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.