More return from innovative ideas from innovation contests: Why innovative ideas from innovation contests do not get realized

Durenkamp, Paul (2011) More return from innovative ideas from innovation contests: Why innovative ideas from innovation contests do not get realized.

Abstract:Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) has organized different kinds of innovation contests in the past decennia. Hundreds of ideas came up, but unfortunately a small share was actually realized. By analysing twenty-seven innovation contests and performing five case studies, this research gives answers to the question why the innovative ideas did not get exploited. One of the results of this research is the categorization of three types of innovation contests: Idea, design and problem contests. Idea contests focus on generating fresh and ‘crazy’ ideas and do not have the propagated intention to actual realize the ideas. These contests have a broad focus group and the prize money is relatively low. Design contests focus more on the architecture and design, but have propagated intention to be realized. These contests have a narrowed focus group (architects, artists and designers) and the prize money is also relatively low; publicity is especially important in this sector. The problem contests focus on innovative solutions for a certain concrete problem and do also have the propagated intention to find a way towards application. The focus group is also narrowed, but the prize money is much higher compared to the other two types. Idea and design contests do not seem to be the right method to realize innovations, but problem contests have more potential. However, the premeditation of the idea contests is not to realize innovations. Design and problem contest do have this intention. What is the reason why these two types, despite these intentions, do not succeed in realizing the innovative ideas from the innovation contest? The first answer to this question can be attributed to the dominant role of the contextual factors in the process during and after the innovation contest. The innovation contests consist of two or three selection rounds where the selected ideas are further developed ‘on paper’. When the contest is over, the winners are awarded with a prize and publicity. After the contest, the (winning) ideas start to falter soon after. Three problems can be identified that cause the standstill of the innovation process: The main problem is the interests of other governmental organizations and divisions conflicted . Other governmental organizations or divisions are required to develop the winning ideas further after the innovation contest. These organizations often have different interest than realization of innovation. The second problem is the lack of development resources. None of the involved parties are prepared to invest in the innovative ideas, because there are no guarantees that the main buyer, often RWS, will buy the innovations. The third problem is legislation. Strict legislation may retain innovative ideas from realization and makes it difficult for governmental organizations to stimulate the development. This research puts the innovation contest in an organization context and competences that are necessary to successfully realize its innovations, which results in the second answer: Many different organizations are involved in a project in the construction sector, and in an innovation contest as well. Small companies and R&D divisions are specialized in generating innovative ideas, where research institutes, universities and consultancies help to develop and prove these ideas. Eventually, experienced contractors and manufacturers realize and commercialize these innovations. However, the owner and/or initiator (RWS) plays the binding factor in the stimulation of innovation and have a network function. RWS lacks the capability to arrange their network function concerning the stimulation of innovation and to ‘guide’ the innovation process. RWS did not arrange a decent planning, organization, control and staffing after the contest, RWS struggled with the coordination with other projects and programs and was not very generous with the exchange of (financial) resources and information. The specific knowledge and people needed to perform in such a position were not always at the right place and the right time. This can be explained by the lack of guidelines to set up an innovation contests, information and coordination systems. This makes it difficult for managers to set up a decent innovation contest. These findings result in the question why these problems (dispersed government roles, lack of development funds and legislation) are experienced after the contest, and are not overcome before an innovation contest is set up by RWS. First of all, it can be the lack of network competence discussed in the previous paragraph, but it can also be a more conscious decision. Two other clarifications can be attributed to this question: An extra development process is required to overcome these problems. This process does not fit within the policy of RWS to leave as much as possible to the market, this can include the follow-up of the innovation contest and. Besides, it requires more money, specific expertise, coordination and time to arrange such a process. The second clarification is that RWS uses the innovation contests for publicity purposes. This interest is fulfilled when the contest is finished; the innovative ideas are generated and promoted towards the users and the market, and RWS has shown that they are working on innovations. Thus there is no real need to arrange a follow-up process. The main recommendations to make innovation contest more successful regarding the realization of innovative ideas and to allow the contests to be more remunerative for participants are: Embed a follow-up process in the innovation contest to overcome the problems that occur right after the contest; categorize the innovation contests to provide more openness and clarity ; set up guideline for each category to organize a contest to support potential organizers of innovation contests; and invest in the so-called ‘network competence’, by setting up a central knowledge and coordination system, training and special development fund. This research puts the innovation contest in a broader process context. Creative ideas are not innovations; they need to be developed further. For that reason the innovation contest is placed in perspective of the whole innovation process to better understand the difficulties in this process and how this related to the innovation contest. The link between the innovation contest and the innovation process has not been made in the scientific literature, or in practice. In case the initiator does not have the right competences to guide the process and to bind the different parties, the chance that innovative ideas will be realized is minimal.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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