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What is Idea Management?
Idea management is the structured process of collecting, screening, developing, and implementing ideas that can help your organization to be more innovative and efficient. Once you want to launch your own idea management program, then there are plenty of factors to consider and decisions to be made. Sound stressful? Well don’t worry, in this page we’ll guide you through the full process and beyond.
What are the Benefits?
Sustainable Business Growth
Naturally, innovative ideas can have a direct impact on your bottom-line revenue. Ground-breaking disruptive innovations can help to carve out a new place in the market, and incremental innovations can help to refine what you already have. Both can continuously deliver substantial, scalable ROI for your program.
Employee Engagement & Innovation Culture
Including employees in the innovation process captures ideas from across the whole business while boosting satisfaction and engagement. Crowdsourcing at scale can help to nurture a culture of collaboration and innovation, leveraging every brain in your organization to overcome hierarchal, geographical, and language barriers.
New Product and Service Development
Whether you want to discover ideas for new products altogether, or simply seek feedback at scale for improving an existing product, idea management offers an effective way to help you align your new products and services with the requirements of your customers and market.
Have you got a complicated business issue or dilemma that you can’t seem to overcome? The chances are someone else already has the answer. With idea management you can crowdsource real-life solutions to even the most complex challenges.
Like they say, ‘prevention is better than cure’, and it’s the same when it comes to idea management. Gathering and collaborating around insights from your employees or customers can be a very effective way to assess risks and discover potential problems before they have a chance to cause harm.
What are the Challenges?
Overcoming bureaucratic barriers that prevent organizations from implementing a transparent, bottom-up innovation process
It can be tough to motivate & incentivize a large audience to participate in your process over time, especially since it’s not defined as a mandatory task
When teams are distributed globally, they struggle to collaborate, and valuable ideas get trapped
Too Many Ideas
Manually gathering, evaluating, and implementing thousands of ideas is very time consuming
The process of bringing an idea to life can be long and complicated
How to Build an Idea Management Program?
Let’s take a look at the most important aspects to consider when launching an idea management program.
First of all, you’ll need to decide what you want to achieve with your idea management program. If you already have a critical topic or challenge that you need to address, then perfect! But if you’re not sure where to start, that’s fine too. You can always begin by asking your audience what’s important for them. Either way, it’s fundamental to have something clear to aim towards from the very beginning.
One of the biggest benefits of idea management is that it unites your audience behind the effort to be more innovative on a daily basis. If this is your objective then you should take time to understand the needs and paint points of your users, and give them an opportunity to help define the direction of the initiative from the bottom-up. Regardless of the audience you choose, you are showing them that they have a voice, and that their voice is being listened to.
Sometimes it’s good to start small. Incremental innovation involves focusing on opportunities for improvement, rather than invention. The idea is to optimize your existing products, services, and processes to generate marginal gains that accumulate into big wins over time. It might be a small but significant improvement to your user experience, or an upgrade to a product’s design. These kinds of innovations are often quick wins that can be implemented with minimal resources and give you a foundation on which to build towards more disruptive achievements.
This is the exciting part. The aim of disruptive innovation is ultimately to revolutionize your offering and disrupt the market – just like Apple did with the iPhone. Innovations like this are far less common and more challenging to deliver, but the impact they offer can be exponential. If this is your objective then it can help to begin by researching the market to identify trends and technologies that have high potential, and then running idea challenges to explore ways that they can be adopted and implemented.
Once you’ve decided on the objective, you need to consider who are the most relevant people to contribute towards the process, and at which point. For example, if you have a challenge that involves a disruptive new technology, you might want to involve only very specific stakeholders in the process. Whereas if you have a light-hearted and fun topic, you will want to involve as many people as possible.
Your employees are the most obvious audience to involve in any idea management project. They know your product and offering better than anyone else, and they have an intricate understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Most of the time, employees already have plenty of ideas that they are desperate to share, you just need to give them an effective process to do so.
Opening up your idea management process to external audiences can seem intimidating, but the potential rewards often outweigh the risks. Co-creating new products and services directly with external stakeholders allows you to ensure that your new offerings are directly aligned with customer needs, while also increasing customer loyalty and enhancing your brand identity.
While the ‘wisdom of crowds’ is a powerful thing, a crowd of experts can be even better. Inviting targeted expert communities to participate in your idea management process will usually bring extremely high–quality ideas and solutions. This kind of audience will often need an incentive to participate, but if successful, then the ‘return’ can be much higher than the ‘investment’.
