Everything starts with an idea, so do organizations. Idea Management oversees these ideas and is important in structuring innovation projects of organizations. Ask 10 people what innovation means and you most likely receive 12 different answers. Therefore, we prefer the term idea management to prevent confusion. It is, in our opinion, a less polluted word. This article is about idea management. Idea management is a part of innovation management and our definition is:
“Managing all ideas of an organization by using a structured process: generate, select, collaborate and organize ideas”
Idea management is a part of innovation management. Innovation strategy development and innovation culture are, like idea management, also a part of innovation management. The main goal of idea management is generating the best ideas possible. When using idea management, the biggest hurdles are generating plenty ideas, decision making and actually realizing the ideas.
Why is idea management essential?
Idea management is essential to every organization, because it’s the foundation of development and growth. Every single development in organizations started with an idea. When using the right processes, many ideas will be created. The challenge is to choose the right projects to execute. A common misconception is that just one idea is enough. However, many ideas are needed to reach the best result alongside processes or structures to prevent employees returning to their old habits instead of changing. By structuring the idea creation process, more and better ideas are generated. Likewise, decision making to achieve the best solutions is improved. This saves a lot of time and money. Organizations who understand this process grow a lot faster than traditional organizations.
Is it humane?
People tend to be blinded by ideas or solutions; they fall in love with their own ideas. Moreover, we find it hard to value ideas of others. Besides, people are impatient, which leads to bad decision making caused by a shortage of created ideas. Ideas with a high fail rate and a high impact are often preferred to ideas with a low investment and a high impact. These ideas are usually mentioned multiple times or are copies of others. Low investment ideas are perceived as less meaningful because people much rather work on something more challenging instead of something comfortable. This does not concern every person, due to personal types.
Managing ideas in a structured way aids, besides preventing emotional interference, the logical values of ideas. An example is the separation of idea creation and selection. By dividing the idea management into the two better results will be achieved. Important in this process is that it must be managed correctly.
Once or continuous?
The full value of idea management is not extracted by completing one or even multiple challenges per year. To reach the full potential, the process needs to be continuous, like sales. Most companies need to invest more time in sales than just one month per year. Once a year is desirable but does not bring sustainable growth. Idea creation is no different than sales. The goal is to create a continuous stream of ideas throughout the year. Alongside should be an appropriate process which provides new questions continuously accompanied with a tool to present ideas regarding the question.
Idea Management Tools
In the past, people only shared ideas face to face. Someone shared an idea to their manager. Later came physical idea boxes to improve the process. Recently, this process shifted from paper to computers. The digital equivalent works faster and easier than its predecessors. A perk of digital idea collection is that it does not rule out face to face interaction; both can be used at the same time. Other benefits of the digitalization are: no manager reviews, less meetings are necessary, submit an idea at any moment to any question when something comes to mind, submitting and reacting to an idea in a structured way etc. Software with these specifications is called idea management software. An example of idea management software is Accept Mission. The platform contains different idea management tools and has gamification elements to improve the appeal to and engagement of the users.
Size doesn’t matter
In the past, only large organizations used idea management. It was costly to implement and needed strong organizational skills to succeed. These organizations purchased expensive software and consultancy to run idea management. The ideas could be submitted on the intranet of the organization. Nowadays, idea management is accessible for every organization. Software prices have dropped and the implementation has gotten better.
Accept Mission is available for only a couple euros per month per active user.
Where to start with Idea Management
It’s simple… start with an innovation strategy or even an idea management strategy. With a strategy, you define the goals that you want to achieve. This strategy is intertwined with innovation strategy. With smaller companies, we combine the two strategies into idea management strategy to prevent unnecessary complexity. Mature organizations tend to wish for the separation of innovation strategy and idea management strategy. Next, it’s important to, based on the goals, define a plan of action; how are we going to achieve the goals? This is fundamental in defining a strategy. After defining a strategy, it’s important to structure the organization with tasks, responsibilities, processes, tools, KPI’s and culture. Once everything has been put in order, the ideation tool is next. This tool will help the organization to generate, select and review ideas and to help keep track of progress.
Ideation is a very important step in the process to innovation. Generating ideas is simplified thanks to idea generation software. Employees can submit their ideas using their computers and phones, which makes it more flexible than, for example, meetings. The generation of ideas is organized by objectives where they are able to brainstorm. To know which ideas are the best, reviewing rounds are implemented. The users rate the ideas based on, by the ideation creator’s chosen, variables to receive instant feedback on the quality of every idea.
Managing the ideas
The goal is to structure the ideation process. This is where idea management comes in play. During the generation and reviewing of ideas, the results need to be managed. Results can be viewed in an overview that the innovative manager can view. It also shows the progress and points out if the innovation goes as planned and is on schedule. When not enough employees have participated in the mission this could require action. It is possible that this would have gone unnoticed if the idea management tool was not used.
Managing the ideas after the mission is equally, if not more, important to maintain an overview of the ideas. It is easy to get lost in data when hundreds of ideas are generated. The software automatically sorts the ideas based on review scores to assure the most enticing ideas are most noticeable and the less scoring ideas are not in the way. Because of this, there is no need for looking at every idea, but just at the ones that matter.
The clear overview of ideas makes selecting the sought-after idea(s) a lot easier. The target is to choose the best idea out of all. There are three options after the objective round(s). First of all, it is a possibility that a fitting idea has not been found. In this case, the ideation can start over. Secondly, a useful idea has been found. If the organization has found a useful idea, they can move on to the next step in the innovation process. However, if multiple good ideas have been submitted that the organization can’t yet choose from, a selection round is possible. In the selection round, other users than the users from the ideation mission can review the selected ideas. A selection round is also possible if the innovation creator wants the idea(s) reviewed by other users, no matter how many good ideas are submitted.
Testing & implementation
After the idea(s) have been chosen, the testing phase starts. In this phase, the idea(s) is tested to see how well it performs and fits the organization. Understandably, the idea(s) will be chosen when the evaluation is positive. When the idea(s) are negatively evaluated, the idea manager can be opened again to search for other ideas that have not been selected previously. The testing process will be repeated till a suitable idea is found. After finding a suitable idea, the implementation process begins and the role of the idea manager is over.
Next steps: Let us know if you are interested in idea management. We have over 10 years of experience in personal ideation sessions, hackathons, best idea events and our software: Accept Mission. Within the software we created tools like challenges, undercover missions and managing inboxes to help organizations in their idea management. Contact us here.