Idea Management: Feeding the Innovation Machine

You must have heard it a million times, that innovation “is the lifeblood of a company” or it’s a “top 3 strategic priority”.  For me, like most people I expect, this is pretty much a given.  My rule of thumb is if I’m talking to someone who doesn’t see the importance of innovation I’m probably in the wrong discussion!

Over the years I’ve worked with many companies looking into the issues and challenges they face in managing their innovation processes.  Without fail, irrespective of the particular company’s level of innovation prowess, I have found:

  • A determination to improve the return from their innovation investment
  • The desire to learn from the world’s leading innovative companies
  • An increasing dependence on IT to deliver innovation process transformation

There is something of a “machine-like” quality to how the most innovative companies manage their innovation processes.  I use the “machine” analogy because of their seemingly incessant ability to repeatedly and consistently deliver the right innovations at the right time.  This not only applies to product development, but right across the enterprise including functions such as IT, Finance and HR looking to improve the accessibility and value of the services they deliver back to the business.

Sticking with the machine analogy, I’d like to focus on the “raw materials” of the innovation process – Ideas.  Increasingly I am getting involved with initiatives around improving idea generation and management processes.  For any company, especially those working in highly competitive markets, having the ability to capture more ideas, scope them effectively, and accurately identify the best new ideas to transition is crucial.

Recently I was asked during a deep-dive workshop, “What do you consider to be the important steps in improving the management of ideas?”  Good question I thought.  Below are a selection of the points I outlined:

  • Create a culture that encourages ideas:  You need people to submit ideas – fact, but people will only continue to submit ideas if they see value in participating i.e. it is seen as important to the business, the mechanism for capturing ideas is easy, and they are regularly updated on the progress of their ideas they have submitted.
  • Look externally, as well as internally for new ideas:  Increasingly organizations recognize that good ideas don’t just come from within.  Capturing the voice of your customers and leveraging partners’ expertise are key ways of improving your business.  Check out what the likes of Dell (http://www.ideastorm.com/) and Starbucks (http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/) are doing.
  • Link idea generation to business strategy:  Often the struggle is not so much with the number of ideas being captured in the idea funnel, but getting the right type of ideas submitted.  Idea generation activities and campaigns can be most productive if focused on target areas (e.g. business priorities, markets) in line with business strategy.
  • Portfolio management disciplines should be inherent to the process: Valuable time, money and resource effort is wasted if the wrong ideas are pursued.  Adopting a portfolio management approach can significantly improve idea screening by enabling the objective comparison of all ideas in the funnel, helping to ensure only the best ideas are progressed. 

For further information on how CA Technologies can help to optimize your innovation and idea management processes please visit:

http://www.ca.com/~/media/Files/ProductBriefs/Idea_Vision_PS_final.pdf and  http://www.ca.com/us/project-portfolio-management.aspx

Article source: CA PPM Blog

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