It’s important to not only consider the core audience for your process, but also the team that you build to help you scale your idea management program. While most initiatives are usually owned by a single senior decision maker, this can sometimes limit the scale and scope of the initiative. Through a decentralized approach, responsibility can be distributed across the company to create a network of innovators and maximize the impact you deliver.
Naturally, everyone wants to see quick results, but this is not always realistic. If you want to build an idea management program that consistently delivers results over time, then you need to build it in a sustainable way. Different time frames might be suitable for different idea challenges, and it’s important to find the right balance between short term quick wins and longer-term strategic objectives.
This is a strategic framework which helps businesses to explore future opportunities for growth without dropping the ball on present performance. In horizon one you explore your existing innovation capabilities and search for quick wins. In horizon two you look at emerging opportunities that can bring value with more investment. In horizon three, you are planting seeds for innovations that can take a long time to mature, with a significantly higher ROI. When it comes to idea management, this principle can help you choose which topics you prioritize to build a balanced innovation portfolio.
A time-sensitive ‘challenge-based’ approach can be very effective at creating a sense of urgency to engage participants around time-sensitive challenges or opportunities. However, you can’t overwhelm your audience with too many challenges at once, so you need to prioritize your needs and pace yourself accordingly.
Innovation can be difficult to predict, so it’s critical to open the door to ideas that don’t fit within a specific challenge, topic, or timeline. To achieve this, you just need a clear process for your audience to share general suggestions and solutions on an ongoing basis. Sometimes called ‘ad-hoc’ or ‘random idea’ challenges, this approach can result in incremental innovations that accumulate over time into substantial results.
You might assume that everyone wants to be involved with innovation, and in theory you’d be correct. But in reality, it’s sometimes not so easy to find people who are willing to put in the work to make it happen. Fortunately, there are a few well-established ways you can engage users to ensure they are participating in a meaningful way.
A lot of the time, the best way to engage your audience is to simply recognize those who contribute successfully. There are many ways of doing this, including thank you emails, newsletter shoutouts, using various system communication widgets, innovation events and face-to-face meetings, for those who come up with ideas or make a valuable contribution. The most successful companies often maintain a transparent process where participants act as partners in bringing the idea to life.
Like they say, ‘money talks’. If you want to ensure you receive plenty of ideas then you should consider offering a cash reward to your participants. This can be a percentage of the profits delivered by their idea, or it can be a pre-determined amount. Either way, you will want to structure your reward scheme according to your specific challenge, audience, culture, and budget.
This incentive relies on the use of points and badges to make idea management contributions fun. The idea is to assign points to users in return for completing relevant actions like submitting ideas or commenting on the ideas of others. Virtual badges can be earned for an accumulation of points, and this can be combined with other rewards to increase engagement even further.
We all know that ideas can appear in the most unlikely of places. Ideation is a creative and unpredictable activity, so you need to create the right environment if you want it to succeed. To give your users the best possible chance of coming up with valuable ideas, it’s worth selecting a specific idea generation methodology for your project.
This is a technique that approaches a single problem from six perspectives and helps groups or individuals to think rigorously about a specific problem or challenge. You start by assigning certain roles to individuals within your team.
- The Blue Hat is in charge of Analysis, and oversees the process and explains everyone’s roles to them.
- The White Hat focuses on Facts: any information the group already knows or needs to find out
- The Green Hat’s domain is Creativity, specifically finding solutions to the problem at hand
- The Yellow Hat represents Positivity by exploring the benefits of any solution
- The Black Hat takes the opposing role of passing Judgment on the group’s ideas and highlighting any downsides
- The Red Hat is guided by its Feelings and shares its gut instincts about the group’s ideas
This approach results in a multi-dimensional analysis that can be a very effective foundation on which to build an ideation challenge. Any gaps in knowledge will be identified, and the benefits and downsides of potential solutions will be unpacked.
SCAMPER is an acronym for seven types of questions you can ask about a product, service or process to find new solutions.
- Could you Substitute an element for something else?
- Could you Combine X with Y?
- How could you Adapt it by adding new features?
- What if you Magnify an existing feature?
- Could you Put it to another use?
- Why not Eliminate this element?
- Can we Reverse or Rearrange that process?
Working through these questions can help you to tease out new ideas by methodically probing your products or processes and exploring ways that they could be improved. You may discover a whole new use case for your product, or simply improved your service by adjusting a process or touchpoint.
First Principles is a methodology that casts aside any assumptions you might have made about something until you are left with a set of essential truths. The term has been around for millennia since it was coined by Aristotle, but today First Principles is a useful approach to problem-solving popular in business.
You define your problem and then consider any and all assumptions you’ve made about it. It might be that you’ve become blinded by a product’s current use cases and have assumed that it can’t be used in another, totally different way.
