Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How To Choose An Idea Management System: Follow The 'Why-What-What-Which'

Which of the 44 Idea Management Software Systems would be best for your organization?

Someone contacted me recently to ask this question. She had produced a sensible list of requirements for an Idea Management System, but all of the software solutions in the list seemed to meet those requirements! It was difficult to evaluate and select a preferred option.

To implement the best Idea Management System for your organization's needs, I suggest a 4-step process that I call the 'Why-What-What-Which.'

1. Why?

First, begin by asking why your organisation is innovating. Consider the 4 drivers for innovation, and ask: exactly why is it your organisation seeks to innovate? Is it to improve revenue growth, to reduce costs and improve efficiencies, to improve competitive differentiation and positioning, or to remain relevant in a changing competitive landscape?

The more strongly you can answer the why question, the more strongly you will be able to engage internal resources in the change, and the more strongly you will be able to focus your selection process to meet your organization's real needs.

Take care to consider if the mandate for innovation is in response to a short term problem, or responding to a longer term structural shift in your market. Sometimes there might be a real difference between the two, and being clear about which it is can help the decision making process and assist in developing infrastructure that will continue to benefit the needs of your organization in the long term.

2. What? (what will it do?)

Once you are clear about the reasons you are innovating - and the reasons that an Idea Management System will help address these needs - then it is time to get specific about what will your Idea Management System do to help achieve those objectives?

One way you could explore this is to step in to the future ... if you could wave a magic wand and the perfect Idea Management System for your organization was already operating and producing ideal results, what would you see? What would it accomplish?

To get the most out of this exercise, get specific! For example -

  • What are the benefits - for example in terms of revenue from new products and services, in cost efficiencies, or in terms of other metrics? 
  • How many ideas are being put in to action each year or quarter or month? 
  • What kinds of new products or services or changes are being generated, and what is the commercial return on those ideas? 
  • Where do these new ideas come from - which parts of the organization, from which roles and responsibilities? Who is contributing, and how? 
  • What kind of ideas are they? 
  • How are people working together, what kind of activities are taking place to take place to generate and capture great ideas, evaluate them, and select and implement the best ones? 
  • How does everybody feel about the system, what kind of difference has it made? 
  • What new capabilities will you have? 
  • How is the system affecting different aspects of your business, for example your strategic planning, competitive positioning, and your brand?

Think about how the organization will be different as an result of implementing the ideal Idea Management System, and how this will address the mandate for innovation from stage 1.

3. What? (what has to happen?)

The next stage is to ask: what has to happen in order to achieve these objectives? What systems and processes and activities are needed? How will the Idea Management System achieve these results?

This stage is about exploring and defining the system, processes, roles and other aspects that are required to achieve the objectives.

For example, the best ideas may need to be financed and managed through to commercialization. It may be appropriate to start thinking about how your innovation project portfolio are going to be financed.

Similarly, which roles and responsibilities will be required in order to fulfil your innovation goals? Who needs to take responsibility and ownership for the system at the leadership level and at the management level in order to achieve the benefits? What role should subject matter experts play in developing or evaluating ideas?

It is also important at this stage to 'know thyself'. What are the specifics about your organization, such as your culture, processes, and capability strengths that define the context in which the Idea Management System will be implemented in? For example, is your organization highly process driven? Does your organization support a culture of creativity?

I suggest you do this before entering in to discussion with or engaging a software vendor, so that you explore this independently first without being influenced by a company biased towards a particular architecture, approach, or solution.

4. Which?

Finally, you are well positioned to begin to draw your list of requirements for an Idea Management Software solution - and to begin discussions with Idea Management Software vendors to test and extend your thinking as well as to ultimately select a software solution.

In thinking through your requirements, it may be useful to

  • become specific about technology and systems integration issues. If you have other software systems your Idea Management System will need to integrate with, articulate these requirements here. Some technologies may be more future proof than others, so it may be appropriate to be concerned about the technology platform the software solution is based on.
  • focus on the whole idea management lifecycle. What has to happen after ideas are generated and selected, and how do software solutions assist with that?
  • compare and contrast vendor Idea Management software solutions with alternatives, such as building a bespoke solution, or building Idea Management solutions into existing corporate infrastructure such as Sharepoint.

By clarifying why you need to implement an Idea Management System, what you expect it to do, and how it achieves those objectives (what systems and processes are needed) before you engage in a process to select which technology you use, you are positioned to make clearer and more effective decisions during your technology selection process.

Is this process useful for you? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Speaking Against Idea Management

In this video, the speaker engages with his topic - why Idea Management Systems don't work!

Essentially he argues that such a small proportion of ideas come through the other end of the ideas funnel, and if you're not careful too many good ideas get killed in the funnel.

It's a good provocative thought starter. Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

44 Idea Management Software Solutions!

This website maintains a list of Idea Management software products available on the market in the right hand column of the site. As at the time of writing, there are 44 distinct Idea Management Software vendors listed.

There is quite an array of different approaches and different strengths from a wide range of suppliers.

