Make the most of your ideas - benefits of idea management
Updated: Sep 16, 2021
Nowadays competition in almost every market is very hard and will probably get even harder in the future. Companies are constantly under pressure to gain and sustain a competitive advantage. One of the best ways to remain competitive, is to drive innovation within the company. Innovation can help in many ways e.g. to increase productivity, improve cost structures or develop new popular products and services. Staying innovative over a long period of time, however, requires a steady stream of new and good ideas.
Creating real innovations that will ultimately contribute to the company's success involves much more than just constantly generating large quantities of new ideas. As companies are often bound to a fixed budget and limited resources, only a small percentage of ideas will be implemented in the end. Proper prioritization is therefore extremely important to ensure that the few ideas that make it to the implementation phase turn into something useful.
Classic Idea management supports companies in systemically managing the entire ideation process: collection of ideas, refining them as well as awarding a final rating. Decision-makers are thus provided with a basis that helps them to focus on the most promising ideas that are also in line with the strategic direction and the defined goals of the company.
As with any other business field in an organization, idea management requires a clear strategy too. In practice, the following areas should be taken into consideration when developing a comprehensive idea management strategy:
creating an innovation-friendly business culture that values employee contributions like feedback, suggestions and ideas
developing a clear process to generate, develop, evaluate and prioritize ideas
providing an appropriate system to collect and access ideas easily and intuitively
Innovation-friendly Business Culture
Staff engagement is an important part of idea management to gain valuable insights from employees, that otherwise might be lost in their daily routine. Decision-makers and managers are usually not familiar with every last detail of a business unit or every operational process to be able to immediately identify where improvement would be appropriate. Accordingly, incorporating different employee perspectives can help generate more comprehensive insights of various business processes.
Whether it's a customer meeting, supplier negotiations, trade fairs or the results of a competitor analysis - ideas can originate from many different internal but also external sources. Each employee and department operates in different areas of expertise and thus has access to different potential sources of ideas that should be exploited.
In addition, employees work best when they are involved in decision-making processes and their voices are heard. Engagement and job satisfaction increase when collaboration is encouraged and employees know that their thoughts and ideas are considered and valued. A motivated team, in turn, leads to increased productivity and a greater willingness to contribute to the company.
Idea Management Process
The more people participate in the ideation process, the greater the volume of available ideas. A clear and well thought-out approach is crucial to handle the large amount of incoming ideas. Most idea management processes usually have the following steps in common: ideas are generated and collected, they are being discussed, refined and then somehow evaluated. Based on the findings of the process, a decision is ultimately made as to which ideas should be pursued further and which ideas should better be rejected.
In order to integrate successful idea management into the daily work of the workforce, organizations should be clear about the following points and align the process accordingly:
Objectives and goals: Set strategic priorities and decide what kind of ideas should be collected (e.g. incremental or disruptive)
Create a sustainable idea management strategy by combining bottom-up and top-down ideation
Encourage teamwork by providing a space where employees can discuss and work together on ideas
Assign specific roles that are responsible for different areas of the ideation process and thus can monitor and control the process
Define which criteria (KPI) to use for the idea assessment like e.g. time, costs, financial impact, risks, aligned with strategic direction etc.
Implement a reward system to value the people who contributed to a successful idea
Take time to assess the idea management process after a few cycles have been completed
Learn from the completed idea management process cycles and adjust the process if necessary
Communicate results like success, failures and lessons learned to the entire team
Further, there are different ways to steer and control the ideation process. Depending on the objectives and overall strategy, a company should think about which form to implement or whether to combine different approaches:
Idea challenges or limited-time campaigns are a great way to initiate idea management. Companies can introduce a theme that is highly relevant and encourage employees to submit topic-related ideas and thus drive results quickly.
Continuous idea management processes, on the contrary, describes the ongoing work of the company to generate new ideas in order to achieve strategic goals like e.g. improvement of customer satisfaction, tapping into new business opportunities or integrate cutting-edge technologies.
Most small and medium-sized companies are using a centralized idea management approach, meaning that the ideation process spans the whole organization and everyone has access to ideas as well as information on how they will affect the company. Some larger companies might favor a decentralized idea management approach where different business units get to manage their own ideas.
Idea management software
Another key element of successful idea management is the implementation of an appropriate tool or software that is easy to use and able to map processes according to the company’s individual requirements.
An idea management software helps to collect all ideas and store them in a centralized data base (SSOT). All employees know where they can take a new idea, see the status of a submitted idea or check whether a similar idea has already been handed in. Redundancies and duplication of effort, e.g. when similar ideas are evaluated twice, can thus be avoided.
A decent idea management tool further should guarantee immediate and easy access for everyone. Ideas can emerge at any time: It is critical to keep delays between the idea generation and their capture as short as possible. The possibility to access ideas, follow discussions and the evaluations at any time also creates transparency throughout the entire process for everyone.
Through a well though-out and standardized work flow even a large quantity of ideas can be handled and managed efficiently e.g. by providing different categorizations, tagging and other ways to classify ideas. In addition most tools offer the possibility to assign different roles, user groups and responsibilities with specific access rights. The workflow can be further refined by assigning different tasks packages to specific users.
By having a dedicated tool solemnly for ideation in place, a company can show that they are open for improvement and innovation. By giving everyone access to the tool, employees are encouraged to be creative and are shown that their input is valued and wanted.
With the right corporate culture, a well-designed process and a suitable tool, companies can get more out of their ideas!