Friday, December 21, 2007

2008: The Year Of Idea Management?

Over at Business Week, Bruce Nausbaum is making his predictions for innovation in 2008. Bruce writes:
The demand for innovation is soaring in the business community . . . nearly all CEOs and top managers who have learned the language of innovation are now seeking the means to make it happen. It took the Quality Movement a generation to change business culture. The Innovation Movement is still in its infancy, but it's growing fast. You can see that in the vast changes taking place within the field. Companies are demanding new tools and methods to execute that change within their existing organizations
Idea Management Systems are one of the central new tools and methods for consistently achieving significant innovation outcomes, and for managing innovation with the same degree of rigour and discipline as other core business functions. Idea Management is a mature and evolving toolset that's ready for more consistent and widespread adoption, and companies are likely to increasingly focus on Idea Management as a key point of differentiation and competitive advantage through consistent and repeatable innovation across products, services, processes and business models.

It will be interesting to see what 2008 brings for Idea Management.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What Practitioners Want To Know About Innovation

Innovation Tools recently conducted a survey of innovation practitioners to determine the most important innovation issues to practitioners. Over 250 people responded, representing a broad cross-section of industries and geography.

The responses were grouped by Innovation Tools into 9 topics:
  1. Defining innovation and making it saleable and practical to senior management
  2. Sourcing and managing ideas to come up with the best innovation opportunities
  3. Connecting innovation to business strategy - and getting funding and executive support for medium and long term innovation initiatives
  4. Identifying the best processes and tools to satisfy the needs of all parties to the innovation initiative
  5. Building and sustaining an innovation and entrepreneurship culture
  6. Measuring innovation outcomes across all stages of the process - and motivating the organization to deliver across all stages of the innovation process
  7. Finding or building the people and capabilities to be successful in innovation
  8. Organizing to drive innovation in our company and across the value chain - with particular reference to decision rights and accountabilities
  9. Identifying the characteristics of innovation leaders at different levels of the organization - and recognizing and rewarding them
I think the list is terrific - comprehensively covering some of the key issues in innovation.

I would however be tempted to make a slight tweak to the topics list - the rewards and incentives to motivate employees (which appear in topics 6 and 9 and relate strongly to 5) could, I suggest, be usefully be brought out into a separate 'incentives and rewards' topic - bringing the list to a 'top 10' topic areas for innovation.

Idea Management Systems, while playing a very explicit role in relation to topics 2, 4, 6 and 8, also relates very strongly to topics 1 and 3. Idea Management Systems provide the rigour and repeatable results in innovation that are saleable to senior management. Idea Management Systems also align innovation activity with business strategy through implementing a Stage-Gate system that is necessarily aligned with business strategy as ideas are considered, screened or tested at various early stages in the innovation process and business strategy and objectives necessarily define the evaluation or screening criteria.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Unique World Implements Custom Idea Management Solution

Australian BRW Magazine's December 6-12 2007 edition has a brief article on Sydney company Unique World and its delivery on its innovation goals through the implementation of a custom Idea Management System.

Unique World is a small (A$12M turnover) company developing innovative solutions based on Microsoft technologies. Unique World appointed a head of innovation, who coordinates the process by which staff themselves propose, evaluate, and promote new ideas to management.

The system received 20 ideas in the first week and receives an average of 2 to 3 ideas being posted on the intranet weekly. A committee made up of (non-executive) staff uses a template marking system to score each idea on set criteria, for example whether it aligns with the organization's objectives and values. The committee decides which ideas to do further preliminary work on before putting a business case for the idea to the management group.

The article discusses two products arising from the Idea Management System: Record Point, a "low cost and user friendly alternative to records management systems" and an internal project impact matrix that will be used to estimate customer benefits of a particular solution prior to sale.

Unique World's CEO sees the system as combining the benefits of a staged investment appraisal process with harnessing the innovation of Unique World's employees.

The article argues that:
"No company is too small to systematise innovation. Nor is it too nebulous a thing to come to grips with."

Booze Allen Hamilton Global Innovation 1000 Survey - 2007 Report Released

Booze Allen Hamilton have released their report for the third Global 1000 Innovation Survey outcomes.

The report confirmed that "as in years past, we found no statistically significant connection between the amount of money a company spent on innovation and its financial performance." High-leverage innovators - "the companies that, compared to other companies in 2006, got a significantly bigger performance bang for their R&D buck" - achieved "better sustained financial performance than their industry peers while spending less on R&D."

The report found that:
When listing the reasons for their success, [high leverage innovators] all mention two key factors. The first is strategic alignment: They work hard to align their innovation strategies closely to overall corporate strategy. The second is customer focus: They all have processes in place to pay close attention to their customers in every phase of the innovation value chain, from idea generation to product development to marketing.
While the report did not focus specifically on company's approaches to Idea Management, Idea Management concepts permeated the report, particularly in relation to "customer focus." High-leverage innovators:
" . . . all have processes in place to pay close attention to their customers in every phase of the innovation value chain, from idea generation to product development to marketing."
Customer focus is a key element in idea generation, particular for organizations following a "need seeking" innovation strategy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

New Peer-To-peer Banking Solutions Facilitate Intrapreneurship For Development of New Ideas

Strategy guru Gary Hamel recently posted on the topic of 5 design flaws in organizations which prevent them from innovating effectively, in his "Management 2.0" Harvard Business Review blog. Design flaw #4 was a suggestion for creating internal venture capital markets to finance the development of ideas. Hamel argues:
While an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley typically often has the chance to pitch a business plan to a half a dozen or more venture capitalists, in the average Fortune 500 company, an employee with a new idea has only one place to go for funding—up the chain of command. This is often a substantial barrier to lining up capital and talent behind new ideas.