Here is the current full list:
  1. Accept Ideas
  2. Akiva
  3. BrainBank IdeaLink
  4. BrainReactions
  6. Cognistreamer
  7. Component Workshop BrightSpark
  8. CorasWorks Idea Management for Sharepoint
  9. Creax
  10. DataStation Innovation Cloud
  11. e-tipi
  12. Employee Suggestion Box
  13. HypeIMT
  14. i-nova
  15. IBM Idea Factory
  16. id-force
  17. ID8 Enterprise Idea Management
  18. Idea Accelerator
  19. Idea Champions IngenuityBank
  20. IdeasCount
  21. Imaginatik Idea Central
  22. Incent Solutions ids Software
  23. Innovation Factory IdeaNet
  24. InnovationCast
  25. inogate
  26. InsightResults e-Impact
  27. Invention Machine Goldfire
  28. Jenni
  29. justlogin
  30. Kindling
  31. Kirei Mile Marker
  32. MangoSpring MangoIdeas
  33. MindMatters Innovator
  34. MuchBeta Teepin
  35. Nosco Idea Exchange
  36. Orchidea Innovations
  37. phpOutsourcing IdeaBox
  38. Prism ISDE
  39. QMarkets Ideation 2.0
  40. SalesForce Ideas
  41. SAP Inspire
  42. SIM
  43. Spigit
  44. Uservoice
Update!! Some additional Idea Management Software Solutions have been suggested in the comments, below.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Innovation news in the week to October 12th 2010

    Some of the things that have been happening in innovation this week on the web included:

    Siemens celebrated 100 years of idea management within their organisation using the 3i methodology.

    Innovation and idea management blog posts included articles on strategies for generating the right kind of ideas, listening to the Voice of the Customer as part of the idea management process, and assessing which ideas are both good and executable.

    The Front End of Innovation had a good set of thought-starters for thinking through some of the technical considerations relevant to selecting an idea management solution while Nosca proposed a related set of questions for assessing whether your idea management implementation is on track for success.

    A solution built on Spigit for use by Manor labs has been recognized by the John F Kennedy School of Government for its successes related to innovation in the public sector and in public policy.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Deepak Chopra Talks About the 9 Steps for Creativity and Innovation

    As a change of pace, this week's video is Deepak Chopra talking about his creative process. At the end, he suggests that all innovation follows the same process.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Ideas Needed! The Idea Management Survey 2010

    Like you, I'm really committed to listening to everyone's ideas, and putting the best ones in to action. That's what we're all here for on Idea Management Systems, right? Yes!

    So from time to time, I put a call out to visitors to this website - I really need to hear YOUR ideas for how I can improve this site! Also, I am in the process of developing version 2.0 of the Idea Management Systems Report - I've got some great topics to cover, but I want to make sure that I am covering everything that is important to you, and I really need your input to 'sense check' the report's coverage.

    So, I've created a survey. It's short - just a couple of pages, with only a few questions per page.

    Here it is: click here to take the survey!

    Also, I want to put together a BONUS to send to everyone who completes the survey, to say thank you for your time and for your ideas and feedback.

    The bonus might be delivered as an e-book, it might be a webinar, it might be a video. Initially I was thinking it might be a collection of some of the best content already covered on this website, but then I thought ... I could ASK you what content you would most like to see covered, and how you would like it delivered.

    So, the last page of the survey will ask you what you'd like to see in your bonus content, and how you would like it delivered.

    Take the survey today!

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Your Innovation Maturity Journey

    Innovation can be seen as a journey towards increasing levels of organizational innovation capability and maturity.

    One of the best ways to understand the journey of innovation maturity is through first reviewing the Capability Maturity Model, originally developed to help manage software projects within organizations.

    The Capability Maturity Model

    At IBM in the 1980s, a number of different software development projects were achieving quite different outcomes. Some projects were racing ahead and achieving outstanding outcomes. Others were going nowhere, failing spectacularly with regards to criteria such as schedule, budget and quality outcome objectives.

    A consultant named Watt's Humphrey was engaged to investigate. Humphrey visited various IBM projects, and reported back on why some projects were succeeding and others failing spectacularly. What were the key factors leading to success in some projects, and abject failure in others?

    What Humphrey found was that different IBM projects were in very different situations with regards to project management capabilities. Some projects relied on talented 'heros', people with extraordinary technical and subject matter skills, to pull them through and save the day at the last minute, putting in extraordinary efforts to meet deadlines. Some used project management methodologies and best practices, others had no apparent methodology. Some teams collaborated, others didn't.

    Humphrey's key insight was that different projects were at different levels of maturity. To achieve consistent and repeatable success, organisations or business areas needed to go through distinct stages of evolution, to gain different levels of capability or 'maturity'.

    Humphrey's insights were articulated and widely published, and are now known as the Capability Maturity Model (CMM). Initially the focus of the CMM was on managing projects, it has now been expanded to help develop capability in a wide range of areas of activity including general business processes.

    The 5 levels of the Capability Maturity Model are

    5 Optimized
    4. Quantitatively Managed
    3. Defined
    2. Managed
    1. Initial

    Initially, a business area may not employ any process or methodology to manage projects. Projects work to the extent that talented heros emerge and save the day, or the project succeeds by blind luck. Project success rates are not high at this stage.

    There is then a lot of pressure for the team or business area to move to the next stage, and utilise proven project management methodologies to gain repeatable business successes in managing projects and delivering valuable business outcomes. At the Managed stage, individual teams or business areas begin to experience repeatable successes.

    However, at this stage different teams or business areas are doing things in different ways, and there may not be any sophisticated program management managing a portfolio of projects. The next step in project capability evolution is to develop consistent, organization-wide defined processes and systems for project management activities. This is the Defined stage.

    Once processes are clearly defined and quantitative measures can be associated with them, organizations reach the Quantitatively Managed stage, where processes can be tightly managed using quantitative techniques.

    Once this stage is reached, an organization's focus becomes continual learning and improvement, to optimize and improve the system.

