The thought of missing a great idea or simply letting an opportunity-rich concept slip through the cracks too early on in the innovation process is one that keeps innovators everywhere awake at night. Effective idea management offers a systematic and structured approach to remedy these concerns. When applied appropriately the practice of idea management works to verify and validate concepts so that those that hold the most potential are nurtured and protected.
As defined by Gartner, idea management is “a structured process of generating, capturing, discussing and improving, organizing, evaluating and prioritizing valuable insight or alternative thinking that would otherwise not have emerged through normal processes.” This definition connects well to the general notion of ‘ideation’ which revolves around collecting insights and novel ideas which are then evaluated collaboratively. In our own interpretation of idea management, however, we emphasize that idea management refers to the structured process of generating, assessing, and improving ideas that contribute to an organization’s innovation strategy. We believe this link to be essential in that it offers a guiding light for systematic assessment and decision-making as ideas are moved through various stages and gates.
To build on this definition, this article aims to outline the “Why”, “What”, and “How” of Idea Management for practical use for organizations of any innovation maturity level.
In essence, Innovation Management seeks to create new value for organizations. This is achieved by uncovering growth opportunities and identifying means to improve performance through innovation in products, services, processes, and business models.
At ITONICS, we have defined an innovation model covering all aspects from strategy to execution. Within this, the three main stages are Where to Play, How to Win, and How to Execute. Every stage is crucial for sustainable innovation performance:
We believe that successful innovation management requires a structured innovation strategy that nurtures innovation culture and enables efficient process flows to make sense of and manage the ever-increasing amount of data at every stage of innovation and strategic planning and execution.
Through our Big Picture, the ITONICS model provides a focus for the design of a holistic end2end innovation management process and covers three strategic questions from Where to Play to How to Win and What to Execute.
|Where to Play||How to Win||How to Execute|
This stage leverages Foresight
By considering the relevance, and associated Impact related to this information as well as the interconnections between data points, teams are empowered to derive fresh opportunity spaces.
By collaboratively engaging with teams to evaluate opportunity spaces and generate qualified concepts, teams are enabled to identify promising courses of action and selectively pursue the right ones.
By executing against a balanced innovation portfolio, mapping and monitoring strategic projects to shared roadmaps, teams are able to unify information and successfully operationalize innovation activities with transparency.
Vital to this innovation model, effective idea management reveals How to Win by connecting the strategic imperatives identified in the Where to Play phase of innovation management to the What to Execute phase which focuses on implementation.
Effective Idea Management bridges this gap in 2 ways:
Consequently, effective idea management not only fuels growth but looks to maximize the new value created through innovation management. And, in this way, effective idea management offers organizations the possibility to:
As expressed through the ITONICS definition, we believe effective idea management to be a systematic process. To support this view, we believe there are 3 fundamental pillars that support effective idea management:
The objective of this pillar is to define the requirements, action plan, and control indicators (KPIs) of the idea management process.
By laying the groundwork before the start of an ideation process, innovation teams are best equipped to communicate with transparency. This ensures a high level of continued engagement from participants. In turn, this increases the probability of identifying rewarding ideas that meet innovation objectives.
This pillar relies on the definition of the following critical considerations:
This involves defining the parameters and objectives of phases and gates that form the idea management process.
Phases represent the periods of time in the idea management ideators work on and contribute additional inputs to their ideas.
Gates represent a point in the idea management process; here teams assess the requirements in phases in order to arrive at definitive decisions that take qualified ideas forward.
To orientate ideation teams on expectations, and allow for comparability across input streams, each phase should have specific requirements.
By meeting these requirements, definitive decisions can be made objectively and transparently at the gates.
To provide guidance for decision-making, each gate should have clear assessment criteria.
By rating ideas on variable aspects such as quality, costs, and time, teams are empowered to decide which ideas should be rejected, held, recycled, or proceeded with.
Common Phase Requirements
Common Rating and Evaluation Criteria
Roles and Responsibilites
This involves defining the roles and responsibilities of participants involved in the idea management process.
Common Roles and Responsibilities in the Idea Management Process
This involves defining the tactics and activities within the idea mangement process that inspire participants to sustain engagement throughout the process as they create and contribute to ideas.
As an evolution from the traditional suggestions box, ideation and idea management now more than ever seeks to harness the collective wisdom of those who know the business best. The 2008 financial crash and subsequent economic slump instilled a healthy fear of disruption in large enterprises, spurring a genuine interest to invest in structured programs that accelerate change and innovation. However, to truly unleash the creative potential of the users, employees, partners, and experts involved in the ideation process, it is necessary to sustain engagement throughout the process.
To meet this need, we advocate the following engagement tactics as a means to captivate participants’ attention and inspire them to collaborate without reserve:
This involves defining the management of communication activities and channels within the idea management process to promote the overall campaign, its objectives and outcomes.
The success of an organization’s idea management process is wholly reliant on its participants. As a means to disrupt the status quo and break out of conventional thinking, implementing an idea management process requires openness to change. With this comes inevitable resistance and therefore, requires visionary leadership and the communication of a clear reason why individuals should embrace such an approach.
To gain support from and align all stakeholders within the process, a clear communication plan is critical. It is essential to build a communications plan, irrespective of the scale of the project, to ensure everyone is aligned on the purpose, various activities, and expectations within the process.
A comprehensive communication plan should outline what, when, and how the information will be shared with specific audiences at key intervals in the process. We recommend that a communication plan should detail the following information:
The objective of this pillar is to encourage participants, including employees and/or external influencers, to submit and elaborate on their ideas by outlining the “what, why and how”.
Ideation is the stage of the innovation process in which new ideas and concepts are generated. Generating ideas in collaboration with employees, clients and partners helps to identify and create new products, services, and business models, and harnessing the creative potential of a crowd can be crucial to success. Usually, ideas are explored in answer to a specific question, or as a solution to a certain problem. Often, the ideas generated are based on the wishes or expectations for a product.
We highlight the following approaches to ideation that can be repurposed according to business requirements or innovation objectives at the time:
The objective of this pillar is to enrich and grow ideas to transfer those that are most promising into valuable new applications and assign ownership to business functions with the necessary resources needed to realize them.
Value Realization involves the refinement, prototyping, and validation of ideas. This relies on monitoring and measuring KPIs to inform iterations of improvement and a clear understanding of the next steps. To apply KPIs, you need to start with collecting the right data. This includes collecting data about internal operations and external opinions on your innovation activities. To do so, there are different approaches to data collection that have particular strengths:
How to Win
Organizations are best equipped to successfully implement an effective idea management process by not only following best practice principles but having it supported operationally. In light of this, we believe that “How to Win” lies at the intersection of:
To find out more about how ITONICS can help you to unlock the power of innovation & collaboration with ITONICS Campaigns, get in touch with an expert of our team or schedule a demo today.
The ITONICS Innovation Software helps organizations to take their innovation management to the next level. If you want to learn more, visit our product overview or get a free trial of our software.