A potential web-based solution: An internal “band of angels.” A new breed of online peer-to-peer banks, such as Zopa and Prospect, are helping lenders and borrowers to find each other and do business without the overhead of, well, bankers. These social markets provide a model for how your company might create more funding options for employees eager to experiment with new ideas. In most of the companies I work with, there are somewhere between a few hundred and few thousand individuals who control a budget of more than $100,000 per year. Imagine, that each of these budget holders was given permission to invest up to 55% of those their discretionary resources in any idea, anywhere across the company, that they deemed attractive. Suddenly, internal entrepreneurs would have the chance to appeal to dozens of potential “angel investors.” No longer would a new idea die simply because it didn’t fit the prejudices or priorities of one’s boss.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

IBM Innovation Factory Idea Management Solution Selected By China Telecom

IBM has announced that the Shanghai Research Institute of China Telecom Corporate Limited (STTRI) has chosen IBM's Innovation Factory to support collaborative innovation and accelerate the development of emerging telecommunication services for the Chinese market.

IBM Innovation Factory is designed to capture the innovation process from idea creation to commercialization, speeding up co-creation among employees, partners, software developers and subscribers through online communities and is built on IBM technologies including Websphere and Lotus Notes. The solution builds on IBM's commitment to Web 2.0 capabilities released in Lotus Notes QuickPlace, and is tailored to specific industry sectors such as telecommunications.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Business Case For Idea Management Systems (or 'Why Don't More Companies Implement Idea Management Systems?')

Cognitive Transitions has released a short information brief addressing the "Business Case For Idea Management Systems." The information brief argues,with reference to contemporary executive innovation surveys, that:
  1. Effective innovation is now regarded as imperative for the typical modern organization in order to achieve growth targets; develop new products, services, processes and business models; achieve product and service differentiation; and realize sustainable competitive advantage
  2. Innovation surveys show that organizations are frequently not happy with current innovation outcomes
  3. Innovation surveys show that top performing innovators are using Idea Management Systems as a key component to their successful innovation initiatives
Taken together, these three points constitute the 'business case' for Idea Management Systems as part of any organizational innovation initiative.

However, while the strong 'business case' can be mounted that Idea Management Systems are a central tool in disciplined, successful and repeatable innovation initiative, Idea Management Systems do not currently seem to be a mainstream focus in executive mindset or in innovation literature - thus presenting something of an 'Idea Management paradox'.

To take an example, a recent survey of executive priorities and concerns in the Conference Board CEO Challenge 2007 ranked the top 10 overall challenges faced by CEOs, listing 'Sustained and Top-line Growth', 'Profit Growth', and 'Stimulating Creativity / Innovation / Entrepreneurship' as 2nd, 4th and 9th.

However, drilling down specifically into the challenges faced by CEOs in realizing their organization's innovation objectives, the survey did not explicitly cite any concerns relating to developing systematic processes around capturing, developing, and assessing ideas or indeed any process focus as among the key innovation concerns raised by executives. The topic of innovation processes was only addressed only tangentially in the 9th-ranked challenge, developing 'completely new products / services' and the 8th-ranked challenge 'improvement in original [existing] products / processes'. Processes for innovation were not rated at all in the additional list of executive's top 10-ranked barriers to innovation.

For companies implementing, or preparing to implement, an Idea Management solution, the 'Idea Management paradox' presents a short window of strategic opportunity to move ahead in innovating effectively before their competition, by introducing and refining their Idea Management System first.

Idea Management consultants and vendors and also organizations seeking to enhance their innovation capabilities for consistent, repeatable successful innovation results will benefit from further efforts to communicate the benefits of Idea Management Systems more widely.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

KickStart your Idea Management System Selection Process With an IMS Analyst Report

IdeaManagementSystems blog sponsor Cognitive Transitions is releasing today an Idea Management Systems research report.

The Report is designed to help you in your Idea Management System evaluation and selection process and in maintaining best practices in Idea Management as technologies and practices evolve. The Report contains:
  • An overview Idea Management Systems report outlining current trends and issues in Idea Management and discussing a range of considerations that will impact on rapidly determining your optimal Idea Management choices
  • 'Snaphot' highlight reports for 4 major Idea Management software products: Imaginatik Idea Central,, JPB Jenni, and Idea Champions IngenuityBank
  • 2 hours of included Idea Management consultancy to assist you with your Idea Management evaluation and selection process
The report is sold as a subscription, giving you access to all additional subscription reports, updates and research outcomes released with the subscription during the 12 month subscription period.

To celebrate the launch, Cognitive Transitions is making the Report subscription available at a 20% discount until Friday November 23rd 2007.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Looking For Participants for Idea Management System Experiences Survey

Has your organisation implemented an Idea Management System, or do you have an innovation initiative?

Idea Management Systems weblog sponsor Cognitive Transitions is conducting research into experiences with Idea Management Systems. Take the Cognitive Transitions Idea Management Survey to share your experiences and learnings.

The survey will be open until December 31st 2007.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Imaginatik CEO Reflects On History Of Idea Management

Imaginatik were one of the original pioneers of Idea Management software solutions, and are one of the leading Idea Management software vendors today.

In a recent post to his Innovation BBL blog, Imaginatik CEO Mark Turrell looks back to review the genesis and early history of the Idea Central product in a trip to Madrid, a series of presentations to Spanish companies at the invitation of IBM on capturing soft, non-financial data to assist with management reporting , and two creative people absorbing the Spanish lifestyle and finding the time and opportunity to map out what Idea Central will look like.