    The Innovation Maturity Journey

    In the same way, organizations go through a journey in their progress towards innovation maturity.

    Initially, innovation may not be on the corporate radar at all. Innovation is at the Ignored stage. Innovation is, so to speak, 'missing in action'.
    The work that needs to be done is to raise awareness of the importance and high level of priority of innovation for the organization.

    The next level in innovation maturity is when innovation is Declared. Innovation now appears in the corporate vision, in the mission statement, and in various corporate artefacts such as Annual Reports, but no one really knows exactly what it means or how to achieve it.

    At some point after innovation is declared, initiatives are taken to introduce innovation in some form. This might for example include introducing proven creativity techniques, working towards improved collaboration and knowledge sharing, listening to the voice of the customer and incorporating customer perspectives in to product and service design, or initiatives to improve the organizational culture to make it more supportive towards creativity and innovation. At this Initiated stage, there may be a lot of exploration of options around innovation, and experimentation to find what produces sustained results.

    One of the problems of the Initiated stage however is that there are no systematic processes to produce reliable, sustained innovation outcomes.
    Great ideas may for example be produced from brainstorming sessions, but there might be no processes in place to make sure the ideas are assessed and evaluated and the best ones turned in to projects to deliver tangible business outcomes. At some stage in the innovation journey, organizations make a shift towards defining and embedding innovation systems and processes and improving and optimizing those processes. Innovation becomes Systematised.

    At around the stage that an organization commits to and implements rigorous and effective innovation processes and systems, or as it develops effective creativity and innovation techniques in the Initiated stage, an organization naturally begins to focus on embedding these effective creativity and innovation processes in to the 'organizational DNA,' to embed innovation into 'how things are done around here.' Innovation becomes Embedded as part of the organizational way of doing things, it becomes part of the culture that new hires need to be socialised in to.

    But embedding innovation isn't the end of the journey. At some point, from Initiated through to Embedded, innovation activity will need to begin challenging embedded patterns of thinking. Old patterns of thinking may have been terrific when people learnt them in MBA school 20 years ago, or the way of thinking in an organization might have been formed out of market circumstances and a competitive landscape that no longer exists. Old embedded patterns of thinking can be costing the organization, and closing down exciting new opportunities. The organization now needs to be Challenged at all levels about its beliefs, assumptions, and thinking. The leadership team, senior management, and all staff need to question existing ways of thinking. At this level, we embark on innovation in the way we think.

    As an organization gains the sustained capacity to challenge existing patterns of thinking - and innovate and embed new ones - an organization gains a capacity for continuous evolution in the way it thinks. The best of the old ways of thinking are retained but new ways of thinking, acting and being are innovated and introduced. An organization maintains the ability to evolve and respond to a changing environment in an agile and effective way. The organization has reached the Evolved stage of the innovation maturity journey. This is not an end to innovation or to innovation maturity as, by definition, the evolved organization must keep innovating and adapting to evolve to meet changing market circumstances.

    Clearly, Idea Management Systems are critical in the transition from the Initiated to Systematised stages, and they play a significant role in the Embedded stage.

    Idea Management Systems on their own though are by no means all of the innovation maturity journey. Indeed, both the initiatives that can be commenced in the Initiated stage, and the 'idea management' of thinking patterns within the organization including in the board room and in the executive leadership team, can commence before or after the introduction of an Idea Management System or run in parallel with it.

    At which stage is your organization in the Innovation Maturity Journey?

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Innovation News - Week of October 4th 2010

    Who has the best Idea Management scheme in their company? It turns out that there's a competition to find out, run by the Employee Involvement Association (EIA). The winner this year was Dubai Aluminium Company, up against some strong competition.

    Since writing on the adoption of idea management systems using a diffusion of innovations model, I have been happy and interested to see some other diffusion of innovation stories being presented recently. Boris Pluskowski expands on the early stages of adoption of Idea Management Systems on Blogging Innovation, while The Front End of Innovation uses the diffusion of innovations to talk about building momentum within a pilot community.

    It's good to see non-profits benefiting from Idea Management Systems, as described for example in this article from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations about suggestion schemes and idea management.

    Alexander Osterwalder mentioned that he is working on an iPad app with tools to support business model innovation. is looking at which software solutions are best for supporting open innovation.

    Cognistreamer has launched a new product, Cognistreamer Campaign Manager, a new product designed to foster idea collaboration in the open space between an organization and customers, partners and the general public.

    It's interesting that Spigit is appointing a VP of Sharepoint Strategy - it sounds like a great move for Idea Management in the Corporate Enterprise Collaboration market.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Guy Kawasaki On The 10 Rules For Radical Innovation

    Guy Kawasaki rose to fame as an Apple evangelist, a Venture Capitalist and as an author on entrepreneurship and innovation.

    In this video, Kawasaki gives us his 10 rules for radical innovation:

    1. Make meaning
    2. Make mantra
    3. Jump to the next curve
    4. Roll the dice
    5. Don't worry, be crappy
    7. Let my flowers blossom
    7. Polarize people
    8. Churn, baby, churn
    9. Niche thyself
    10. The 10/20/30 rule
    11. Don't let the bozos get you down

    All numbers are as given by Kawasaki.

    And, yes, one of the rules must be to break the rules as there are indeed 11 rules in his 10 rules.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    How Idea Management Systems Make Us Wealthy

    In the success philosophy movement, motivational speaker Jim Rohn was fond of saying that the most compelling reason for becoming wealthy was not for the riches we acquire on achieving our goals, but for the personal qualities we must acquire as human beings during the process of becoming successful.

