Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Steve Shapiro on Idea Management Systems

Steve Shapiro, a prominent innovation author and consultant, wrote recently on his blog that
A large bank in England asked their employees for new ideas using an idea management system (a tool). Unfortunately the executives never implemented any of the ideas causing a massive rebellion by employees and the eventual dismantling of their innovation efforts. Leadership must show a commitment to innovation. It must not be viewed as another project. It must be treated as a way of life; a never ending mindset.
Shapiro's core point about the necessity for organisations to develop and maintain an innovation culture, with sustained leadership executive commitment to funding and managing the innovation initiative effectively, is a key point and is well taken.

However, it is important to note that the phrases "executives never implemented any of the ideas" - and Shapiro's related suggestion on his blog post that innovation initiatives are often not sufficiently well funded to invest to a significant enough extent in the most promising innovation ideas - is not in any way in conflict with the usefulness of Idea Management Systems as a tool for managing innovation outcomes.

This is because the whole point of an Idea Management System is to maintain a pipeline where ideas are assessed and a portfolio of the most promising ideas are invested in. Providing the necessary funding for the Idea Management System to work is as axiomatic as providing the budget the marketing people need in order to implement, for example, a lead generation strategy, or the budget for a project to succeed. A well conceived and implemented Idea Management System will allow appropriately qualified and informed individuals to systematically test ideas against established commercial and technical criteria, and provide sufficient funding to invest in a portfolio of suitably promising ideas.

While there is a wide range of manners in which an Idea Management System can be set up, and a variety of appropriate funding schemas could be considered, there still remains the necessity to apply best practices in Idea Management when implementing the Idea Management solution.

Like any significant organisational process, an Idea Management System needs to be properly designed and implemented to achieve the desired outcomes.


Web2.0PRDude said...

Hi: How different is IMS S/W from Project Management S/W? We use an SaaS offering called Vertabase that enables us to evaluate ideas using built in social networking tools (see http://www.vertabase.com/news-project-management-software.html for more to understand what I am getting at).

Are project managers good people to guide the process of finding and sorting new ideas?

Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon said...

Hello Web2.0Dude,

I had a look at the Vertabase product site and did not see any specific features and functionality around idea submission and evaluation and social networking tools - from the website it looked like a standard project / portfolio management software product. Of course, there may be other features that are not extensively advertised on the website.

Can a project / portfolio software product be used to implement an effective Idea Management System? Absolutely. However, a key issue is how much of the required functionality is provided out of the box by the project/portfolio server software, and how much you will have to extend or configure the software to achieve the desired results. Two factors worth specific consideration are the extent to which the software lets you define customised workflows and actions, and that if you are using project/portfolio software to implement idea management you will achieve best results by utilising an idea management or innovation consultant to help you configure your project/portfolio software and adapt your people processes and culture to make the changes required to get the best possible outcomes from the system.

With regard to the second question, I would tend to choose another resource such as an Innovation Manager to manage the idea management system rather than a project manager. The project manager is well suited to managing projects that arise through your idea management pipeline, but managing the idea pipeline is an ongoing business operation rather than a project with a defined endpoint, and in addition to the question of whether it is the best use of your PM resources, different skills and backgrounds may be required for effective innovation management. A PM may have these skills (or not) - you, or an innovation consultant briefed on your organisational context, would be best placed to make this judgement within the context of your organisation.

Hope this helps

Kind regards,

Lauchlan Mackinnon