Once you’ve defined all your assumptions, you start to make a list of the subject’s ‘unassailable truths’ or ‘first principles’. Then, you think about creating new solutions based on these truths, and not on your assumptions.
There are a few different ways to implement an idea management process, but they are not all equally effective. The most suitable option for your company will depend primarily on the scale and complexity of your efforts, but there are many other factors to consider before investing in a specific solution.
This represents the most traditional way of running an idea management process. Naturally it was most popular before the age of the internet, back when it was incredibly time-consuming to gather ideas at scale from a large audience. Having said this, many companies generated significant results with this approach and continue to use it today as a rudimentary form of idea management.
Another basic way for companies to gather ideas from employees is through mass email. Sometimes the CEO will send out a company-wide ‘call for ideas’ around a specific topic. Then it will be up to you to gather all of these ideas into a spreadsheet for manual evaluation and filtration. If you have a very small company with only 10-20 employees, this can be an effective option, but at a large organization it is effectively impossible.
In the age of the internet there are many tools that can facilitate a basic idea submission process. Some organizations attempt to tailor these tools to suit their needs, or even create a solution from scratch through custom development. While this can be an effective way of gathering ideas at scale, it’s unlikely to result in a system that is sufficiently dynamic, comprehensive, and efficient to support an idea management process at a large company. In addition, this solution is usually very expensive as it requires ongoing maintenance, and it’s virtually impossible to maintain and keep up to date with changing needs.
An innovation hackathon is a powerful way to generate ideas by bringing out the competitive spirit of your internal or external stakeholders. By staging a contest within clearly established parameters and a set period of time, you can incentivize hackathon participants to solve problems and co-create submissions for new products, services, and process improvements. These submissions can then be judged and developed by a panel of experts – who will ultimately select which ideas are developed. This can be effective for a small audience or specific challenge, but not if you want to sustain an ongoing culture of companywide innovation.
This is a category of software that is tailored specifically to the challenge of implementing a companywide idea management process at a modern organization. These platforms vary in sophistication and price, but in general they offer a wealth of features to manage ideas at scale from submission through to implementation. If this sounds relevant for you, read on!
What is Idea Management Software?
Idea management software provides a collaborative workspace to support the process of gathering, screening, developing, evaluating, and implementing innovative ideas within a business. If you’re serious about enterprise idea management, you need an intelligent platform that can be tailored to your own unique requirements.
How does Idea Management Software work?
Fundamentally, an idea management system allows you to support a process that involves gathering a large quantity of ideas and filtering them to identify ones that can benefit your business. This is achieved through a stage-gate workflow that demands specific activities from specific audiences at each stage, to control which ideas progress further.
Below is a summary of the typical stages that are included in an idea management software workflow. However, it’s worth noting that not all tools can support every step of this process:
The Idea Management Process:
Submission: Gather Ideas from Your Audience
To begin with, you create a ‘call for ideas’ relating to a specific challenge or issue that your company is facing. Also known as an ‘idea campaign’ or ‘idea challenge’, this is how you ask your audience to submit their ideas or solutions.
Collaboration: Grow & Shape your Ideas Together
During the collaboration stage your users help to develop and filter ideas through commenting, voting, and liking functionalities. Collaboration helps to refine your ideas which makes them easier to filter and implement.
Evaluation: Discover Winning Ideas
Once the collaboration phase is over, ideas can then be assessed by review committees and passed to relevant subject-matter experts for further development. Advanced idea management platforms will provide several evaluation methods such as score cards, idea tournaments, and token voting.
Implementation: Bring Your Ideas to Life
Once you’ve selected your winning ideas, it’s time to bring them to life and manage their rollout across the company. Some platforms even allow you to create tasks and assign ownership to relevant team members to support implementation.
Don’t just talk about innovation, make sure it happens. Nurture a culture of collaboration to gather, manage, and implement impactful ideas that deliver ongoing value for your organization.
Benefits of Q-ideate
Innovation at Scale
Cultivate an innovator’s mindset amongst your audience and make sure everyone’s ideas are considered
Cultivate an innovator’s mindset amongst your audience and make sure everyone’s ideas are considered
Leverage the wisdom of crowds against your toughest challenges and biggest opportunities
Gather and prioritize a pipeline of innovative ideas for sustainable business growth
Don’t Just Take Our Word For It…
We’re seeing ROI in both savings and earnings, with ideas to improve processes, existing products and services, and even new businesses and markets.