    Rohn told us that in order to achieve sustainable high levels of success - measured in terms of financial outcomes - we must first somewhere along the path develop a good business sense, acquire an ability to form and maintain relationships of trust and mutual support, and attain the ability to lead, persuade, sell, and hire and manage people without violating that trust. To achieve high levels of success demands from us high levels of character, learning, and personal development. In achieving the outcome of wealth, we also necessarily achieve significant outcomes that we may not have anticipated, or consciously intended, when starting out on the path to success.

    It is similar with organizations. As discussed previously on, we pursue innovation and Idea Management because of one or more of the 4 Drivers Of Innovation. That is, we aim to increase revenue growth, reduce costs, differentiate from the competition, and maintain relevant in a changing world, and we do this ultimately to increase our profitability sustainably in to the future.

    But the process of implementing an Idea Management System to achieve these elevated levels of wealth demands much more from us. We grow and change along the way. Here are just a few examples:

    • As people from across your organization step in to the world of possibilities and suggest ideas and then see their ideas assessed, implemented and actioned leading to real results that make a difference, people begin to be engaged and excited about what is happening in the organization. This leads to high levels of motivation, higher levels of input of energy and time, more staff satisfaction, greater staff retention, and the ability to attract even more qualified and high potential candidates for new roles. 
    • As people see ideas being proposed, and work together in teams to assess, develop and implement the ideas suggested, Idea Management can lead to greater knowledge sharing and the building and enhancement of strong working relationships.
    • In our path to innovation maturity, we must start thinking about the processes required for effective innovation management, and further develop and enhance our innovation processes - and our general level of process maturity

    Implementing Idea Management Systems does help us become wealthy, in the hard-nosed economic and business sense implicit in the pursuit of the 4 Drivers Of Innovation and the resultant business outcomes. However, successfully implementing an Idea Management System does much, much more, and provides a different kind of wealth to our organizations. It allows us to become better at what we do, make our workplace a better place to work, bring out the best in our people, and make a difference to the world.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Innovation News - Week of September 27th

    Here is some of the innovation and Idea Management news that crossed my desk during the last week leading up to September 28th:

    ZDNet interviewed innovation author David Croslin on Innovation Management. The article raised some interesting questions about the boundaries of innovation management, citing Starbucks and Dell in the discussion. Croslin questioned the value of the ideas that had been collected, and pointed to the necessity of business people and business processes to process the ideas generated. As Jeffrey Baumgartner suggested in the comments,
    "... tools like Dell's IdeaStorm and Starbuck's platform are really suggestion schemes and not idea management by any definition. They are tools that invite customers to submit ideas - like the suggestion boxes of old. But they do not structure innovation nor provide any process for managing ideas that come in."
    I'm hearing distinct echos of conversations from a couple of years ago, when we were questioning the value of Starbucks and Dell's Idea Management approaches ...

    The Front End of Innovation published an article on the "innovation wars", an interesting perspective on the state of the Idea Management market.

    Imaginatik interviewed Gina O'Connor of the Lally School of Management and Technology on incremental versus breakthrough innovation. The article explores the relative merits of incremental and breakthrough innovations and advocates a balanced portfolio of both kinds of innovaitons.

    Idea Management Software vendor Kindling is going international, announcing localization of their software application in to other languages and new partners for distributing their software globally.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Innovation at Google

    Tom Davenport has researched innovation at Google, and reported on Google's approach to innovation in the Harvard Business Review.

    In the below video, the Harvard Business Review interviews Davenport about innovation at Google.

    The two key takeaways for me are:
    • Google's willingness to get results in front of an audience early to test them and iterate and develop them
    • Google's reliance on their innovation ecosystem

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    7 Days To Go To Purchase The Idea Management Systems Report At The Reduced Price!

    If you haven't already purchased the Idea Management Systems Report and are intending to, this is a quick reminder that the price will be going back up in 7 days time on October 1st 2010.

    Purchasing now at the reduced price will also entitle you to an upgrade to version 2.0 of the Idea Management Report when version 2.0 is released later this year.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Nothing Is More Powerful Than A Good Idea

    "Creative thinking is today's most prized, profit producing possession for any individual, corporation or country. It has the capacity to change you, your business, and the world."
    - Robert P Crawford, 1954, The Techniques of Creative Thinking
    Ideas remain just as powerful and important for us today as they were for Crawford in 1954 - if not more so.

    Crawford believed that one of the reasons why ideas are powerful is that "new ideas ... possess within them the power to remake a world."

    The reason that innovation can transform your working world is that innovation is unlike most other kinds of change experienced by your organization. Innovation generates ideas and opportunities from within your organisation. With innovation, change is not imposed on the organization, by external forces, or by projects or reforms driven by leaders.

    There are three major benefits of change brought about through innovation processes:
    1. Because changes are generated from within, and because the ideas selected in the innovation process are high value and realize exciting opportunities, your people tend to endorse and boost these changes - rather than resisting it as they may do for other forms of change.
    2. Because the process of generating ideas, selecting the best ones and implementing them for results engages people in to the world of vision and possibility, effective innovation tends to motivate and engage your staff.
    3. Because these changes may include valuable suggestions for improving your organizational processes, systems and ways of working, these suggestions tend to gradually rework and improve your organization from the inside, with both problem identification and solution identification coming from the people who know what needs fixing.
      If you want to transform your organization, and the world - and perhaps in the journey change yourself - a free flow of new and powerful ideas is a good place to start.

