitch” them to executive staff. At the end of the day, the winners have the opportunity to show their projects to all relevant parties that can take their idea and bring it to the next stage of development.

Another company that has combined innovation and competition to better their product success is Northrup Grumman and their involvement with Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030. Northrup Grumman sponsors a competition between 11 teams of college students for innovative new aircrafts to be used in the aerospace industry. The winning team received an all-expense paid trip to the annual AUVSI convention in Washington, D.C. and the opportunity to present its aircraft to an international audience of industry representatives.

One of the most interesting uses of competition to drive results comes from the NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge. This competition narrows down 36 semi-finalists with the best innovative concepts and gives them the task of further refining their concepts. This competition ends in a showcase where the winner will receive $250,000 to take their idea to production. The people at NYU “are pushing to create better solutions, to find new and more unique ways to address a problem”.

The conversion of ideas to the development stage continues to be a challenge; however with the use of competition, executives can ignite the creative fire within their own organizations. These competitions foster not only innovative ideas but prototypes that can lead to developmental success and have an improved potential as profitable products.

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