Though simple and elegant in concept a challenge can be counterproductive in practice without organization, planning, and the following key ingredients:
A Call to Action – a way of drumming up interest in the challenge with an inspirational campaign (could be an email blast, video, advert, web posting) that explains the benefits of a solution and provokes people to take part.
Narrowly scoped and tightly framed challenges – if your challenge is ‘build me a faster car’ you will be inundated with thousands of meaningless ideas. This is a costly and time consuming process as you will need to look at every one, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the result you are really after. The challenges should not be broad; they must be tightly framed and narrowly scoped to improve your chances of getting what you need.
Incentives – people need a reason for participating and the motivation to continue, especially if the challenge is spread over several months. Whilst some participants may be piqued by the intellectual challenge, this won’t be enough of a carrot to sustain everyone.
Monetary prizes are the most common, but cash doesn’t have to be the only incentive on the table. Part of the prize for the top three winners of Lufthansa’s 2nd Air Cargo Innovation Challenge was some flight training in the company’s flight simulation center.
Interim prizes are also required to keep the interest and momentum going.
A Jury – crowd discussions and votes may lead to the best ideas floating to the top, but ultimately you need a few expert voices to choose the ideas that are best suited to your needs.
An online platform – the means by which you run the contest and that allows participants to upload and discuss ideas. Being able to manage the flow of data is key to making challenges work.