In a business environment defined by rapidly accelerating change, the speed of harvesting and implementing ideas for new products, services or business models will become the key to growth, differentiation and competitive advantage for your business.
To be clear, it is not the creation of new ideas that is the issue; it is the heavy lifting of the management of those ideas. The issue for most firms is the lack of recognizing and harnessing the good ideas already existing in various states and places throughout the organization. Without a dedicated process, most ideas go nowhere. Without purposely building an assembly line to efficiently identify and move best ideas through the firm to market, you cannot fuel your growth engine.
"Ideas are the easy part" - In most growth-oriented firms, innovation is not held back by a scarcity of new ideas. In reality, every company, regardless of size, has a wealth of ideas mulling around the individual thinking of the people in the organization. One of two things tends to happen though: 1.) A series of "good" ideas eventually trickle their way to the desk of the business owner or senior executive(s) to just sit there waiting for the time to more fully explore the idea or 2.) Leadership did a great job of defining "innovation," discussed the critical need for new ideas for their firm's growth and differentiation, motivated everyone to take part, but now, the floodgates have opened. Ideas are flowing - good ideas, crazy ideas, thought-provoking ideas, impossible ideas. You will start seeing groups forming as they cluster around particular ideas that excite them, begin getting requests for all kind of resources, and witness a lot of activity all going in different directions. All this good energy and activity can quickly start bubbling up and boiling over into chaos.
Herding and corralling ideas - While generating a lot of new ideas is a pre-requisite to innovation and an important first step for your firm in responding to rapid industry change, it is also important to remember that all ideas are not created equal. Firms serious about growth and innovation recognize this and create the time and the processes to actively solicit, gather, rank and manage the potential of those ideas. Ideally, an end-to-end idea management process should lead to a carefully chosen innovation portfolio of best new ideas that are methodically nurtured to fruition.
Software for ideas - A great tool to be aware of are specialized software programs specifically designed to address many of these idea management issues. Idea management systems, as they are called, help firms to routinely gather, share and evaluate new ideas throughout the organization with speed and flexibility. These are some of their benefits:
- Encourage ALL employees to capture and grow new ideas -Through the day-to-day rush of work, people rarely capture all their ideas and "eureka!" moments. These systems let everyone easily and quickly jot down the core of an idea, and then return to the system later to add more thinking and details to their thought. In addition, they allow employees from all over the company to comment on, add to, further improve, and learn from each other's ideas.
- Focus employees' creative efforts around specific organizational goals and objectives - Research by leading suppliers of idea management systems shows that when employees are asked to generate ideas or suggestions around a specific business problem or objective (idea campaigns), the quantity and quality of ideas tends to increase significantly. Also, it is recommended that you focus your innovation efforts to pre-determined areas where your firm wants to differentiate - innovate where you differentiate.
- Promote greater transparency and participation - Employees can see the acknowledgement and actions taken on all of the ideas they have submitted, which increases their enthusiasm for and participation in idea campaigns. Also, these database-driven tools make it easier to track and measure how much each implemented idea has contributed to the firm's bottom line and be able to reward all employees who have contributed to winning ideas.
- Quickly share successful new ideas and best practices - By vastly simplifying the transfer of valuable ideas and new best practices across geographic and organizational silos, firms can multiply the bottom-line benefit of a single idea many times over.
- Increase a company's speed to market - Idea management systems help companies to capitalize on their best ideas faster. They do so by providing a structured process and checks and balances for promptly evaluating ideas and moving along the best ideas to implementation.
- Direct and quantify innovation efforts into an ROI - By providing a systematized process that targets, isolates and develops best ideas, it makes it easier to determine a bottom-line "return on ideas" that the firm's new innovation process provides.
There are a wide range of idea management systems out there offering varying levels of robustness and pricing. This link provides a quick review of many options available. You can definitely find a system that is a best match for your goals and budget.
Deliberately and consistently converting new ideas into real-world innovations enable firms to compete on a new, more dynamic level. The end result will be gaining the skill and capacity to kick-start "new ideas" and an ongoing, innovation assembly line to be able to delight customers and grow new revenue streams.
The Institute for Innovation Development is an educational and business innovation catalyst for growth-oriented financial services firms and industry executives. We position our members with the necessary ongoing innovation resources and coaching to drive and facilitate their growth, differentiation and unique community engagement strategies.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.