Stage-Gate Inc. Endorses CA Clarity for Managing the New Product Development Process

CA recently reported that Stage-Gate Inc. has certified CA Clarity for New Product Development (NPD), including Idea Management, Idea-To-Launch, and Portfolio Management. According to the Press Release:

Stage-Gate Inc. certified CA Clarity for NPD based on the sophistication of the solution for planning, resource allocation, scheduling, workflow, and reporting. These capabilities empower product development organizations to keep their NPD initiatives on track—so they can bring better products to market more quickly and at less cost.

CA Clarity for NPD underwent a rigorous evaluation process based on approximately 200 innovation-related criteria. Stage-Gate Ready certification assures potential buyers that CA Clarity for NPD provides the functionality necessary to successfully implement key Stage-Gate best practices—including Idea Management, Idea-to-Launch and Portfolio Management.

Stage-Gate Inc. President Dr. Robert Cooper commented:

I strongly recommend all would-be buyers to ask specifically for Stage-Gate Ready software, such as CA Clarity for NPD, even if your company does not deploy a traditional Stage-Gate process. We want to help organizations take advantage of innovation tools that help increase business performance, and believe that if we reduce the risks associated with these decisions, it's a win-win for everyone.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

IBM on Innovation and Idea Management Systems

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper's "Innovator" blog quotes IBM's chief executive Sam Palmisano as saying "either you innovate or you're in commodity hell". Citing the example of IBM, the blog post argues that organizations need to:
  1. Maintain a constant flow of 'everyday' ideas - not just the radical, breakthrough ideas
  2. Develop the right innovation culture
  3. Build an innovation ecosystem - kill the silos and review the Organizational Architecture through which ideas are processed
  4. Improve processes - "Look for places where ideas tend to fall flat. Are there consistent gaps and bottlenecks in implementation?"
  5. Engage employees and build on their strengths
  6. Develop the right incentive and recognition scheme
  7. Re-invent the suggestions box and put it online.
On this last point, the post suggests:

Create an online ideas/suggestions box that can be accessed by all staff. Don't restrict content to products or services; encourage employees to contribute ideas for all aspects of work. IBM and Google both do this. They say it encourages staff to collaborate in areas outside their usual line of work.
It's important that the status of each idea is clear and up to date. Nothing frustrates employees like ideas that are abandoned with no explanation, or lost somewhere in the chain of command.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Robert Tucker on Innovation Management

Innovation author and consultant Robert Tucker was interviewed by CNBC-TV18 on a recent visit to India. Tucker highlighted the role that Idea Management Systems play for top performing innovators and commented that:
What we find in these 23 companies that we studied is that they are getting systematic, are embedding innovation and are introducing idea management systems, so that no good idea gets lost or falls in the hands of competitors. They are becoming much more customer centric.
Tucker emphasised:
if you don’t have a capacity to innovate on an ongoing basis, you are not going to be in the game. It is like 25-30 years ago Edward Deming introduced quality management. So pretty soon if you didn’t have the essential level of quality, you aren’t in the game. What I see today happening and it is happening faster than even I predicted is if you don’t have innovation process, a well-oiled idea factory, you are not in the game.
The transcript of the interview is available from

Richard Platt on Innovation Management

Richard Platt, former corporate innovation manager and senior instructor for innovation methods at Intel Corporation, is giving a series of podcasts and slideshows on innovation management for ebizQ.

In the podcast and slides, Richard argues for a multifaceted and "requirements driven" or organization-specific approach to innovation, including elements of:
  • Idea Management: "development of organization-specific methods for managing idea generation processes."
  • Product Development Management: "realization of ideas in the form of commercial products and technologies."
  • Environmental Innovation Management: "scanning the environment to forecast future innovations and threats."
  • Enterprise-wide Innovation Management: "creation of an organizational culture that stimulates creative thinking."
  • Innovation Life Cycle Management: coordinating innovation across the lifecycle and managing innovation metrics and incentives

New Report on "IdeaBlogs" from IdeaHub

Stewart McKie of IdeaHub has released an analysis report on "IdeaBlogs," which IdeaHub defines as "social networking application used to stimulate, capture, promote and enrich ideas online via a blog-style user interface."

IdeaBlogs are positioned between blogs and full scale Idea Management Systems as online forums for generating and developing ideas, incorporating more structured social interaction around ideation than blogs but less sophisticated idea assessment and selection processes than Idea Management Systems.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Heavy and Light Idea Submission Systems

The Alfacer blog argues in favour of making Idea Management System idea submission as 'light' and straightforward as possible:
A common mistake made in many suggestion schemes and idea management systems is requiring too many parameters from idea submitters. Innovation programme managers think: "when people submit ideas, we will make them pre-evaluate their ideas by asking them to provide additional in-depth information such as financial projections, cost-benefits analysis, implementation plan, description of how the idea would fit in the current system, etcetera. This way, they will think through their ideas better, improve their ideas and provide me with more fully developed ideas."

Such logic is admirable, but flawed.
The post argues that 'heavy' idea submission results in fewer and poorer quality ideas submitted than 'light' idea submission, due to factors including:
  1. more time required to fill in the idea submission form
  2. frustration - not getting your idea up quickly
  3. a greater need for expertise in order to fill out the additional data to the required standard
  4. such a 'heavy' idea submission process conflates the idea submission process with the idea development and evaluation processes, which are best left to later and separate stages of the process.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Innovation and Idea Management at Hewlett-Packard

Dr. JJ Asongo has posted a short paper to his blog recently, reviewing innovation at Hewlett Packard and arguing that
A good innovation process should not only consist of new products and services, but should also involve strategy innovation, creative approaches to problem solving, idea management, processes innovation, and suggestion systems. Suggestion systems can be a valuable tool for employees to offer inputs for enhancing current processes and for filling any gaps in the processes.