      Tuesday, September 21, 2010

      Innovation News - Week of September 20th

      Here is some of the innovation and Idea Management news that crossed my desk during the last week leading up to September 21st:

      Imaginatik touched on the subject of incentive schemes for your Idea Management System, with an article quoting some fascinating psychological research showing the value of intrinsic motivation in rewarding employee contributions. Incentive schemes are a significant subject with many complexities and nuances, but the value of intrinsic motivation is well supported. A good academic reference is economist Bruno Frey's book Not Just For The Money, in which Frey ran some classic studies to show the impact of financial incentives on behaviour and how financial incentives could disrupt intrinsic motivation.

      Jeffrey Baumgartner of argued that idea management implementations can and should be simple. Baumgartner makes an excellent point, but conversely if an organisation has developed a high degree of process maturity then they will want an idea management system that can support that level of process definition. Matching the idea management solution to your corporate culture, processes and way of thinking is a significant consideration when selecting an Idea Management System solution. Otherwise, like many Enterprise Resource Planning solutions you may need to some extent reengineer your processes to match your technology solution. also this week announced that the Jenni Idea Management System will gain local US support as in a joint venture with Reliant Tech of New Jersey, USA, The Idea Hunter, of London, UK and Synopse of India, (the makers of Jenni Idea Management software) have launched a new company in the USA to oversee developing, selling and marketing Jenni innovation process management in the Americas and India. The new company will be led by Dan Kenyon and will enable to serve better the American market and improve the pace of software development.

      Finally, Blogging Innovation released the results from their survey to find their top 40 innovation bloggers of 2010. This is a great list of smart business people sharing their knowledge online.

      Monday, September 20, 2010

      Procter & Gamble CEO A. G. Lafley Discusses Innovation Processes at Procter & Gamble

      In this video, Procter & Gamble CEO A. G. Lafley discusses innovation processes at Procter & Gamble.

      Some of the key points are that:
      • Innovation needs to be integrated in to everything we do
      • We need to develop an innovation culture
      • Innovation should be customer-centric: focused on meeting the needs and demands of the customer
      • Ideas are tested at early stages with end-consumers to move as closely as possible to co-designing products and services with customers
      • Innovation is a managed process from qualifying the idea through development through to commercialisation through to launching to the marketplace. 

      Wednesday, September 15, 2010

      Are You Ahead Of The Curve Or Behind The Game?

      Last week I talked about Everett Rogers' model for the diffusion of innovations, and asked what kind of company are you with response to changes and innovations in your industry? In that article, I was focused on asking how your company responds to innovations and change in your industry and market.

      Now I want to use that understanding to develop some perspective on the current Idea Management System software market. I'm going to talk about the industry shifts that are happening, and will continue to happen, as companies adopt innovation processes at different rates.

      The Three Phases Of Idea Management

      The diagram below shows the 5 categories from the diffusion of innovation model - innovators, early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, and laggards. Superimposed on the model, however, are three distinct time periods for the adoption of Idea Management Systems for managing innovation processes.

      Image adapted from

      In a nutshell, there are three phases for the diffusion of Idea Management System in to the market: 'Leaders' adopting the system before the majority of the market, the 'mainstream' coming aboard afterwards, and the 'followers' trailing behind.

      Before I talk about what this means for organizations and why when you adopt rigorous innovation processes matters, I'll take a brief moment to explain the phases.

      The Leaders

      Idea Management System software really started coming in to existence in the mid 1990s, as the suggestion box moved online. 

      'Innovators' - companies at the leading edge of adoption of Idea Management Systems - started using Idea Management Systems seriously from the early 2000s onwards. Early software solutions to support Idea Management such as and Imaginatik's Idea Central became available and supported this adoption. Over the decade from 2000 to 2010, new and powerful Idea Management solutions entered the market, existing solutions continued to improve, and organizations matured in their understanding of innovation and its challenges. It was no longer just the 'innovators' (the first 2.5%) adopting Idea Management Systems, in the 2000-2010 decade the early adopters also came on board.

      The Mainstream

      Today, however, Idea Management has developed significantly, and is beginning to be a mature solution that is being adopted by the 'early majority.' 

      A lot of the evidence for this change, while real and tangible, has a flavour of being anecdotal, such as an increased buzz around innovation processes in online conversations and reporting, and a visibly greater focus on innovation processes and supporting software systems within organizations as their CEOs and innovation officers discuss their innovation progress in the media. 

      It is however instructive to look at the level of focus on Idea Management by analysts such as Gartner. Gartner took an early interest in Idea Management solutions in the early 2000s, but subsequently shifted their focus to other subjects from around 2003 until around 2009. Gartner had very little to say regarding Idea Management during this intervening period. Recently however, in 2009 and 2010 Gartner have placed Idea Management Systems as having come out of the "trough of disillusionment" and being about to enter the "slope of enlightenment", as shown in the 2010 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies:

      image from Gartner

      Gartner are currently showing Idea Management as being "2 to 5 years" away from mainstream adoption.

      Similarly, Idea Management software solutions are typically now regarded as having gone through three or four generations of development. We are well past the early stages of innovation in idea management processes and supporting technology, and in to fairly mature product offerings quite ready for adoption by both early adopters and the early majority.

      While neither Gartner's crystal ball or mine guarantees perfect predictions, I anticipate that the adoption of Idea Management Systems will continue to be predominantly by the early majority for the next several years. This is marked on the top diagram above as the 'mainstream' phase.


