A space for change makers.

How Hosting An Idea Contest Can Help Grow Your Business

What can you invent? Photo By: Steve Rainwater

Idea contests can help solve social problems in your community. It’s one of our favourite things about innovation! But running idea competitions can take a lot of resources. Your organisation has a finite amount of time and money to do all the things that go into keeping your team running. Why should you spend those valuable resources on an idea contest?

It turns out that even the process of an idea contest without an end product can be great for business. This is because:

  • Running an innovation competition can help people discover your products and services.
  • It allows people to engage with your organisation, and to get interested in your mission.
  • It helps you learn about your community. You can engage with people from a wide variety of groups to see how they respond to different products or programs that you offer.
  • By learning about what your customers needs are, you can create new products that will solve their problems. And you will already know that there is a market for it!
  • The creating of a successful programme can come from designing what your community tells you to design!

This is what we try to accomplish when we are helping our clients run idea contests.

One of my favourite examples of idea contests that also grow business is Quirky. Quirky runs ongoing product idea competitions where anyone can submit an idea for an invention. Once a week the Quirky community votes on the new products, and if your product is selected they help you see it through to completion! They have some powerful partners that help them run this program and get their inventors products on shelves. Both Quirky and the product inventor collect cash when the product is sold. This project is such a great example of how open innovation can help create new inventions that both solve challenges and create income.

Unilever is another inspiring example of using idea contests to solve social problems while also growing business. They run a series of idea contests throughout the year to help solve challenges in the categories of health, environment, and sustainable living. Unilever creates a huge range of products. By getting their community involved in idea competitions, they are exposing participants who may have only seen a small part of Unilever’s work before, to a whole different side of the organisation. It also allows participants to engage with Unilever. Many people don’t know that buying Unilever’s products also supports many of their social missions. A very cool example of how doing good can beat traditional marketing.

My last example of idea competitions helping a business grow is Pocket. Pocket began as an add-on in the Firefox browser. After winning an idea, contest has become a personalised part of the Firefox experience. Firefox users can now integrate Pocket with their other productivity apps to be more efficient. Firefox’s mission is to bring the web to more people, for free. Yet having a helpful tool like Pocket in their pockets (pun intended), has given them a competitive edge against other organisations.

When thinking about running an idea contest, you don’t need to have a huge prize and audience to benefit from hosting a challenge. Yes, having a community will help you to reach more people during the idea contest. But as you can see from the case studies, you don’t need to be a huge organisation offering a $60,000 cash prize. By teaming up with partner organisations, reaching out to your existing community, and finding a niche that helps people, an idea contest can both help your business grow while solving challenges in your community.

If you’d like to learn more about idea contests, head over to our dedicated page here.