In order to successfully implement innovation, an organization has to integrate all these components into one single innovation strategy

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vertical Idea Management

Stewart Mackie of IdeaHub has introduced the concept of Vertical Idea Management (VIM).

Stewart defines a VIM as follows:
A VIM system is focused on the idea management needs of a specific industry and is a key area for the further development and maturity of idea management software.
A VIM has its own unique language and taxonomy and supply chain procedures. Stewart gives the example of the screenwriting profession in the movie industry, and wonders whether any software has been embedded across the supply chain for VIM in this space.

The concept of VIM raises many interesting questions. To achieve its full benefits, a VIM needs to be embedded across the supply chain for the vertical segment, and endorsed across the industry segment. In addition, if the VIM is provided by one vendor, there is the risk that the provider of VIM software effectively holds a monopoly in that vertical space (there is little point in having two vendors embedded deeply to provide VIM). The alternative is that the VIM framework is developed by the industry segment, and designed so that multiple vendor offerings can be supported and ideas developed in one or the other of the systems can be transfered easily to other systems.

Idea Champions IngenuityBank 4.0 Reviewed

Chuck Frey of the Innovation Tools website has updated his review of the Idea Champions IngenuityBank product to cover the latest features introduced by Idea Champions in IngenuityBank version 4.0.

Key features in IngenuityBank release 4.0 include mobility (the ability to submit ideas by SMS message from a mobile phone while away from the internet), "tag clouds" capturing and displaying metadata in a modern blog-like fashion, and extension of the rich multimedia and idea generation functionality to include additional embedded "games" for generating ideas. Other interesting features in IngenuityBank 4.0 include an integrated online shop for redeeming incentives points awarded to employees, allowing up to 50 evaluation criteria per idea campaign for evaluating ideas, and integrated instructional video material.

In addition, IngenuityBank tries to maintain a positive ideational culture through implementing a methodology of "Likes, Concerns, Suggestions" (LCS) in the software so that idea comments and "builds" encourage positive and collaborative feedback and interaction between participants.

Using FaceBook as a Front-End for Idea Management

JPB (makers of the Jenni Idea Management software) have taken Idea Management firmly into the world of social networking by using FaceBook as a front end for the Jenni Idea Management System.

As Jeffrey Baumgartner of JPB writes in issue 115 of the JPB "Report 103" newsletter:
As of yesterday, any Facebook user can get Jenni as an Application on their profile. This allows the user to participate in ideas campaigns (although we call them "creative challenges" on Facebook) by reading the challenges, browsing ideas, submitting ideas and collaborating on ideas.

Moreover, when a Facebook user submits an idea or a building block (an elaboration of an existing idea) to Jenni, she and friends in her network receive a notification of her idea submission. Better still, every Facebook user of Jenni has a space in her profile with information about Jenni, her performance in Jenni, current creative challenges and rewards received. This motivates Facebook users to participate more and sparks interest from their friends.
The back-end for the idea consideration process is the Jenni Idea Management software.

This innovation enables organizations to use FaceBook as a front-end for organizations to source innovative ideas from a thriving web 2.0 social networking site, facilitating user-driven and community-driven innovation.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Other Names for Idea Management Systems

The StufBangkok blog suggests that Idea Management Systems go by many names, including Employee Suggestion Scheme or Idea Capture Scheme in the UK, and Employee Suggestion System in the USA.

Other terms include Innovation Management or Innovation Management System. From a New Product Development (NPD) perspective, it might also be called the Idea Generation stage of the process.

The terms evolve over time, and it might not be the case that regional usage is so definite. But it is useful to be reminded that sometimes people are using different terms to refer to the same processes and systems.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Robert Tucker on Innovation Management

Exchange4Media reports on a seminar by innovation guru Robert Tucker, presented on CNBC TV18. The report concludes:
Concluding his presentation, Tucker gave tips to management leaders on managing innovations in big enterprises. [Idea] harvesting campaigns, having intranet-based idea management systems, and developing a new venture team model were some points that he discussed.

UK Based Scott Bader Selects Sopheon Accolade for New Product Development and Idea Management

Sopheon's Accolade product has been selected by Scott Bader, a U.K.-based producer of composite and specialty polymer resins, to implement their PLM system and New Product Development processes - including an Idea Management component. According to a Dutch report,
Sopheons Accolade system will play a central part in the initiative by enabling Scott Bader to automate its product development process and make more informed decisions about which product ideas to develop . . . The idea management module will facilitate the submission and capture of product ideas and supply scorecards that will help users systematically and objectively evaluate them.
One of the attractions of the Accolade system was its focus around process management. A spokesman for Scott Bader commented:
One area where we want to grow in sophistication is process measurement. Accolade will help us capture the metrics needed to track and evaluate the efficiency and predictability of our process and the business value of the projects that pass through it.

Bringing Users, Producers and Investors Together in a Crowdsourcing Community

CrowdSpirit is an interesting new online crowdsourcing application.

CrowdSpirit consists of:
  1. Communities of end users, companies, and investors, who between them submit and develop ideas,
  2. Companies that produce products or services, and
  3. Investors that fund the development and commercialisation of the product and service ideas.
The concept behind the product is interesting and stimulating on a number of levels.

