Idea Management for Competitive Advantage

The rapid rise of new technologies and market disruption on the corporate landscape means idea management is more crucial today than ever before. To remain competitive – and capture groundbreaking insights – companies must give employees an engaging, streamlined, and collaborative means to contribute their ideas.

Learning from the Best

To get the most out of your innovation endeavors, it’s important to have a firm understanding of the methodologies your implementing, how they developed over time, and what problems they are best suited for solving. To this end, we’ve created dedicated methodology pages to equip you with the contextual knowledge you’ll need to take your innovation initiative to a whole new level.  

 

Defining Idea Management

Idea management is the process of finding, developing, and implementing the ideas that can deliver value for an enterprise. It involves setting clear parameters for idea submissions, identifying the target audiences best positioned to contribute ideas (employees, customers, experts, etc), and facilitating communication between stakeholders and idea managers.

The History of Idea Management

The sophisticated and multifaceted practice that is idea management has its antecedents in the humble ‘suggestion box’. Though the origins of this method are not clear, the technique can be traced back to the 1770s in Britain, when the Royal Navy introduced a suggestion box to enable sailors to submit often controversial suggestions – without fearing reprisals from their superior officers. It is also believed that the shogun of Japan implemented a similar system during the 18th century also, placing a box outside his palace to encourage honest suggestions from the military. Centuries later, this simple methodology would go on to inform the basic structure of the online idea management tool. 

Centuries later, another major development in the refinement of idea management also emerged in Japan – occurring shortly after the Second World War. During this time, American manufacturing experts and industrialists from a variety of sectors were tasked with assisting the Japanese with their rebuilding efforts. Their quality management strategies were adopted and combined with the adaptive, tenacious, and waste-reducing qualities of local businesses to produce the ‘Kaizen’ system – (from the Sino-Japanese word meaning “change for the better”). 

This system was perhaps best epitomized within the Toyota corporation by the revolutionary idea management initiatives of Shoichi Saito – one of Toyota’s most prolific project leaders, and chairman during the 1970s. Deriving inspiration from companies like Ford, Saito focused heavily on boosting the quantity of employee suggestions, rather than just the quality – with the aim of eliminating the fear previously held by employees that they would be criticized if their ideas weren’t adopted. Saito also mandated that senior leaders throughout the company should be actively involved in encouraging ideation, setting up idea assessment committees, and implementing rigorous processes for testing employee suggestions.

During the 1990s, the meteoric rise of the internet enabled the ‘kaizen’ method of idea management to take place on a much larger scale. The advent of email meant that ideas could be sent anonymously with unprecedented speed. In addition, new productivity software and databases such as ODBC, Microsoft Excel, Lotus, and Access meant that ideas could be efficiently compiled and modified. The internet revolution also meant that the in-house brainstorming session – a traditional ideation strategy popular in the 1970s and 80s- became increasingly redundant. This was largely because employees who had felt intimidated by the prospect of voicing ideas within these meetings now had an outlet to express their suggestions more freely online. In short, the internet quickly became an integral prerequisite for any company looking to facilitate large-scale idea management.

In the early 2000’s, the increasingly disruptive nature of the digital corporate landscape meant that innovation took on a whole new dimension of importance. Companies began searching for more sophisticated collective intelligence solutions to crowdsource and refine ideas submitted by employees, as well as their market audience. This demand led to the development of more sophisticated online idea management tool designs – enabling managers to set the focus for idea campaigns, open them up for submissions, and allow participants within those campaigns to comment and upvote ideas submitted by peers. 

Today, with new opportunities opened up by machine learning and social media integration, the practice of idea management has never held so much promise. Developments in ideation gamification – that is, adding competitive dimensions to submitting and voting on ideas – means that engaging and incentivising employees to innovate has also become far more achievable. It is precisely these exciting new developments that leading idea management software providers – Qmarkets being a leader among them – are committed to offering to enterprise clients. 

With the Qmarkets platform, you can ensure
groundbreaking business ideas are captured,
developed, and implemented for maximum effect!

Idea Management Pioneers

  • Shoichi Saito – the Toyota employee, whose revolutionary suggestion methodology developed in the 1960s helped lay the foundations for the ‘Kaizen’ system used in thousands of offices today.
  • Ray Dalio – a billionaire investor and hedge-fund manager who refined the notion of ‘idea meritocracy’ – an evaluation approach that emphasizes that the best ideas should always be actualized, regardless of the person who developed them. 

