Is An Innovation Contest What Your IT Team Needs Now?

It doesn't really matter who wins, it's just that everyone gets involved!
It doesn’t really matter who wins, it’s just that everyone gets involved!
Image Credit: Brett

How’s everything going for your team right now? I suspect that like most IT managers you’d say that everything is going “ok”. Yeah, yeah, things could be better, but they are not too bad. You and I both know that that’s an acceptable state to be in; however, you could be doing better. What you really want is for your team to be working together with a great deal of both energy and enthusiasm. What you need is a contest!

Why Contests Matter To Your Team

Contests are not easy. When you are able to use your IT manager skills to find a contest that you think that your team could compete in, you are going to have to have a discussion with your team. The heart of this discussion should be the difficulty level of the contest. Does the team think that they might have a shot at winning the contest? Expect the range of opinions on your team to vary from member to member.

One of the most powerful parts of participating in a contest is that they generally have very tight deadlines. Things that if left up to your team to complete on their normal schedule could end up taking months if not years generally have to get done in a very narrow window as a part of a contest. 90 days seems to be the norm. You are going to need to use this tight schedule to set time lines and deliverables that will allow the team to quickly get something out the door.

What’s going to be the most important to your team is your level of motivation. If you are highly motivated, then very quickly this will start to drift down into your team. What you are going to want to use your IT manager training in order to see is that everyone’s moral is running high. It’s going to have to. In order to successfully compete in the contest, the members of your team are going to have to get up early, stay late, and even work on weekends. However, this is going to be easy to do if the members of your team are motivated and really want to be involved.

How To Use Contests To Make Your Team Better

Just entering the contest can have the effect of bringing your team together. This is good news. However, what you really want to do is to win the contest! No, you won’t always win but there will be times that you do. When this happens one of the decisions that you’ll have to make is what to do with the prize money. Your company may have rules regarding this; however, as an IT manager you want to make sure that at least some of it gets spent on your team. A very nice party is a great way to celebrate everyone’s involvement and efforts.

Your team’s participating in the contest means that you’ll have publicity. You’ll need to come up with a plan to make the most of that publicity once the contest wraps up. If you are the winner, then it should be easy to get interviews with the various news outlets. However, you’ll need to make some decisions about what you’ll be talking about. You need to discuss the contest, your team, what they did, and what this means. You’ll not want to leave anything out.

No, your team won’t win every contest that you may enter. What this means for you as an IT manager that you need to have a Plan B created. If the team doesn’t win, then there will be the expense of participating, the loss of moral, etc. You’ll need to take action to point out to the team what they were able to accomplish and the successes that they achieved. Make sure that they understand that they did a great job working together as a team and that you think that they they’ll probably win the NEXT contest that they enter!

What All Of This Means For You

What every IT manager wants is for their IT team to be working together like a high performance racing engine. However, what most of us have is a group of people who pretty much get along and who can get things done eventually. In order to motivate our team and ramp up their energy level, what we need to do is to accomplish some IT team building and get them involved in a contest!

There are a lot of different contests out there sponsored by everyone from private organizations like the X Prize Foundation and the government’s DARPA. Find a contest that requires the skills and talents that your team has. In a perfect world, what your team would be working on would relate to what your company does. This means that the work that they pour into the contest can be reused back at the office once the contest is over. Getting your team involved in a contest can help to create team spirit, speed product development, and just might generate some free publicity for everyone who is involved.

I wish that I could offer you a big bag of raises that you could distribute within your team. Or even better than that, how about fancy new titles for everyone? At most companies both of these types of motivational rewards are always in short supply. As an IT manager you are going to need to get creative as you search for ways to keep your team motivated and working at high energy levels. Finding a contest that they can enter can be a great way to bring the team together while both benefiting themselves and the company as a whole.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How long do you thing that a contest that your team enters should last in order to not be too distracting?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager, it is your job to motivate your team to accomplish great things! The big question that you have to answer is how to use your IT manager skills to get your team to work together. You have a lot of tools at your command: raises, promotions, bonuses, etc. However, what all of our IT manager training has been designed to teach us is what works best. What’s the answer to this question?