Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How To Choose An Idea Management System: Follow The 'Why-What-What-Which'

Which of the 44 Idea Management Software Systems would be best for your organization?

Someone contacted me recently to ask this question. She had produced a sensible list of requirements for an Idea Management System, but all of the software solutions in the list seemed to meet those requirements! It was difficult to evaluate and select a preferred option.

To implement the best Idea Management System for your organization's needs, I suggest a 4-step process that I call the 'Why-What-What-Which.'

1. Why?

First, begin by asking why your organisation is innovating. Consider the 4 drivers for innovation, and ask: exactly why is it your organisation seeks to innovate? Is it to improve revenue growth, to reduce costs and improve efficiencies, to improve competitive differentiation and positioning, or to remain relevant in a changing competitive landscape?

The more strongly you can answer the why question, the more strongly you will be able to engage internal resources in the change, and the more strongly you will be able to focus your selection process to meet your organization's real needs.

Take care to consider if the mandate for innovation is in response to a short term problem, or responding to a longer term structural shift in your market. Sometimes there might be a real difference between the two, and being clear about which it is can help the decision making process and assist in developing infrastructure that will continue to benefit the needs of your organization in the long term.

2. What? (what will it do?)

Once you are clear about the reasons you are innovating - and the reasons that an Idea Management System will help address these needs - then it is time to get specific about what will your Idea Management System do to help achieve those objectives?

One way you could explore this is to step in to the future ... if you could wave a magic wand and the perfect Idea Management System for your organization was already operating and producing ideal results, what would you see? What would it accomplish?

To get the most out of this exercise, get specific! For example -

  • What are the benefits - for example in terms of revenue from new products and services, in cost efficiencies, or in terms of other metrics? 
  • How many ideas are being put in to action each year or quarter or month? 
  • What kinds of new products or services or changes are being generated, and what is the commercial return on those ideas? 
  • Where do these new ideas come from - which parts of the organization, from which roles and responsibilities? Who is contributing, and how? 
  • What kind of ideas are they? 
  • How are people working together, what kind of activities are taking place to take place to generate and capture great ideas, evaluate them, and select and implement the best ones? 
  • How does everybody feel about the system, what kind of difference has it made? 
  • What new capabilities will you have? 
  • How is the system affecting different aspects of your business, for example your strategic planning, competitive positioning, and your brand?

Think about how the organization will be different as an result of implementing the ideal Idea Management System, and how this will address the mandate for innovation from stage 1.

3. What? (what has to happen?)

The next stage is to ask: what has to happen in order to achieve these objectives? What systems and processes and activities are needed? How will the Idea Management System achieve these results?

This stage is about exploring and defining the system, processes, roles and other aspects that are required to achieve the objectives.

For example, the best ideas may need to be financed and managed through to commercialization. It may be appropriate to start thinking about how your innovation project portfolio are going to be financed.

Similarly, which roles and responsibilities will be required in order to fulfil your innovation goals? Who needs to take responsibility and ownership for the system at the leadership level and at the management level in order to achieve the benefits? What role should subject matter experts play in developing or evaluating ideas?

It is also important at this stage to 'know thyself'. What are the specifics about your organization, such as your culture, processes, and capability strengths that define the context in which the Idea Management System will be implemented in? For example, is your organization highly process driven? Does your organization support a culture of creativity?

I suggest you do this before entering in to discussion with or engaging a software vendor, so that you explore this independently first without being influenced by a company biased towards a particular architecture, approach, or solution.

4. Which?

Finally, you are well positioned to begin to draw your list of requirements for an Idea Management Software solution - and to begin discussions with Idea Management Software vendors to test and extend your thinking as well as to ultimately select a software solution.

In thinking through your requirements, it may be useful to

  • become specific about technology and systems integration issues. If you have other software systems your Idea Management System will need to integrate with, articulate these requirements here. Some technologies may be more future proof than others, so it may be appropriate to be concerned about the technology platform the software solution is based on.
  • focus on the whole idea management lifecycle. What has to happen after ideas are generated and selected, and how do software solutions assist with that?
  • compare and contrast vendor Idea Management software solutions with alternatives, such as building a bespoke solution, or building Idea Management solutions into existing corporate infrastructure such as Sharepoint.

By clarifying why you need to implement an Idea Management System, what you expect it to do, and how it achieves those objectives (what systems and processes are needed) before you engage in a process to select which technology you use, you are positioned to make clearer and more effective decisions during your technology selection process.

Is this process useful for you? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Speaking Against Idea Management

In this video, the speaker engages with his topic - why Idea Management Systems don't work!

Essentially he argues that such a small proportion of ideas come through the other end of the ideas funnel, and if you're not careful too many good ideas get killed in the funnel.

It's a good provocative thought starter. Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

44 Idea Management Software Solutions!

This website maintains a list of Idea Management software products available on the market in the right hand column of the site. As at the time of writing, there are 44 distinct Idea Management Software vendors listed.

