Green Means Go: Driving Innovation from Within.

No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered.

Winston Churchill

Our best ideas come from clerks and stock boys.

Sam Walton

In any industry, there are questions to answer and problems to solve: “how can we reduce customer hold times”, “how can we get products to market faster” or “what new product or service can we offer?”

No matter what challenges exist, coming up with solutions may be easier than you think. Most organizations would say they employ smart, dedicated and creative employees. Here at HealthSparq we do too. We just wrapped up the Green Light Challenge – a new way to mine for product concepts from our smart folks. “We know the HealthSparq team has a lot of creative ideas that may never see the light of day because product development isn’t part of their day-to-day role. Giving everyone the opportunity to contribute their best ideas is what the Challenge is all about” said Julie Anne Reda, Director of Product.

To focus efforts, an internal challenge needs a theme. Ours was the health plan market. More specifically, we sought ways to better engage members, drive increased cost awareness, support seamless integration and increase personalization – items of importance to clients and health care consumers.

It was our first Challenge and launched during a very busy time. Given that and an employee base of around 200 people, we felt 20 ideas was achievable. It took a bit of cajoling but the ideas began to pour in. At the end of the submission stage, we had 71 ideas from 47 people – nearly 25% of our team! While many were from Product Managers as you may expect, the rest came from all across the organization – from client services to marketing and everyone in between. The ideas were diverse but all of us here are also health care consumers so ideas were those the submitter knew would help people make more informed health care choices.

Next up was company-wide voting with the winner decided by just one vote. The three ideas with the most votes automatically moved along to the pitch stage. The rest were evaluated and scored by a committee which narrowed down the field to another three.

Fast forward to pitch day. After much preparation, our six finalists made their case for why their idea should be “green lighted”. It’s not easy to get up in front of the company and a panel of judges but everyone did great. Business cases were made and tough questions were answered. After deliberation, three are moving forward to the next steps including market testing. The ideas that were selected are focused on ways to make information easier to find and that more information more relevant to drive increased engagement and health care savings.

The Green Light Challenge will improve our products which is a very tangible business benefit. However, building community, fostering cross-functional collaboration and giving people an opportunity to flex muscles they may not even know they had are equally important to employee engagement and culture. Here’s the next Challenge!

Interested in running your own innovation challenge? Here is good, quick read.