Embracing Idea Management

Paul Williams argues on the Think For a Change innovation blog that many managers are resistant to innovation initiatives in general - and Idea Management Systems in particular - because successful new ideas will generate new projects, and are therefore perceived to create a drain on the limited pool of project resources. Williams writes:
Executives fear successful innovation programs because they look at their already overworked resource pool and wonder how in the world they are going to add more projects to the mix, even if they look extremely promising. This fear leads to risk avoidance which then leads to either complete inaction or very slow action.
A similar point has been argued by the Monitor group in a short paper that argues that as executive leaders pursue growth through innovation they venture into uncharted, risky waters - and potentially become paralysed by, or deny options for, change. Monitor proposes scenario planning as a useful tool to resolve the impasse, through exploring opportunities and consequences of a range of future scenarios and thereby informing the planning process for growth initiatives.

Williams argues that in poorly performing innovation programs the response to this fear of the consequences of change is to attempt to reduce the risk by pursuing a safe, incremental option:
One of the most common things I see when consulting on poorly performing innovation programs or in simply trying to embed a new idea management program, is the inevitable drift to slow decision making down, tweak the idea just a bit to reduce the risk, move forward with ideas that are "guaranteed" or "safe," or splitting resource time between innovation and lean programs . . . But to really leverage a successul innovation or idea management program, you need to occasionally roll the dice.
I don't believe an effective implementation of an Idea Management System will be particularly susceptible to the issues Williams suggests, as an effective Idea Management initiative will be properly funded with a budget for resourcing innovation initiatives above and beyond existing projects, and the Idea Pipeline itself would have checks and filters in place to ensure that the highest value ideas and innovations move to the front of the line for priority in relation to the limited allocation of idea implementation funding available. In addition, the idea of how an Idea Management system works and the benefits it offers is not difficult to communicate. Typically, both managers and employees back an Idea Management System initiative provided that executive management shows sufficient commitment to assessing and acting on ideas submitted.

But Williams' comments do raise a serious issue for consideration in relation to organizational innovation programs in general - and perhaps offer some additional warning signs for when a more systematic and rigorous approach to innovation such as through an Idea Management System is required.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 Releases Idea Management Solution

CNN Money reports that has released SalesForce Ideas,'s Idea Management solution.

CNN Money highlight that:
Salesforce Ideas is the application behind's own live community IdeaExchange and the Salesforce-powered Dell IdeaStorm . . . made possible by Platform-as-a-Service . . . Salesforce Ideas is the power behind customer Dell's groundbreaking IdeaStorm (, which launched in February of this year, as well as its employee website, EmployeeStorm.
Initial indications are that the software will have a "crowdsourcing" capability where communities can vote on ideas and the best ideas bubble to the top - and this capability can be exposed to market focus groups.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why Email Makes a Bad Idea Management System

Arjun Thomas recently posted on his GridLock blog on the topic of Why Emails Make Bad Idea Management Systems.

After noting some benefits of using email (the technology generally already exists within organisations, it is easy and familiar to use, there is a low technology and implementation cost etc) Thomas also notes that there are significant disadvantages, such as the difficulty of tracking discussion and collaboration around ideas submitted via email, the difficulty of imposing consistent structure on key processes such evaluating and selecting ideas, and the difficulty of searching archives of idea suggestions and discussions.

Overall, Thomas concludes that "the overall negative impact of an email based system far outweighs the benefits."

Monday, August 13, 2007

More on Top Swedish Innovators

Idea Management Systems recently posted on Top Swedish Innovators.

It turns out that the study was originally undertaken by two Swedish Masters students, Claudia Suraga and Ulrika Schleimann-Jensen, and the results were subsequently further publicised by some of the companies involved in the study such as CapGemini.

For those interested, the original thesis may be obtained on request from the Masters students' academic supervisor, Alf Rehn, reachable at

Innovation as One of the Two Strategies of Market Leaders

The McKinsey Quarterly recently published an interview with Richard Rumelt on corporate strategy.

Rumelt argued that companies become successful either through innovation, or through finding an emerging trend in the market and exploiting it earlier and more successfully than others. In Rumelt's view, there are only two paths to strategic success, and neither of them are simply resource management plans:
There are only two ways . . . One, you can invent your way to success. Unfortunately, you can’t count on that. The second path is to exploit some change in your environment—in technology, consumer tastes, laws, resource prices, or competitive behavior—and ride that change with quickness and skill. This second path is how most successful companies make it. Changes, however, don’t come along in nice annual packages, so the need for strategy work is episodic, not necessarily annual.
I disagree with Rumelt on the first point - companies can innovate consistently and successfully, and many do. The heart of that success is managing innovation effectively. And the successful management of innovation typically requires, in some form or another, an Idea Management System.

And, if the objective is to identify emerging trends and take an effective position on them quickly, then an Idea Management System - plugged in to the ideas and insights of frontline workers - couldn't hurt the cause either.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Idea Champions are Blogging

Idea Management Software vendor Idea Champions has recently started up a corporate blog, called The Heart of Innovation.

It's only been going a couple of weeks so far, but it's got some great content already focused around creativity and innovation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Top Swedish Innovators Using Innovation Metrics and Idea Management Systems

Swedish innovation consultancy Idélaboratoriet has posted a recent article on leading Swedish Innovators in their newsletter.

The study, conducted by the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Cap Gemini., addressed innovation in leading Swedish companies such as Ericsson and Ikea and identified three key trends: the top ten ranked Swedish innovators
  1. continuously made benchmarking studies concerning innovation
  2. developed innovation metrics for their own situation
  3. had an Idea Management software base to stand on
Thank you to EndlessInnovation for pointing me towards this study.

Current Thought on Innovation Management in Banks

James Gardner, Head of Innovation and Research in Group IT at Lloyds TSB, has posted a great article in his Bankervision blog on current experiences in innovation management within the banking industry.

Gardner canvasses a range of issues, including different approaches to awards / incentives structures, approaches to managing innovation, and the use of vendors.

