Challenging Our People

One of Leadership’s core responsibilities is to address issues and challenges within the business.  But what if we flipped that model and gave part of that responsibility to our employees?  People are our greatest asset as we hire the best and brightest to join us in delivering the highest quality professional services, so involving them in addressing challenges is imperative.  Now with the power of new technologies, the discussion that once took place in a conference room can be opened to everyone across the globe for their ideas and thoughts.  As such, we found a way to tap into the knowledge and expertise of our people and challenge them to help solve the business challenges facing us.

Innovation challenges are time bound initiatives to challenge our people to share their ideas in response to a particular business issue.  Business sponsors are responsible for championing the challenge by setting the challenge question and assembling teams of people in place to respond, evaluate, and bring ideas forward toward implementation.   These individuals are members of leadership who are empowered to create organization change and have an extensive network to make it happen.  A challenge may run anywhere from two to three weeks focused on soliciting as many ideas as possible.

In our first fifteen months, the US firm ran about twenty challenges using iPlace. Innovation challenges are time bound initiatives to challenge our people to share their ideas in response to a particular business issue.  As a result, over 65% of the ideas in iPlace have come in as a result of a challenge (approximately 1500 ideas). The US firm hosts a range of challenges, focused on creating greater efficiencies, developing relationships, driving growth and opportunity, and developing new business.  By giving people a challenge, it ignites a sense of urgency and gives them a basis for their ideas.  Asking people to respond to challenges has helped yield ideas that are relevant to strategy and respond to key issues and opportunities in the marketplace.

We have experimented with various approaches to challenges including: 1) firm-wide challenges. inviting all employees to participate, 2) focused challenges. targeting a particular line of service, practice, or sector, 3) local challenges. within local markets and offices.  Each approach has yielded slight variations in results, but one thing is clear – challenge ideas have a greater probability of becoming implemented ideas.  We have found over 70% of all ideas implemented over the past 15 months we derived from a challenge.  Challenges have proven that they not only yield more relevant ideas, but that business sponsors of challenges have greater chance of making an idea a reality.   How do you challenge your people to help solve tough business challenges?

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4 Responses to Challenging Our People

  1. Great Article Michele!;-)
    But, how do you handle the amount of ideas ?….Do you let users rate as well as ideate in order to create a prioritized shortlist ?
    And – is 1500 the total amount of ideas after 14 months ?


    • Michele McConomy says:

      Hi Michael! Thank you for your questions! Happy to share with you some more insight…

      We have a define process for triaging ideas to our leadership team. We have about 11 Innovation Leaders across our firm that represent our lines of services (Assurance, Advisory, Tax) and our Business Functions (Finance, IT, Learning and Development, etc.). Each leader has a team of people that work with them to assess each idea and move forward with ideas deemed valuable to the business. It is important for the business to be accountable for this process as they are in the best position to 1) make a determination on the business value of an idea 2) make the idea become reality (implementation).

      We use voting as a feature in our tool, iPlace. Anyone can go in and vote on ideas. Even though some ideas have more votes then others, every idea is considered by our leadership. The voting is important to knowing the importance of the idea to our people. It gives us some valuable insight to help make decisions, but to be honest, is not the only driver. It is a factor that is considered though. Priority of ideas is driven by the Innovation leaders. Voting may be a factor or related to that priority, but it is more likely that the priority is based on the assessed value to the business if that idea were to be implemented.

      Over the course of the first 15 months, we have had over 2500 ideas. Right now, over 1600 of those ideas have been a result of a challenge. In the beginning, we saw an influx of non-challenge related ideas. Since our launch, this number has tailed off and we have seen a spike in the challenge related ideas.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. Really wow….that is a lot of innovation? What are some of the examples that you can share? Are these process improvements? Technology implementations? love to know more because I really think you’re on to something here!

  3. Roxanne Ryan says:

    Great article, Michele!! Also, as we have discussed in the past, something that has been a surprising benefit to the iPlace platform is all of the real, unsolicited and honest feedback that people generate on so many different topics! I personally have been able to use some of this free feedback to modify and improve processes in my area!

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