      Once the mainstream have adopted Idea Management processes, we might expect that from perhaps 2015 to 2025 the remainder of market, except the "laggards" - who almost by definition will continue to hold out - will have adopted systematic approaches to innovation. They will face additional pressure to do so in order to maintain their market positioning relative to an increasingly innovative mainstream.

      What This Means

      All other things being equal, organizations adopting a disciplined approach to innovation management using an Idea Management System in some form or other in the leader phase have the opportunity to gain experience and maturity in innovation and to open up differentiation, competitive advantage, and increased revenue and reduced costs relative to their competition. 

      While there are significant efforts and risks to adopting in the innovator stage where a 'frontier' mentality of willingness to work with early forms of technology and develop the required processes and expertise may have been required, we are now well past that stage. Organizations adopting Idea Management Systems at the tail end of the leader phase stand to gain many of the benefits, without as great an effort as that expended by the innovators who adopted Idea Management Systems early in the 2000s.

      Organizations delaying the introduction of a systematic approach to innovation beyond the next 5 years risk falling behind the mainstream. If this occurs, they forfeit the potential advantages accruing from innovating before many of their competitors, but also face potential disadvantages from a deteriorating relative market position.

      More Specifically ...

      What matters, of course, is what is happening specifically in your industry. If your industry has been adopting systematic approaches to innovation for the last several years and your company has not, you may in fact already be in the 'follower' phase for your industry.

      Conversely, if no-one in your industry has yet adopted a systematic approach to innovation, you may be in a position to take the position of 'innovator' in your industry. This may allow you to create significant differentiation and sustainable competitive advantage and to create disruptive innovations within your industry.

      The Takeaway

      The diffusion of systematic approaches to innovation management using Idea Management Systems is entering a new phase. This will have the potential to reshape competitive positioning within industries. 

      How it will affect you will depend on the specifics of what has been happening already within your industry. 

      If you have already adopted an Idea Management System, you will stand to continue to gain. If you have not yet adopted such a system, there may be merits in considering adopting such a system in the near term.

      Tuesday, September 14, 2010

      Innovation News - Week of September 13th 2010

      Some news and updates regarding innovation and Idea Management from the last week:

      Imaginatik are launching a collaborative Idea Management initiative with NASA. Imaginatik also interviewed innovation author Paul Sloan. Some of the key points from the interview were that innovation needs to be led by an executive leader with vision for change, and that innovation budgets can be managed centrally or allocated by department.

      The Heart of Innovation talked about 41 things that business leaders can do to foster a culture of innovation.

      McKinsey Consulting recently released their Innovation and Commercialization 2010 Global Survey results - I'll have more to say on this in a later post.

      The Washington Post surveyed business leaders' views on innovation.

      BloggingInnovation talked about the importance of 'marketing' your Idea Management innovation initiative

      Adam Westerski collated a great set of links for what is happening in the Idea Management space.

      BuiltToThrive reflected on a tension between loose networks and formal structures in managing innovation.

      The African Consultants Network talked about the importance of innovation - including Idea Management - in the new economy.

      Monday, September 13, 2010

      Innovation and Idea Management at PricewaterhouseCoopers

      In this video, PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Chairman Dennis Nally talks about the importance of innovation at PricewaterhouseCoopers and the recent introduction of their Idea Management System to manage their innovation processes.

      The key initiatives Nally announces in this video are:
      • the appointment of a Chief Innovation Officer, Sheldon Laube, giving overall responsibility for innovation initiatives to a specific individual
      • innovation is everyone's responsibility, across all of the firm's 30,000 employees
      • the PwC Idea management System iPlace to encourage innovation and cutting edge-thinking for PwC employees, clients, and other communities.

      Thursday, September 9, 2010

      What Type of Innovator Are You?

      Most of us interested in innovation are familiar with Everett Rogers' idea of the diffusion of innovations, in which ideas are not instantly adopted, but instead there are differing rates of adoption of an idea by different participants in a market or industry.

      But: have you asked - which type of adopter is your organization when it comes to innovations in your industry?

      The Diffusion of Innovations Model

      In Rogers' diffusion of innovations model there are 5 distinct groupings when it comes to adopting innovations, and a new innovation is adopted by each group at distinctly different stages.

      image from

      There are the innovators, the trailblazers out on the cutting edge, who find and implement new technologies at their inception and adapt and use these ideas in their raw, seminal form to stay ahead of the curve. There are the early adoptors, who recognise and adopt the new technology or innovations ahead of the mainstream, and adopt it early to gain a competitive advantage. There are the early majority, who recognise that a shift is happening in their industry, and adopt the change at around the same time as others do or slightly before. There are the late majority, who recognise that a shift has occurred in their industry, and make the changes required to adopt the new technology and stay in the mainstream. And then there are the laggards,  a group who are slow to recognise and adopt the new technology and its implications.

      In the graph above, the yellow line shows cumulative adoption of the new technology, while the blue curve shows the break down of each group of industry participants over time.

      Implications For Industry


      Clearly, the innovators as a group have a tremendous opportunity to seize the advantage over their competition in the market and

      • create points of differentiation from competition, 
      • create disruptive innovation that works to their advantage, 
      • create new revenue sources, and 
      • introduce new cost efficiencies. 