For example,
. . . the second part of the discussion really focussed on the process banks used to get their great ideas into the market . . . If you have a formal innovation programme, you probably won't know what is going to come out the end of it, and so driving a decent business case for such activity is quite difficult. It speaks volumes for the maturity of some banks' innovation processes that they are able to measure the returns of their programmes sufficiently to make these kind of investments sensibly.
On the use of vendors:
Some of the group expressed the view that using vendors was a great way to de-risk the whole innovation thing. The idea is that vendors should be spreading the risk of their propositions across many customers and, therefore, that the incremental risk to a particular bank should be less. An alternate view was expressed however: that vendors, by virtue of this risk sharing behaviour, would not be able to drive specific competitive advantage for an individual bank, and that the process of innovation was best left as an internal one with pieces being bought in as necessary.
Overall, an interesting and thought-provoking window into one industry wrestling with the challenges of innovation.

Monday, August 6, 2007

CIO On Innovation

In a July article in CIO, Diann Daniel lists "Seven Highly Effective Ways to Kill Innovation (and Seven to Make Sure You Don't)" - a similar exercise to Joyce Wycoff 's article on the top 10 innovation killers.

In #3, Daniel argues that IT should support the innovation process after ideas are generated:
In any situation, you get two activities—the invention and the innovation, or the actual process of innovating . . . technology’s role falls after invention. IT should be involved with implementing the technology that best supports the innovation process. For example, many companies are turning to vendors that offer idea management technology, such as iBank and
Of course, before facilitating the process with IT, some thought needs to go into the Idea Management process, and this kind of thinking has gone into the development of Idea Management software products such as iBank and

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Idea Management and New Product Development

The Wikipedia article on New Product Development suggests 7 stages of development of a new product (or service):
  1. Idea Generation
  2. Idea Screening
  3. Concept Development and Testing
  4. Business Analysis
  5. Beta Testing and Market Testing
  6. Technical Implementation
  7. Commercialization (often considered post-NPD)]
Idea Management software products typically focus on at least the first of these two stages, with some products extending into the third and fourth stages. Typically the fourth through seventh stages are handled by other organisational systems outside the Idea Management System.

The first stages (overlapping into the second through fourth stages) constitute what Wikipedia calls the 'Fuzzy Front End' of the New Product Development process.

According to Wikipedia, the Fuzzy Front End consists of:
  1. Opportunity Identification
  2. Opportunity Analysis
  3. Idea Genesis
  4. Idea Selection
  5. Concept and Technology Development

Online Presentation By BrightIdea.Com Founder hosts a nice online web video of a conference presentation by Matthew Greeley, founder of, explaining how implementing Innovation Pipeline Management (an Idea Management System) can assist organisations manage innovation.

Matthew explains the essentials of an Idea Management System and how the BrightIdea solution has helped BrightIdea customers develop Idea Pipelines worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

What is the Difference Between a Suggestion Box and an Idea Management System?

The difference is a matter of historical evolution.

The traditional Suggestions Box was originally a physical box, with a slot in the top, that sat in a suitable location in a building and people physically dropped their written idea suggestions into it. The ideas submitted to the suggestions box were then periodically reviewed by a designated person, typically a member of the administrative staff or the owner of the business or manager of a business unit.

In the 1990s, developments around innovation practices such as the notion of a stage-gate process lent more discipline and rigour to the process of innovation, and companies became more sophisticated about the kinds of organisational structures used to assess idea suggestions. A number of approaches developed, including "innovation councils" and innovation "cross-functional teams". With these developments, the modern Idea Management System was born.

In parallel with the development of the Suggestions Box into the Idea Management System companies such as Imaginatik (1994) and General Ideas Software (now BrightIdea) (1999) entered the market, allowing companies to capture and process ideas through dedicated software packages. Such tools allowed managers to configure and run 'idea campaigns.' In addition to these industry pioneers, a number of further vendors have entered the market, such as JPB (makers of Jenni), Idea Champions (makers of IngenuityBank), and OVO (makers of their Spark and Incubator products).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

At What Stage of Growth Would My Organization need an Idea Management System?

I recently gave a series of talks on Idea Management Systems for the Australian Computer Society, and one question that was asked regularly is "at what size or stage of organisational growth would my organization need an Idea Management System"?

While the best answer would obviously depend on the particulars of your organization, I think that one good answer is that your organization would benefit from putting an Idea Management System in place at pretty much the same point of growth at which your organization would benefit from putting an intranet portal in place.

If you only have 5 or 10 people in your organisation in the same building and you can all talk to each other regularly in the lunch room, maybe a formal Idea Management System is of less value. But by the time you get to 30 or more people - and particularly if they are spread out across client sites or branch offices - perhaps it is time to start thinking about an intranet portal solution - and if you are committed to innovation, it is also time to start thinking seriously about putting an Idea Management System in place. If you have 300 or more people in your organisation, then perhaps managing innovation systematically through an Idea Management System becomes imperative.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

An Ideas Bank For Social Inventions

The Global Ideas Bank is a website with a mission to "promote and disseminate good creative ideas to improve society." People can log in to submit an idea, comment on an idea, or rate an idea.

The Ideas Bank is particularly interested in
. . .ideas we term social inventions: non-technological, non-product, non-gadget ideas for social change. These are a mix of existing projects, fledgling initiatives and new bright ideas.
The site is a project of the Nicholas Albery Foundation and chief editor is Mick Temple.

There is also an accompanying blog to go with the site.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Imaginatik Are Blogging

For those not aware of it, Imaginatik have been running a Corporate Innovation Blog.

Lately the blog seems to explore a general range of news and issues in innovation rather than focus on Idea Management in particular or Imaginatik's Idea Central software, but there are some interesting articles in the archives.

