Here are 8 innovation and empowerment programs that you can launch now
We will summarize the suggested innovation and empowerment programs by focusing on their primary business and/or social impact objective, who are the primary beneficiaries that would make use of the initiative, and the suggested approach to take.
1. Crowdsourcing for Business development
Objective: Lead generation and sales
Target Beneficiaries: Prospects and clients
Approach: Allow your prospects to engage with you and learn about your offering. In the process ask them to build their innovation plans and reward the best ones with special discounts or consulting services.
2. Future Innovation Readiness Program
Objective: Upskill, Re-Skill and Identify new hires to address emerging roles
Target Beneficiaries: Staff, university graduates, retired and unemployed
Approach: Launch an initiative that educates your target beneficiaries on latest trends and skills affecting your business and allows them to come up with innovations that could align with those trends. Recognize and reward the best talent that come out of the program.
3. Community Innovation and Empowerment Program
Objective: Improve the resilience and sustainability of the markets you operate in
Target Beneficiaries: Youth, women, under-represented, and entrepreneurs
Objective: Come up with new revenue streams or reduce costs
Target Beneficiaries: Staff, resellers, and suppliers
Approach: Launch an innovation program amongst your staff, suppliers, and partners to suggest new features or products that could help the company sell more or reduce costs. The best ones could be rewarded with bonuses or extra business.
“Over $20 million saved this year by Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority through innovative environmental projects.” – Source: The National
5. Certification and Empowerment
Objective: Build loyalty and extend reach
Target Beneficiaries: The public
Approach: Create a light certification program in your area of expertise and offer it to the public. Include in the certification an innovation project where the participants can get practical skills and allow you to crowd-source innovations from them.
6. Innovators, Startups and SME empowerment
Objective: Identify new partnership and investment opportunities
Target Beneficiaries: Professors, Innovators and Entrepreneurs
Approach: Identify the technology areas that could add value to your offerings and engage innovators so they learn about your business and identify ways in which their innovations can support you increase sales or in cost savings.
7. Industry or Sector Literacy
Objective: Raise your brand value and build strategic partnerships
Target Beneficiaries: The public
Approach: Use online learning and the innovation process to educate individuals about your field of work (such as financial, digital, security, crypt etc..) and in the process engage strategic government bodies who have a common interest in resulting innovations.
8. Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) innovation initiative
Objective: Identify ESG impact and opportunities
Target Beneficiaries: Suppliers, partners, members, and portfolio companies,
Approach: Empower the businesses that you work with to build their ESG action plans and in the process provide you insights and ideas about how you can collectively improve your positive impact.
Innovation and empowerment platforms and software
You might be thinking now: “All this sounds good, but it will cost us a fortune to implement and would require a dedicated team to manage.”
Well, in this instance, you would be happy to know that your thinking is incorrect.
If you have the right digital platform and a well-defined process, you can launch and manage such programs with ease and do so cost-effectively.
Having a robust digital innovation and empowerment platform would allow you to use a “digital first” strategy, meaning that you can reach out and engage very large audience in a self-service way.
The platform would allow you to engage other stakeholders, shortlist the best talent and report on progress toward your KPIs.
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A summary of the main features that you would want to include in an innovation and empowerment platform include:
Digital and mobile first strategy to reach the masses through any device or connection
Micro-learning to engage the public in a simple way and have them engage with you
Practical learning so participants can immediately apply what they learn
The ability of users to build their innovation action plans and upload designs
Gamification elements with point and badges collection to drive engagement
Competition with judging capability to engage stakeholders and reward best talent
Innovation and empowerment program teams and responsibilities
Some organizations have specific roles assigned for innovation development while others have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) teams looking after empowerment initiatives.
However, anyone in the organization can be involved in such initiatives. The use of a digital platform empowers any individual or small teams to launch their own program.
You can expect marketing, sales, public relations, ICT, human resources, supply chain, channel, product development and leadership teams to have an interest, and be able to launch such initiatives.
Ideally, you would see cross-functional innovation and empowerment programs being launched enhancing teamwork across the organization.
Best time to launch innovation and empowerment initiatives
The duration of the above initiatives can be tactical as short as a week. But, it can also be strategic running in yearly cycles over a multiyear period.
This flexibility allows you to align some tactical innovation programs with trends or hot topics that are dominating the news cycle.
As an example, many organizations launched mental health and well-being initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic to support their communities and identify changing customer demands.
In the coming months, COP27, 2023 planning and other topics could be used to align your programs and empower your stakeholders.
On the other hand, organizations that have a long-term strategy to improve their environmental impact can launch a multi-year program to identify and nurture innovations that could help them achieve their goals.
In both cases, it’s important to have the programs run in cycles so that you can engage, empower, and identify top talent. The top talent can be showcased publicly to excite the next cohort of participants.
Each cycle builds on the previous one making it easier to build a community on your digital platform and allows for agile improvement of the initiatives in each iteration.
Who said doing good for business has to come at the expense of the community or environment?
This trade-off is no longer needed and should not be an option!
In all the above examples you can witness how innovation and empowerment initiatives can have a positive outcome on both business and impact objectives.
Doing so, strengthens the business, makes it more resilient and contributes to a more sustainable and equitable future for us all.
I look forward to reading or hearing about your innovative and empowerment projects and to their positive impact on the world!