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Running an idea challenge (for example to cut costs)
Running an idea challenge (for example to cut costs)
Updated over a week ago

When times are tough, innovation often faces a lot of pressure and risks being sidelined since management priorities tend to shift toward ensuring survival.

In these times, we innovators have to prove our worth. The good thing is that there are plenty of opportunities for doing so!

This guide provides you with actionable steps you can take to get on the right track. For a more extensive take on why innovation is so important during tough times, please read this blog post.

If, after reading this guide, you'd like a sparring partner to work through the topic with, please reach out to our innovation experts. We are delighted to help!

Getting started

When times are tough, we generally recommend innovators start by proving their immediate value to the bottom line of the company.

A great way to do that is by running an idea challenge for all of your employees that is focused on finding new ideas and innovations for cutting costs and improving productivity.

You'll find instructions below for running your first idea challenge with Viima.

Step 1: Set up your board

When you sign up for Viima, you'll be guided to set up your first board.

Choose an Idea challenge and then name your board with something clear and concise. For example, "The Lean Challenge".

PS. If you've already set up your first board, you can create a new one using the same template or use your current one by adjusting the settings.

Step 2: Set up your categories and statuses


The first thing you should do is set up your categories. Please see this guide for detailed instructions.

These help categorize the ideas and also help guide users on what to focus their ideation towards. Make sure to choose a person that is responsible for each of the categories and enter their email address under the "notification recipients". This helps ensure that the right people are notified of ideas related to their work.

Examples of categories that might work in this case could be: "Process improvements", "Cost cuts", "Minimizing waste" and "Productivity".


Next, you should model the process of your challenge with statuses. Please see this guide for detailed instructions.

Statuses help inform users of how the process works and make it clear where each idea is in the process. When ideas move from one status to another, all people that have been involved with it will automatically be notified.

For a simple idea challenge like this, an example of a good process could be "Submit ideas" -> "Discuss & develop" -> "Vote" -> "To be implemented".
Each status phase in a challenge typically lasts for one to two weeks. Once voting has finished, a group of decision-makers typically evaluated the ideas and choose which ideas they want to actually implement. You can limit the functionality available for users in the software with Viima's user restrictions so that users can only do what's wanted from them in each phase.

Idea evaluation can be used to collect data to help in making decisions. Also, Vima's customized fields can be used to gather more structured data in the idea submission phase or to be filled in by idea responsible/admins in later status phases.

Step 3: Customize the visual appearance

Viima allows you to customize the visual appearance of your board very quite flexibly. This helps make the board match your brand and makes for a more engaging experience for your end users.
For more instructions, please see this guide.

Step 4: Prepare your communication plan

As with every idea challenge, communication is key to the success of the campaign!

The keys to a good communication plan are:

  • Clear and concise message of what the challenge is about, why and how it's done, what the goals are, what the schedule is like, and why people should participate

  • A follow-up plan to let each participant know what's going on with the challenge. The easiest way to do this is to send emails that tell about each phase of the challenge separately to all participants, either manually or via Viima's recurring email feature.

Message banner

  • You can now show a prominent message banner for all users within your organization to improve communication. The screenshot shows an example of this.

  • Common use cases would be promoting new boards (e.g. for limited time idea challenges), as well as highlighting changes to your processes.

  • You can freely configure the content, links, and even color of the message.

  • For more details, please see this guide.

Welcome message

To begin with, you should write an outline of the key points summarizing the challenge and set that as the welcome message for your board.

You'll find a simplified template below. Make sure to include at least the rationale for doing the challenge, the process and schedule to be used, as well as the goals.

The Lean Challenge is our effort to prepare for the tough times ahead.

As you're all aware, we're currently in challenging times and to get through them, we need to find ways to cut costs and improve productivity. We are aiming to save a total of 12 million dollars in annual costs going forward, so every idea counts!

We know that you see a lot of things that aren't perfect every day, so we want to hear from all of our employees for ideas on how we could best achieve the aforementioned goal.

This challenge lasts four weeks:

  • Week 1: Submit ideas. During the first week, you have time to submit any ideas that come to mind. Your ideas don't have to be final solutions at this point, you can also submit ideas about challenges you've faced or opportunities you see for saving costs.

  • Weeks 2-3: Discuss & Develop. No idea is perfect out of the box. During weeks 2-3, you can comment on other people's ideas and propose solutions or improvements to them to try to develop them, or face potential objections you have for implementing the idea.

  • Week 4: Voting. Once week 4 begins, the focus shifts to finding the best ideas. You all have a say in the process, so make sure you vote for the ideas you'd most like to see implemented.

Once the month ends, our management group will come together and choose the best ideas that will be implemented going forward.

We rely on your active participation, so please be active! The best ideators and most active participants will be rewarded at the end of the challenge.

Step 5: Adjust access settings and invite users

When your board looks ready for the upcoming challenge, the final step before inviting users is to adjust your access settings and then invite your users.

Access settings

Viima offers quite flexible access rights and many options for authentication via single-sign-on. In most cases, the easiest option is to use SSO (like Office 365 or Google G Suite) to log in and make the board available for users from your own email domain. For help on the topic, please read this guide.

Inviting users

Congrats, you're finally ready to invite users and launch your campaign! You can import a list of users to Viima and then send invites to them via the software. For more details, please see this guide.

If you're in our paid plans, make sure to customize the invitation email before you send it!

ps. If your organization is using MS Teams, it is a powerful idea to include Viima there.

Step 6: Communicate, communicate, communicate

Running an idea challenge successfully always takes quite a bit of communication.

This doesn't take much time, but is crucial for the success of the campaign.

So, make sure to communicate clearly with all participants during each phase of the process to remind them of the challenge's existence and what's expected from them!

Use whatever channels work best in your organization. For many, that will be email. In some organizations, it might be Slack, Microsoft Teams, or even your intranet.

You should send at least the following messages:

  • Introduction. Introduce the challenge a day or two before sending the invites.

  • Invitation. Usually, this is done automatically by Viima.

  • Invitation reminder. The day after the invite remind everyone to log in.

  • Status end plus new status info. Remind users about the expiration of each phase of the process one day before it ends. Use this message to remind them also about the next phase. For example: "Idea submission ends tomorrow, make sure to leave your ideas by noon! We'll then move our focus on developing them for the next two weeks. We rely on your active participation, so make sure to go and communicate the ideas you're familiar with..."

  • Challenge end. Once the steering group has decided which ideas to implement, communicate this to all participants and thank them for their active participation. Also, communicate the rewards for the best and most active participants.

  • Update on the status of chosen ideas. To ensure that excitement doesn't fade, keep communicating the status of the ideas that were chosen to be implemented after the challenge.

Have fun and enjoy the ride! We're yet to see a well-ran challenge that wouldn't generate meaningful bottom-line impact. If you're unsure or have questions, reach out for help!

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