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).