      However, these advantages comes with their own set of challenges. In the early stages, an innovation may be quite raw. There may be a lack of support and explanation around the innovation, and there may be considerable work to do in order to develop and mature the innovation into a viable commercial offering. Innovators need to be prepared to work at the cutting edge (or, indeed, the 'bleeding edge').

      Innovators need a distinct mindset, including an ability to sense trends and developments and assess which ones will be important to their industry, and rapid and effective decision making processes when it comes to responding to and adopting new innovations. Innovators display a willingness to continue to develop a concept or technology from a raw germinal form into a viable mature commercial offering, service, or business process. Innovators understand that they are managing a portfolio of innovations, some of which will pay off strongly and others which may ultimately not result in a strong business outcome or indeed may on occasions constitute a temporary setback. Innovators are comfortable exploring and evaluating risk and uncertainty, and making sensible investments in light of the best information available in order to gain the potential benefits.

      Early adopters

      Early adopters have an advantage over innovators in that they are now working with proven, mature innovations. There is less risk in adopting the innovation, and less work to do to develop the innovation into a viable commercial offering or useful business improvement.

      There are still significant opportunities to gain a competitive advantage over the majority of the industry (up to 97.5% of the industry, in Roger's model), and to gain many of the benefits listed above for the innovators. Early adopters will however have less chance to shape their industry, or to carve out 'blue oceans' of new opportunity where they dominate a market or industry.

      Early majority

      The early majority are moving with the mainstream, or slightly ahead of it. The early majority therefore are likely to either maintain their current competitive positioning in a market, or to slightly improve in relation to the majority of the industry. They miss the opportunity to reap the significant benefits available to the innovators and early adopters.

      As organizations in the early majority tend to have longer and more cautious decision making processes regarding their decision to invest in new innovations, they tend to ultimately make safe, sensible and responsible decisions when investing in new technology.

      Late majority

      Organizations in the late majority are, by definition, behind the mainstream in their adoption of new innovations. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage when responding to changes in a market, and in their attempts to create differentiation from their competition.

      The late majority are often skeptical of new innovations, are attached to existing advantages in the current industry structure (such as monopoly advantages or other vested interests or relationships) or are generally slow to adopt a new innovation until it has been proven and adopted by others. An organization seeking to adopt, for example, 'best practices' may for example be constantly moving towards standards and approaches that innovators, early adopters and the early majority previously adopted, and have since moved on from.

      Organizations in the late majority are potentially at a disadvantage relative to their competition during times of innovation and change, and are open to significant risks from disruptive innovations in their industry.


      Laggards are, by definition, behind at least 84% of their industry when it comes to change. Laggards are potentially at a significant disadvantage when it comes to times of innovation or change.

      Laggards and the late majority may lag behind the rest of the industry in adopting change for a number of reasons, including:

      • failure to monitor the market and recognise that change is occurring
      • vested interests such as a leading market position or monopoly advantages making change seem unattractive
      • commitment to outdated thinking patterns that lead to decisions that are not optimal in the current environment
      • decision making processes that are flawed and slow to adopt innovations until change is absolutely and manifestly necessary
      Which Diffusion of Innovation Category Does Your Organization Fit In?

      While it is likely to vary with different types of innovations, in general which diffusion of innovations group does your organization fit into?

      And which of the diffusion of innovation groups do you think your organization should be in?


      The greatest benefits clearly accrue to innovators, the first 2.5% of the market to adopt a new innovation. But to be an innovator requires a distinct mindset and a set of capabilities including

      • the ability to monitor trends - not just within the industry but also outside it - and identify new opportunities
      • the willingness to invest at an early stage in trialling new, unproven innovations and developing them into mature commercial offerings or business processes
      • a mindset that is comfortable with assessing risk and uncertainty and investing accordingly in a portfolio of investments
      • a disposition towards accepting that change is inevitable and that organizational thinking, the business that you are in and the products and services that you offer over time will always evolve
      • a decision making process that allows your organization to make rapid and sensible choices in relation to new opportunities and investments
      If your organization is not currently an innovator in your industry with regards to the diffusion of new innovations, it may be worth developing the capabilities and mindset to be the innovator and gain the advantages that accrue from this positioning.

      Early adopters

      Early adopters can gain many of the advantages of innovators, without some of the extra risks and work involved in recognising raw innovations and developing them in to a form that can be taken to market.

      And if early adopters can identify innovations from other industries and are the first to bring these innovations to their own industry, early adopters still maintain significant potential for creating disruptive innovation in their industry and recreating their industry in such a way as they maintain and defend a dominant position.

      Early majority

      If your organization is typically in the early majority, you are likely maintaining - and possibly improving -  your position relative to the majority of competitors in the market, but you are at significant risk from disruptive innovation from innovators and early adopters.

      Your organization's trend-monitoring and decision making processes are likely to be nimble enough to let you adapt in sufficient time to changes in your industry, but you may not gain real advantages from that change, it may only maintain the status quo or indeed you may slip back in the market positioning as innovators and organizations in the early majority take up greater market share.

      If you are in the early majority it may be worth investing the extra effort to shift in to the early adopter category and gain the benefits of improved positioning following times of innovation and change.

      Late majority and laggards

      If your organization is in the late majority or laggard category, it may be useful to analyse exactly why your organization is in this category.

      It may be that your greatest task is to update your capability for momitoring trends and developments and maintaining a useful foresight capacity in your industry.

      It may be that it might be useful to review your decision making processes and develop more proactive and rapid processes to make good decisions and investments during times of industry change.

      It may be that deeply engrained cultural values or patterns of thinking are holding your organization back from growth.

