Anatomy of an innovation challenge brief

Mar 19 · 2 min read
“How might we…” challenge in the Outrigger category at the InnoDays Hawaii 2018

Every company needs to innovate. But how do you search for innovation? Framing innovation challenges can be hard. The way you frame challenges has an impact on the type of solutions you will generate. An effective innovation challenge increases the chances of success whether the objective is to involve internal or external innovators or both. The following elements should be covered by an effective challenge brief:

  • Company Overview: A company overview provides information to external talent who is considering taking on the challenge. This may include the location of company headquarters, industry, and size. Moreover, the mission and values of the company should be clearly stated, in order to attract innovators that share the same beliefs.
  • Problem statement: The problem statement needs to place emphasis on the changes that are driving the need for innovation. Typically, the problem statement includes an overview of the industry trends that are shaping the future of the company. An effective problem statement has to convey a sense of urgency and, if possible, generate an emphatic reaction.
  • Challenge question: Challenge questions are concise statements that summarize the expectations of the company partners. “How might we…” is a typical way to get started writing one. A good challenge question strikes a balance between pointing to the company’s interests and allowing space for creative solutions. Questions have to be motivating, inspiring, and appealing. They are specific enough to the company and to the target area, at the same time providing an open solution space for creative ideas. Too narrow questions might constrain the teams, whereas too broad questions might lead them off-topic.
  • Call to action: The problem statement and challenge question have to be translated into a call to action. Call to actions are invites from the company partners to solve their challenges. A compelling call to action has to be brief, yet powerful. Readers have to be motivated and inspired to take action.
  • Collaboration incentive: Collaboration incentives motivate the best teams to continue working on their projects. This incentive should on one side help company partners to follow-up with the best ideas and discuss whether and how to move forward. On the other side, it needs to be interesting for innovators and encourage them to take the next step to make the idea happen. Sample incentives are paid internships, customer development trips, company workshops or paid pilot projects.

The challenge brief has to be accessible to a broad audience, therefore specialist and technical jargon need to be avoided. It is advisable to complement a written challenge brief with a video.


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InnoInsights aims to be a source of inspiration and guidance for how organizations can collaborate with external innovators.

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