When it comes to sourcing ideas from across the organization, there\u2019s a number of well-proven techniques ranging from specific event-based ideation sessions and broader innovation contests, challenges and pitch days, to ongoing enterprise innovation processes, incubators and labs where ideas can be submitted and evaluated at any time.\n\nThe best approach is often a combination of these techniques so you have both ongoing and event-based mechanisms to source ideas for the innovation pipeline. In the past, I\u2019ve written frequently about event-based ideation sessions, or innovation workshops, which can be utilized to source ideas from a highly targeted group of subject matter experts.\n\nIn this article, we\u2019ll look at a broader mechanism to run an annual innovation contest across your organization and share best practices to make it a world-class event:\n\nGet executive sponsorship\n\nAs a chief information officer or chief innovation officer, your contest already has C-Suite sponsorship by way of your involvement. Even better is to involve your president and CEO. Their visible enthusiasm and support for the contest and their encouragement for participants is one of the best contributors to success.\n\nAlign the contest to your core values\n\nAlong with CEO sponsorship, another way to add gravitas to your contest is to align with your core values. This helps clarify the purpose of the contest and illustrate how it contributes to those values. For example, \u201cpassion for people\u201d aligns with and fosters a culture of innovation and collaboration. A core value of \u201cbe the change you seek\u201d aligns to the pace of innovation and employees acting as catalysts for innovation across their divisions. A core value of \u201ccommit to greatness\u201d aligns to the impact of innovation and looking for game-changing opportunities for growth and efficiency.\n\nCommunicate the process and timeline\n\nSelect a proven methodology (third-party or develop your own) and then communicate the process and timeline ahead of and throughout the contest. This may include posts on your corporate intranet, posters in local offices, and contest launch webinars open to all so you can address questions and share key focus areas, examples of the types of ideas of interest, contest timeline, rules and prizes.\n\nMake marketing a strategic partner\n\nWith the above communications activity, marketing should be your strategic partner throughout to develop world-class materials to support the contest. They\u2019ll also have a pulse on suitable contest themes drawing from corporate or pop culture and can coordinate logistics for pitch day presentations.\n\nInvolve your innovation evangelists as first-round judges\n\nTo get to a Top 10 list of finalists for pitch day, draw on your innovation evangelists across your divisions to perform a first round of voting. This has the dual benefit of providing you with trusted and knowledgeable resources, as well as further building their involvement and relationship with the innovation program.\n\nCoach your finalists ahead of pitch day\n\nOnce you\u2019re determined the Top 10 list of finalists for pitch day, be sure to coach them ahead of the main event. Whether pitch day is in-person, virtual or hybrid, they\u2019ll need to know the format for their presentations, the precise timing in terms of their pitch and questions from the judges, and their transition time to be brought into the session. Be sure to include biographies of whom they\u2019ll present to as well as the judging criteria for their ideas.\n\nInvolve your senior leadership team for pitch day\n\nSince ideas may come from all parts of the business, a powerful approach is to include your senior leadership team, comprised of heads of divisions and heads of internal departments like sales, marketing, HR, and finance. This has the added benefit of helping connect these leaders with rising stars from across the organization.\n\nRun a people\u2019s choice award to involve the whole organization\n\nA People\u2019s Choice Award allows employees to vote for their own favorites from among the contest finalists, and helps to make all ideas visible to the entire company. For example, video recordings of each finalist\u2019s pitch can be shared on the company intranet as part of the People\u2019s Choice Awards so they can be viewed prior to voting. This further socializes ideas across the organization and involves everyone in the contest.\n\nCelebrate all participants\n\nIt\u2019s important to celebrate not just the overall winner of the contest, but the Top 10, the Honorable Mentions, as well as winners in other categories such as a category for \u201cexisting innovations,\u201d which have already been implemented. Be sure to thank all involved including the senior leadership team, the first-round judges, the marketing team, and all contestants.\n\nExplore how to implement all ideas\n\nJust as executive sponsorship is one of the best contributors to success early on, its counterpart at the end of the contest and thereafter is to explore how to implement all ideas. Execution is critical and it\u2019s important to follow through and explore with each contestant how to progress their ideas where it makes sense. Some may not be feasible, but it\u2019s important to explore. \n\nOf course, there are many ways to organize and execute any innovation contest, so the approach above is just one example. The most important aspect to make your contest a world-class event is involvement and making it a team sport that belongs to the entire organization so it becomes an intrinsic part of your culture and core values \u2013 even a shining example everyone points to.