      Or it may be that current advantages you enjoy in the market place make it difficult to contemplate change, or certain types of change. If this is the case, then your organization may be at significant risk during times of disruptive innovation or other significant industry change, and it may be wirth analysing this context and developing contingency plans for facing innovation and change in your industry.

      The Takeaway:

      Change will happen. Innovations will be developed that significantly transform your industry.

      You can respond as an innovator, an early adopter, as part of the early majority, as part of the late majority or as a laggard.

      Unless there are structural reasons - such as monopoly positioning - that are retarding your ability to change, your organization should aim to be an innovator or early adopter, in order to gain the significant benefits that accrue from rapidly and effectively to innovations and changes in your industry.

      If your organization is a late adopter or laggard in response to innovation and change, you will benefit from understanding exactly why your organization is in this category - and acting accordingly.

      Which diffusion of innovations group is your organization currently in - and which group should it be in?

      Monday, September 6, 2010

      Idea Management Systems Report - On Sale in September 2010!

      Around 3 years ago, I produced an Idea Management Systems Report, designed to assist indiviuals and organisations involved in the information-seeking and evaluation and selection phases of implementing an Idea Management System to:
      • Help investigate the range of offerings in the Idea Management software space and understand what alternatives and choices exist
      • Help build the business case for investing in an Idea Management System
      • Review a wide range of critical factors in the decision making process from business through to technology considerations
      This report has now been on the market for 3 years. I reviewed the report recently, and am pleased to be able to say that the vast majority of the content of the report, around 90% of the content, is still current and relevant, and that the predictions I made about the development of the Idea Management software space and alternative and competing technologies appear to have been consistent with the way the market has actually developed since I first wrote the report. 

      However, it is now time for a revision and update to the report, and to add some new material, so I am now starting work on the development of Version 2.0 of the Idea Management Systems Report.

      In the interim, while I'm working on version 2.0 of the report, I've decided to put the report on sale during the month of September 2010, and for everyone who purchases the current version of the report between now and when Version 2.0 is released, or has purchased the report previously, a copy of the Version 2.0 report will be included for free when it is released

      I've also decided to move the report to here on this site, so that it is easier to find.

      The report is available for purchase for both single-person use and for organization-wide use.

      If you have previously purchased Version 1.0 of the report and have any comments or feedback you can share to help me improve it for Version 2.0, or if you are interested in such a report and have any thoughts about content or topics that you would like covered in Version 2.0 of the Idea Management Systems Report Version 2.0, please contact me with those ideas so I can include this input while developing Version 2.0 of the report. 

      Monday, August 30, 2010

      Can Ideas Be Managed?

      In comments to a recent blog post, Hutch Carpenter from Spigit and Mark Turrell from Imaginatik took up the question of "whether it even makes sense to say that ideas can be managed."

      This is a great question, and I think it goes to the heart of what Idea Management is all about.

      To me, the key distinction I bear in mind is that:
      • Creativity and the generation of new ideas may vary between quite unpredictable creative and psychological processes to predictable manageable processes. So the creative act of generating ideas may not always be manageable. 
      • But what organizations do with ideas once they have been generated can be managed systematically, as the ideas generated are assessed for their business value and the cost and ease and value of implementation, and managed through to delivery of business benefits or outcomes. 
      Mark and Hutch suggest that "ideas are easy, Innovation is hard." This is true up to a point.

      It is relatively easy to generate a lot of ideas. It can sometimes be hard though to generate really good ideas, which is why there is a continuing focus on creativity tools and techniques, innovation strategies are important, and there is an ongoing demand for thought leaders in any field. 

      Saturday, August 28, 2010

      The Four Drivers For Innovation

      There are four main drivers for innovation:

      1. Top Line Revenue Growth. 
      Creating new revenue through innovating new or improved products and services

      2. Bottom Line Efficiencies
      Innovating to reduce costs and create efficiencies to improve the bottom line.

      3. Differentiation
      Differentiating your company and products and services in a sustainable meaningful way.

      4. Relevance and agility
      The market is changing and your competitors are innovating ... maintain relevance in a changing market environment by innovating.

      All of these innovation drivers are important, and your organisation should be concerned with and address all of them. However, typically your organisation's mandate for innovation will favour one, or some, of the 4 innovation drivers over the others.

      For example, in the 1990s, American Airline's IdeAAs in Action program was primarily focused around bottom line cost reductions, and saved the airline $43M in 1996. Apple Computer's innovation around the iPod, iPhone and later the iPad was a differentiation strategy, and was also central to maintaining relevance in a changing market environment.

      When in the design stage planning the architecture for your Idea Management processes, being clear about your innovation drivers and objectives is essential as you start making critical design decisions around  your Idea Management System such as governance structure, financing structures and portfolio management for implementing the best ideas, and incentive arrangements for motivating and engaging employees in the innovation process. Different decisions can lead to very different Idea Management System designs.

      Takeaway: It is important to be clear about your innovation drivers and objectives when designing your Idea Management strategy and implementation, because different innovation objectives can lead to quite  Idea Management System implementations and lead to quite different innovation outcomes.

      Thursday, August 26, 2010

      Are You The Innovation Cool Kid On the Block?

      These days, it seems that almost everyone is using an iPad or iPhone or other smartphone device, and the 'app' market for these devices is going crazy. It seems like there is an app for almost everything.

      Which gets me wondering ... do you have an iPhone or iPad app your people can use with your Idea Management System? 

      If so, leave a comment and let me know!