Innovation Killers

Joyce Wycoff of the Innovation Network has listed the top 10 "innovation killers":
  1. Not removing fear of doing something new or of failing.
  2. Not making innovation performance part of everyone's review performance review process, with innovation targets and KPIs
  3. Not documenting, communicating and getting buy-in to the innovation process
  4. Not allowing flexibility to explore new possibilities and collaborate with others inside and outside the organization.
  5. Failing to ensure that everyone understands the corporate strategy, and that all innovation efforts are aligned with it - while still catching ideas from the left field
  6. Not scanning the environment for new ideas and stimulation
  7. Not honouring a diversity of thinking styles, experience, perspectives and expertise.
  8. Not finding a balance between good focal criteria that can focus ideation and restrictive criteria can stifle ideation and perpetuate assumptions and mindsets from the past.
  9. Not treating innovation teams differently to “regular” project teams: Innovation needs different tools and different mindsets, different training and a different mix of skills and personalities.
  10. Not buying or developing an idea management system that captures ideas in a way that encourages people to build on and evaluate new possibilities.
Coming in at number 10 is not managing Innovation systematically through an Idea Management System

Idea Management Software Reduces The Complexity Of Innovation

Jeffrey Baumgartner is Managing Director of Bwiti, one of the makers of the Jenni Idea Management Software. Baumgartner posted an article recently arguing that a key benefit of Idea Management Systems (and Idea Management software in particular) is that this approach reduces the complexity of innovation, making it more manageable.

Baumgartner argues that:
I have noticed over recent months . . . a tendency to turn corporate innovation into a highly complex system involving numerous processes, approaches and models. Such systems are being promoted by consultants who, not surprisingly, charge by the hour for implementing and teaching their systems . . . corporate innovation need not be horrendously complex.
The article suggests 7 key factors for making innovation work:
  • Trust
  • Executive sponsorship ("management buy-in")
  • Appropriate resourcing ("budget")
  • Tools (idea management software and creativity tools such as brainstorming and mind mapping)
  • Methods for evaluation of ideas
  • Incentives/Rewards
  • Time and Environment in which employees can be creative

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

3rd Generation Idea Management Software

The MindMatters blog has posted on IngenuityBank as '3rd Generation' Idea Management Software.

The article notes:
Ovo and Idea Champions have positioned themselves as “3rd generation” technology providers. This refers to the inclusion of creativity tools, which traditionally have been offered as special, freestanding applications and not integrated with earlier Idea Management technologies.

Idea Management Systems and The Development of an Innovation Culture

A recent article in BRW explored Idea Management Systems and the relationship between the systems and processes of Idea Management Systems and the development of an innovation culture.

John Louth of the Hargraves Institute comments that:
. . . an abundant source of innovative ideas resides in the intellect of all employees and stakeholders, not just those specifically employed to be creative . . . to tap into this vast resource, an organisation needs to build both the culture to engage people and the processes to manage the flow and implementation of ideas.
Louth argues that companies need to concentrate on "the capacity to capture and implement ideas." Like most change initiatives, this process needs buy-in from the top and the changes must be communicated effectively. Louth believes that:
Culture alone without process to deal with the ideas that are generated is not only ineffective but dangerous. Unless ideas are evaluated effectively and implemented . . . there is no value.
Louth discusses a spectrum of approaches, from stage-gate methodologies to less formal approaches; from a high level of maturity and sophistication around idea management metrics to a focus and emphasis on building a creative culture.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

The Year of The Idea

The Australian Institute for Commercialisation (AIC) has nominated 2007 as the Year of The Idea.

In introducing the Year of The Idea, CEO Rowan Gilmore highlights the importance of an Idea Management System to successful innovation, and commercialisation of ideas:
"We're encouraging people to talk about ideas at their workplace, to try to convince their managers to implement formal idea capture schemes.
Then the next process is to sort through and prioritise them, and consider how those ideas might develop into products and process improvements and so on."

Göran Roos on Idea Management Systems

Göran Roos is a researcher, academic and business advisor on the management of Intellectual Capital, with co-authorship of works such as Intellectual Capital and Managing Intellectual Capital in Practice to his credit.

Roos was interviewed on innovation recently in the July 19-25 issue of Business Review Weekly, and outlined the need for an Idea Management System to provide a disciplined approach to innovation:
Most people think the generation of ideas is the ability to put a suggestion box on the wall. You'll get a huge amount of ideas. But if you don't give direction, you may get ideas that are completely irrelevant.
What you want is a strategic document that clearly articulates what you are looking for, ensuring people put forward ideas that are relevant to the organisation and linked to its overall strategy. Then you need a management system that can evaluate and commission innovation projects. You will always get more projects than you have funding for, so you need to prioritise them, and get sign-off between the people who are going to develop it and and the people who are going to use it.
In addition, this disciplined approach leads to the ability to systematically measure innovation progress.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Idea Management using a Stock Market Metaphor

An article from the New York Times reported that Rite-Solutions, a software company that builds advanced command-and-control systems for the US Navy, developed an interesting approach to Idea Management Systems by creating:
. . . an internal market where any employee can propose that the company acquire a new technology, enter a new business or make an efficiency improvement. These proposals become stocks, complete with ticker symbols, discussion lists and e-mail alerts. Employees buy or sell the stocks, and prices change to reflect the sentiments of the company's engineers, computer scientists and project managers — as well as its marketers, accountants and even the receptionist.
In this approach,
Fifty-five stocks are listed on the company's internal market, which is called Mutual Fun. Each stock comes with a detailed description — called an expect-us, as opposed to a prospectus — and begins trading at a price of $10. Every employee gets $10,000 in "opinion money" to allocate among the offerings, and employees signal their enthusiasm by investing in a stock and, better yet, volunteering to work on the project. Volunteers share in the proceeds, in the form of real money, if the stock becomes a product or delivers savings.
This approach has already been highly successful, for example one of the earliest stocks - with a ticker symbol: VIEW - was a proposal to apply military three-dimensional visualization technology to help sailors and domestic security personnel practice making decisions in emergency situations. While the initial proponent of the ideas was unenthusiastic about promoting it, it received extensive support in the internal marketplace - and the resulting product line, "Rite-View," now accounts for 30% of total sales.