There is quite an array of different approaches and different strengths from a wide range of suppliers.

Here is the current full list:
  1. Accept Ideas
  2. Akiva
  3. BrainBank IdeaLink
  4. BrainReactions
  5. BrightIdea.com
  6. Cognistreamer
  7. Component Workshop BrightSpark
  8. CorasWorks Idea Management for Sharepoint
  9. Creax
  10. DataStation Innovation Cloud
  11. e-tipi
  12. Employee Suggestion Box
  13. HypeIMT
  14. i-nova
  15. IBM Idea Factory
  16. id-force
  17. ID8 Enterprise Idea Management
  18. Idea Accelerator
  19. Idea Champions IngenuityBank
  20. IdeasCount
  21. Imaginatik Idea Central
  22. Incent Solutions ids Software
  23. Innovation Factory IdeaNet
  24. InnovationCast
  25. inogate
  26. InsightResults e-Impact
  27. Invention Machine Goldfire
  28. Jenni
  29. justlogin
  30. Kindling
  31. Kirei Mile Marker
  32. MangoSpring MangoIdeas
  33. MindMatters Innovator
  34. MuchBeta Teepin
  35. Nosco Idea Exchange
  36. Orchidea Innovations
  37. phpOutsourcing IdeaBox
  38. Prism ISDE
  39. QMarkets Ideation 2.0
  40. SalesForce Ideas
  41. SAP Inspire
  42. SIM
  43. Spigit
  44. Uservoice
Update!! Some additional Idea Management Software Solutions have been suggested in the comments, below.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Innovation news in the week to October 12th 2010

    Some of the things that have been happening in innovation this week on the web included:

    Siemens celebrated 100 years of idea management within their organisation using the 3i methodology.

    Innovation and idea management blog posts included articles on strategies for generating the right kind of ideas, listening to the Voice of the Customer as part of the idea management process, and assessing which ideas are both good and executable.

    The Front End of Innovation had a good set of thought-starters for thinking through some of the technical considerations relevant to selecting an idea management solution while Nosca proposed a related set of questions for assessing whether your idea management implementation is on track for success.

    A solution built on Spigit for use by Manor labs has been recognized by the John F Kennedy School of Government for its successes related to innovation in the public sector and in public policy.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Deepak Chopra Talks About the 9 Steps for Creativity and Innovation

    As a change of pace, this week's video is Deepak Chopra talking about his creative process. At the end, he suggests that all innovation follows the same process.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Ideas Needed! The Idea Management Survey 2010

    Like you, I'm really committed to listening to everyone's ideas, and putting the best ones in to action. That's what we're all here for on Idea Management Systems, right? Yes!

    So from time to time, I put a call out to visitors to this website - I really need to hear YOUR ideas for how I can improve this site! Also, I am in the process of developing version 2.0 of the Idea Management Systems Report - I've got some great topics to cover, but I want to make sure that I am covering everything that is important to you, and I really need your input to 'sense check' the report's coverage.

    So, I've created a survey. It's short - just a couple of pages, with only a few questions per page.

    Here it is: click here to take the survey!

    Also, I want to put together a BONUS to send to everyone who completes the survey, to say thank you for your time and for your ideas and feedback.

    The bonus might be delivered as an e-book, it might be a webinar, it might be a video. Initially I was thinking it might be a collection of some of the best content already covered on this website, but then I thought ... I could ASK you what content you would most like to see covered, and how you would like it delivered.

    So, the last page of the survey will ask you what you'd like to see in your bonus content, and how you would like it delivered.

    Take the survey today!

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Your Innovation Maturity Journey

    Innovation can be seen as a journey towards increasing levels of organizational innovation capability and maturity.

    One of the best ways to understand the journey of innovation maturity is through first reviewing the Capability Maturity Model, originally developed to help manage software projects within organizations.

    The Capability Maturity Model

    At IBM in the 1980s, a number of different software development projects were achieving quite different outcomes. Some projects were racing ahead and achieving outstanding outcomes. Others were going nowhere, failing spectacularly with regards to criteria such as schedule, budget and quality outcome objectives.

    A consultant named Watt's Humphrey was engaged to investigate. Humphrey visited various IBM projects, and reported back on why some projects were succeeding and others failing spectacularly. What were the key factors leading to success in some projects, and abject failure in others?

    What Humphrey found was that different IBM projects were in very different situations with regards to project management capabilities. Some projects relied on talented 'heros', people with extraordinary technical and subject matter skills, to pull them through and save the day at the last minute, putting in extraordinary efforts to meet deadlines. Some used project management methodologies and best practices, others had no apparent methodology. Some teams collaborated, others didn't.

