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.