This approach is interesting because it draws on the principles of Idea Management Systems (tap into the contextual experience and situation of employees to generate relevant and interesting ideas) but also provides an effective rating system - and a well-known metaphor (the market) - to guide and inform that activity. It is also similar in principle to the approach to giving employees a stake in the company taken in the book The Great Game of Business.

This system also forges connections across disciplinary boundaries - for example, pattern-recognition algorithms used in military applications and for electronic gambling systems at casinos were applied in educational settings by a non-technical member of the administrative staff. Engineers were keen to support it, and this resulted in a contract with Hasbro to build its "VuGo Multimedia System."

The key principles applied in the Rite-Solutions approach are to solicit employee ideas, and to provide a mechanism so employees will invest in voting for what they consider to be the best ones. Since the 'opinion' money can be converted into real money for successful ideas, employees have a real stake, and the principles of 'the wisdom of markets' apply.

However, it must be noted that an idea funnel is still required: a stage-gate process must be in place for the organisation to assess the contributed ideas against the resources required and the market demand to confirm the business case for proceeding, and to ensure the ROI on the investment in the new product or service proposition.
The NYT article concludes by discussing open innovation through the application of similar principles to external marketplaces of ideas, for example at InnoCentive. Similar networks exist elsewhere - for example the Innovation Xchange Network in Australia.

The full text of the article can be accessed at the New York Times website. The article was written by William C. Taylor, a co-founder and founding editor of Fast Company magazine

The Harvard Business Review on the 6 Stages of Idea Management

The June Issue of The Harvard Business Review had a nice article on Idea Management Systems, which the authors, Morten Hansen and Julian Birkinshaw, called "innovation value chains."

In Hansen and Birkinshaw's model, the innovation value chain consists of stages of
  1. Idea Generation
  2. Conversion
  3. Diffusion
or more explicitly, stages of
  1. In-house idea creation
  2. Cross-pollination of ideas across units
  3. External collaboration on ideas with parties outside the firm
  4. Selection of ideas through screening and provision of initial funding
  5. Development of ideas - moving from idea to result
  6. Spread or dissemination of the developed innovation across the organization (by which the authors mean developing appropriate metrics to measure the success of the innovation)
Coincidentally, each of these 6 stages corresponded to work published predominantly from the Harvard Business School stable of authors, specifically:
  1. Teresa Amabile et al "How to kill creativity (HBR Sept-Oct 1998); Jamming (John Kao, 1996)
  2. Evans and Wolf's "Collaboration rules" (HBR, July-Aug 2006); "Co-evolving at last," Eisenhart and Galunic (HBR Jan-Feb 2000)
  3. Democratizing Innovation (von Hippel, 2005); Blue Ocean Strategy (Kim and Mauborgne, 2004); Open Innovation (Chesbrough, 2003)
  4. Hamel's "Bringing Silicon Valley inside" (HBR Sept-Oct 1999); Corporate Venturing )Block and MacMillan, 1993)
  5. 10 Rules for Strategic Innovators (Govindarajan and Trimble, 2005); The Innovators Solution (Christensen and Raynor, 2003)
  6. Payback (Sirkin and Andrew 2007); Kim and Mauborgne's "Tipping point leadership" (HBR April 2003)
Hansen and Birkinshaw's framework is high level and discusses principles rather than processes, but provides an interesting perspective on Idea Management Systems.

What is an Idea Management System?

An Idea Management System is a structured and disciplined approach to managing innovation by putting in place systems and metrics to manage
  • Idea Generation
  • Idea Capture
  • Idea Collaboration
  • Idea Assessment
  • Idea Implementation
  • Idea Outcomes Monitoring
An Idea Management System involves 5 components:
  • A Front-End system to capture and develop ideas
  • A Back-End system to define and implement processes for filtering and assessing ideas and deciding which ones to invest in
  • An organisational architecture to define the roles and organisational structures facilitating this activity
  • IT systems to support and enable this workflow
  • Metrics and measures to monitor the flow of ideas through the 'idea pipeline' and to determine the business value of the idea generation and implementation process
That is, an Idea Management System puts in place systems and processes to implement a 'stage-gate' or idea funnel process where ideas are systematically filtered and assessed against criteria and only the most valuable ones are implemented and put into practice.

An Idea Management System manages, monitors and implements innovation in a structured way. Although it is not the only way to approach innovation, it is very appealing to management as it provides structure, discipline, clear milestones and metrics to what may otherwise be a very qualitative and unstructured process.


In a global survey of 1200 executives conducted by the Boston Consulting Group and Innovation Week, 47% of the executives surveyed suggested that the innovation function is not managed with the same degree of rigour as other business functions.

An Idea Management System addresses these concerns through defining processes for capturing ideas, evaluating ideas, selecting ideas, turning those ideas into commercial products and services or operational process or business model changes and measuring the ongoing performance of the system.

This site is intended to provide a single contact point for information about Idea Management Systems. If you have information about Idea Management Systems, please leave a comment here! Otherwise, please browse the site - and let me know if you find it useful or let me know how it can be improved.