    Humphrey's key insight was that different projects were at different levels of maturity. To achieve consistent and repeatable success, organisations or business areas needed to go through distinct stages of evolution, to gain different levels of capability or 'maturity'.

    Humphrey's insights were articulated and widely published, and are now known as the Capability Maturity Model (CMM). Initially the focus of the CMM was on managing projects, it has now been expanded to help develop capability in a wide range of areas of activity including general business processes.

    The 5 levels of the Capability Maturity Model are

    5 Optimized
    4. Quantitatively Managed
    3. Defined
    2. Managed
    1. Initial

    Initially, a business area may not employ any process or methodology to manage projects. Projects work to the extent that talented heros emerge and save the day, or the project succeeds by blind luck. Project success rates are not high at this stage.

    There is then a lot of pressure for the team or business area to move to the next stage, and utilise proven project management methodologies to gain repeatable business successes in managing projects and delivering valuable business outcomes. At the Managed stage, individual teams or business areas begin to experience repeatable successes.

    However, at this stage different teams or business areas are doing things in different ways, and there may not be any sophisticated program management managing a portfolio of projects. The next step in project capability evolution is to develop consistent, organization-wide defined processes and systems for project management activities. This is the Defined stage.

    Once processes are clearly defined and quantitative measures can be associated with them, organizations reach the Quantitatively Managed stage, where processes can be tightly managed using quantitative techniques.

    Once this stage is reached, an organization's focus becomes continual learning and improvement, to optimize and improve the system.

    The Innovation Maturity Journey

    In the same way, organizations go through a journey in their progress towards innovation maturity.

    Initially, innovation may not be on the corporate radar at all. Innovation is at the Ignored stage. Innovation is, so to speak, 'missing in action'.
    The work that needs to be done is to raise awareness of the importance and high level of priority of innovation for the organization.

    The next level in innovation maturity is when innovation is Declared. Innovation now appears in the corporate vision, in the mission statement, and in various corporate artefacts such as Annual Reports, but no one really knows exactly what it means or how to achieve it.

    At some point after innovation is declared, initiatives are taken to introduce innovation in some form. This might for example include introducing proven creativity techniques, working towards improved collaboration and knowledge sharing, listening to the voice of the customer and incorporating customer perspectives in to product and service design, or initiatives to improve the organizational culture to make it more supportive towards creativity and innovation. At this Initiated stage, there may be a lot of exploration of options around innovation, and experimentation to find what produces sustained results.

    One of the problems of the Initiated stage however is that there are no systematic processes to produce reliable, sustained innovation outcomes.
    Great ideas may for example be produced from brainstorming sessions, but there might be no processes in place to make sure the ideas are assessed and evaluated and the best ones turned in to projects to deliver tangible business outcomes. At some stage in the innovation journey, organizations make a shift towards defining and embedding innovation systems and processes and improving and optimizing those processes. Innovation becomes Systematised.

    At around the stage that an organization commits to and implements rigorous and effective innovation processes and systems, or as it develops effective creativity and innovation techniques in the Initiated stage, an organization naturally begins to focus on embedding these effective creativity and innovation processes in to the 'organizational DNA,' to embed innovation into 'how things are done around here.' Innovation becomes Embedded as part of the organizational way of doing things, it becomes part of the culture that new hires need to be socialised in to.

    But embedding innovation isn't the end of the journey. At some point, from Initiated through to Embedded, innovation activity will need to begin challenging embedded patterns of thinking. Old patterns of thinking may have been terrific when people learnt them in MBA school 20 years ago, or the way of thinking in an organization might have been formed out of market circumstances and a competitive landscape that no longer exists. Old embedded patterns of thinking can be costing the organization, and closing down exciting new opportunities. The organization now needs to be Challenged at all levels about its beliefs, assumptions, and thinking. The leadership team, senior management, and all staff need to question existing ways of thinking. At this level, we embark on innovation in the way we think.

    As an organization gains the sustained capacity to challenge existing patterns of thinking - and innovate and embed new ones - an organization gains a capacity for continuous evolution in the way it thinks. The best of the old ways of thinking are retained but new ways of thinking, acting and being are innovated and introduced. An organization maintains the ability to evolve and respond to a changing environment in an agile and effective way. The organization has reached the Evolved stage of the innovation maturity journey. This is not an end to innovation or to innovation maturity as, by definition, the evolved organization must keep innovating and adapting to evolve to meet changing market circumstances.

    Clearly, Idea Management Systems are critical in the transition from the Initiated to Systematised stages, and they play a significant role in the Embedded stage.

    Idea Management Systems on their own though are by no means all of the innovation maturity journey. Indeed, both the initiatives that can be commenced in the Initiated stage, and the 'idea management' of thinking patterns within the organization including in the board room and in the executive leadership team, can commence before or after the introduction of an Idea Management System or run in parallel with it.

    At which stage is your organization in the Innovation Maturity Journey?