  • Scott Belsky – the author of ‘Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality’, who has undertaken pioneering research on idea life cycles and implementation.
  • Alan G. Robinson – co-author of ‘Ideas Are Free’, a global study of 150 organizations in 17 countries exploring how ideas are gathered from employees to secure competitive advantage.

Methodologies & Approaches

There are a variety of effective ways enterprise companies can harness the power of idea management to drive growth through innovation. A sophisticated online idea management tool will be able to accommodate each of the following methodologies:

  • Kaizen: A Japanese term meaning “change for the better”, Kaizen is a continuous improvement strategy. It entails employees at all levels of a company combining their skills to bring about incremental improvements. Kaizen serves as an effective method for establishing a culture where ideation is encouraged and silos are broken down.
  • Competitive Ideation: An incentivization approach in which senior executives offer rewards for ideas that enable the company to achieve substantial ROI. These rewards could take the form of a gift, a cash prize, or even the chance to earn a percentage of the ROI the new idea achieves. In addition to employees, ideation competitions can be opened to startup companies looking for investment – potentially taking on a format similar to popular TV shows like ‘Shark Tank’ and ‘Dragons’ Den’.

  • Crowdsourcing: The crowdsourcing approach involves targeting select internal or external audiences for innovation projects, incentivising them to contribute ideas, and leveraging their input to achieve business objectives. Approaches for crowdsourcing idea projects can entail using questionnaires, promotions, or even competitions to encourage contributions. An online idea management tool is now indispensable when it comes to facilitating crowdsourcing effectively. 

  • Empathy Mapping: A key component of the design-thinking process, empathy mapping involves encouraging customers to submit their experiences relating to the company’s products or services. The key ‘pain or gain’ points expressed by customers and customer-facing staff can generate a map of where innovation efforts need to be focused, as well as inform the focus of ideation challenges.

Idea Management
and its Key Challenges

Fostering a culture of ideation, where participants can take an active part in innovation projects

Incentivizing users to increase participation in idea management campaigns

Filtering submissions to detect and augment ideas with the most potential

Implementing, monitoring, and measuring the ROI of new ideas submitted by your users

What The Experts Say...

"Senior executives almost unanimously (94%) say that people and corporate culture are the most important drivers of innovation."

“Organizations must actively mine and manage the collective wisdom and experiences in the firm’s ecosystem to thrive in an increasingly competitive market.”

"Nothing will propel a company further than a culture of innovation: An atmosphere that inspires employees, every hour they're at work, to seek out innovative opportunities."

"In many organizations, there is an explicit goal of innovating in a way that is culturally inclusive to engage employees as well as benefit from their collective brainpower."

Achieve Your Strategic Business Goals With Idea Management

We all know the statistics. 40% of Fortune 500 companies will be wiped out by disruption in the next decade alone. This means you can’t afford to ignore innovation, regardless of your location, revenue, or industry. But what if you’ve already invested heavily in innovation efforts and not seen an ROI? What if you’ve been given unrealistic targets and need to discover new ways to drive value?

Enter idea management. Tapping into the collective wisdom of your employees allows you to discover, develop, and implement ideas that can have a maximum impact on your bottom line. An engaging idea management tool also allows you to cultivate a growth-driving culture of innovation, which can then be harnessed to deliver an ROI against any business challenge or need. 

Employee Suggestion Box

Streamline idea management by implementing an online suggestion box, allowing employees to contribute concepts for new products, services, or process improvements.

Continuous Improvement

Generate ongoing accumulative benefit for your organization by embedding idea management into your company culture through a digital employee ecosystem.

Innovation Management

Discover new ides for disruptive innovation, market opportunities, and technologies, which can facilitate change management at your company.

IDEATE

Leading Global Enterprises Innovate with Qmarkets!

Your Q-360 Suite of Collective Intelligence Solutions

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Resounding Accolades

Discover why Qmarkets is consistently recognized by leading analysts as a multi-award winning solution.

Read Gartner’s 2016 Market Guide for Innovation Management Solutions

Read Forrester Wave™: Innovation Management Solutions, 2016

Read MWD Advisors' report on Qmarkets’ packaged approach to innovation, 2018

Read the Info-Tech vendor landscape “Innovation Management Solutions” report

Business Innovation Brief

Get Your Free Copy of the Fall 2019 G2 Idea Management Report!

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