How creating an “ideas marketplace” can spur innovation in your team.
How do you create space away from the day-to-day to innovate with your team?
Consider an “ideas marketplace”.
At last year’s ntegrity nrich conference, leadership expert Rita Cincotta hosted a workshop for 100+ attendees that proved two things:
That innovation doesn’t always need to come from outside the organisation, but can be spurred from inside teams.
Innovation and new ideas can start to be implemented immediately.
They both just take the right environment.
Here’s how you can use this model in 2023 to build a culture and environment of innovation in your team.
Preparing for an ideas marketplace
Set an “out of office time” for innovation. Innovation can’t come from business as usual, so set aside some time to invest in it. This could be an hour once a month or a quarter (you set the rules!).
Gather your team. An ideas marketplace can take place virtually or in person, so this works for a remote or hybrid team. Both juniors and seniors should be involved, and it can help to have cross-functional teams there (e.g. Fundraising, Marketing & Programs).
Pre-prepare tools for note-taking. An ideas marketplace is about documenting ideas as you go along. We recommend using a mural board or a spreadsheet if it’s a digital or hybrid meeting or trusty post-its if you’re all in-person.
Set the agenda. Make sure to plan ahead of time, so your team can come into the session prepared. What type of ideas are you looking for? This could range from revenue diversification, campaign improvements, reporting on impact or even new campaign ideas. It can be general or it can have clear parameters to solve a problem you’re facing.
Principles for running an effective ideas marketplace
1. Ideas generation (20-30 minutes)
Start your session by tossing around ideas. We like to break the session into different ideation categories giving 5-10 minutes to each category.
Write these ideas down in a matrix — as you separate your small, original and complex ideas.
a. The “start small” ideas
The goal is to come up with ideas that are easy to implement — and would likely have high acceptability within your organisation. They would likely be optimisations for activity that is already taking place, and could be implemented ASAP.
b. The “original, but implementable” ideas
It’s time to step out of your comfort zone. These ideas should be a bit more memorable and original while still being slightly familiar. While they’re innovative and breakthrough ideas, you should still be able to implement them within your organisation now.
c. The “out of the box” ideas
These ideas should be unexpected, original and the first of their kind. Don’t be afraid to share dreams, huge and complex challenges, and ideas that could only be implemented years down the line. These ideas would have the biggest impact — and they can’t take off without you sharing them.
2. Select 1-2 ideas (5 minutes)
Your team must now ‘shop’ for their favourite idea. We recommend using a voting system, and giving each team member 1-2 votes each to choose their favourite ideas.
When picking these ideas it’s important to bear in mind the time versus energy investment you’d have to make. Some organisations may be extremely bureaucratic, making certain projects difficult to implement. Meanwhile, some projects may take a lot of upskilling, making it more time-consuming for your entire team. Bear this in mind as you determine which project you choose, and give your team parameters if needed.
If there’s a tie between a few ideas, we recommend asking the people who wrote them to pitch their ideas to the team before deciding on the idea to take forward.
3. Get your idea off the ground (30 minutes)
Now it’s time for the best part — getting your hands dirty and seeing whether this idea actually has legs.
Some important questions to ask as a team can be:
How would you define this idea?
Who does this help?
What does success look like?
Who are your key stakeholders?
When will this be implemented?
Why is it important?
What’s the next step to get this idea off the ground?
Who is “responsible” for the next step?
We recommend going through these questions (or others) as a team, spending time to really nut out the answers.
And so your new ideas aren’t left on the table when you leave the room, ensure you add them to the agenda of your regular check-ins as a team.
An ideas marketplace is a great way to foster and action innovation within your organisation and team. By encouraging your team to share their ideas, you’re making sure good ideas don’t get left on the ground, and are creating a workplace that champions creativity and innovation.