The platform has a modern look and excellent features, but the main benefit for us was the SSO. I can automate whether an idea travels to the next stage of a campaign by defining the criteria we want it to meet, pre-select the review committee and get an expert review going easily, which saves me a lot time and manual effort.
The Qmarkets platform has helped us to generate over 15,000 ideas, with a forecasted value of over $9.5 million.
Idea Management Software
Keep it Simple:
Complex workflows can result in drawn out implementation timelines, and then need to be changed after a matter of weeks or months anyway based on actual usage of the system. It is possible to employ incredibly complex workflows and see fantastic results, but this usually develops gradually. We recommend that companies start small, get some quick wins from the system, and expand gradually.
Designate a Management Team:
Task management is crucial. Without a pre-defined project management hierarchy, projects tend to bounce around endless stages of approval and feedback. This risks schedules becoming unrealistic, and roles becoming unclear. With a clearly defined hierarchy and roles in place, your pipeline will operate efficiently and effectively.
Each unique user role we add to the process is an added step that can increase confusion. We always encourage you to decentralize the management of your system and spread the responsibility across campaign managers. But too many different roles can risk making your process convoluted and difficult to manage. It’s important to find the right balance between an unobstructed workflow and proper oversight.
Idea management software is becoming more intuitive and engaging all the time, but without an effective communication strategy its value will be limited.
Personalize Wherever Possible
Personalization is key because each user should feel like a valued member of the innovation community. Tailor content messages to individual users wherever possible, keep your content upbeat, break up long paragraphs of copy with imagery and other elements to make sure it is easily digestible.
Don’t Forget the Visuals
All messaging should be as visually striking as possible, to attract users and set your innovation project communications apart from the rest of your company’s internal emails. Try to align all visual elements with both your company’s branding and the aesthetics present on the platform.
Be Diverse and Creative
Your communication strategy should cast a wide net by using a variety of formats and channels…sending an email-blast won’t be enough. Make use of offline channels such as posters and workshops to ensure that all employees in your organization are aware of the new process. And don’t forget to celebrate its successes!
Automation is Your Friend
Quantity is just as important as quality when raising awareness of your innovation software. Automated, unique reminder messages can be used to notify users when they haven’t logged in for a while, and the same can be set up for those who still have items on their ‘to-do list’.
Measuring Innovation KPIs at key stages of the workflow will help you to take appropriate action and safeguard the overall success of the initiative.
This is the first and possibly the most important hurdle on your innovation journey: raising awareness for your initiative and ensuring your users are checking out the new system. You can start by measuring the open and click rates for your email communications, and eventually measure the percentage of users who actually log in to the platform.
Measuring your audience’s activity can be really valuable. Are your users engaging with the system once they’ve logged in? How many of your users have submitted an idea, or engaged with someone else’s? Be sure to make use of all the analytical tools available in the system.
Teamwork makes the dream work! How many comments and votes are your ideas receiving? There should be an average of at least 3 comments and 5 votes per user who has logged in. If your numbers are lower than this, then you might want to take steps to encourage users to engage with the ideas of others.
Every organization has different strategic objectives they want to achieve, but the most obvious is profit. It can be tough to calculate the value of an idea before it has been implemented but the intelligence of the crowd can be utilized to forecast it pretty accurately.
Once your idea management platform is deployed and configured, valuable ideas should start to arrive quickly. That said, many organizations don’t prepare properly for the challenge of transforming these ideas into results. A pre-configured implementation workflow is an invaluable tool to achieve this.
When ideas have been implemented and applied, it’s so much easier to measure their value. A year after initial deployment, you’ll be able to notice patterns of profits directly attributable to the ideas and your users. Tracking tools to monitor, examine, and share ROI figures will help you to do this.
Another important tool to use is innovation score cards. When running an idea management campaign, one of the most vital steps in the process is the expert evaluation stage. Ideas need to be properly evaluated by the right people to weed out those which are impractical or too costly and identify those which can generate a positive ROI.
The score card method defines the evaluation criteria and enables different weighting appropriate to each idea. Criteria could be something generic such as time-to-market, implementation effort, or risk, or they can be specific to the organization.
Now you have a good understanding of this topic, it’s time to learn about the other approaches within the innovation management ecosystem. Take a look.
Continuous improvement is exactly what it sounds like – the practice of continually improving and incrementally enhancing the performance of a company’s products, processes, or services.
Innovation & technology scouting allows companies to bypass these obstacles and deliver new products, services, and solutions that can dramatically enhance their value proposition.
Trend management refers to all the activities involved in scouting for and acting upon trends to fuel an organization’s innovation efforts.
Innovation portfolio management is a term that describes the maintenance and progression of an organization’s various innovation projects.