Many large, mature organizations struggle to take full advantage of all the capabilities within their ranks. In particular, it isn’t always obvious how to elicit and act on ideas that associates might have which are outside their direct activities. Ameritas, a mutual insurance and financial services organization with over 125 years of history, had been experiencing this exact struggle and had been pursuing several initiatives to transform their internal culture, to provoke disruptive growth in their business, and to enable development of new financial products. The Ameritas Innovation Challenge was an internal challenge, open only to employees and was focused on tapping into their employees’ knowledge for new business growth ideas.
Ameritas used HeroX’s online tools, expert advice, and tutorials to design a 3 round challenge, hosted on the HeroX platform, in which only Ameritas associates could participate. In the first round, participants submitted a short 3-5 sentence description of their idea. Ameritas’ internal judging panel advanced the most interesting of those ideas to the next round, where participants expanded their initial ideas into 2-4 page executive summaries. The finalists, selected from those executive summaries, were given assistance to create a business case and pitch deck that was presented to their Innovation Board. This design offered several advantages that helped make the effort a success. Having a very easy submission requirement for the first round created an initial low barrier to entry, which promoted higher participation rates. Having advancing participants continue to build out their ideas ensured that finalists presented thoughtful and actionable plans. This in turn meant that any winning ideas could be easily implemented, allowing for the best possible follow through.
At the end of the challenge, Ameritas awarded one grand prize winner $5000 and 4 runners up $1000 each. However, Ameritas gained much more than just the 5 winning ideas. The challenge changed the internal culture and raised engagement levels. Additionally, this challenge allowed the company to learn first-hand how crowdsourcing works, while simultaneously changing their internal culture to become more innovative. Their experience was so successful, they are discussing several other possible topics for future challenges, both internal and external. Their next steps forward are to develop some experiments to prove out the winning ideas and to provide funding and resources to support the work.
Grand Prize Winner: