Organised Feedback Identify the Challenges When Deploying Idea Management Software to Generate and Nurture Ideas and Innovation

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A recent survey of its customers by Organised Feedback identified the key characteristics of the challenges organisations face when deploying idea Management Software.

Electronic Suggestion Box

Organised Feedback

It needs to be rewarding to do so. Not financially rewarding, but personally rewarding.

Jim Sproat, the Managing Director of Organised Feedback, stated, "The first thing to say is that the challenges of deploying Idea Management Software is that they are not primarily of a technical nature. Of course intuitive software, which people are eager to use, is very important when it comes to front end innovation. However, the story told about the stocks and shares salesman is relevant: give one guy the phone and he sells a million; give it to another and he sells zilch. Moral? It’s not the phone."

Organised Feedback considered the key to mobilising stakeholder- led innovation? What does it take to get people to raise their head above the parapet and share an idea? And with it, the possibility of being shot down and suffering attendant reputation loss.

Using their own platform Organised Feedback discovered that in a nutshell: it needs to be rewarding to do so. Not financially rewarding, but personally rewarding. It needs to be satisfying. Thinking needs to be encouraged and recognised as something lots of people do - “the way we do things around here.” The operative word being “we.” Because while you can invent on your own, you cannot innovate by yourself. That is a team exercise.

In trying to orchestrate innovation, the most important thing is the environment, the conditions and the culture. As Peter Drucker memorably said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

That culture needs to be such that lots of ideas are generated (that being the best way to come up with a good idea). And the touch needs to be light to encourage free thought and failure. By failure I include the thought that an idea may not be quite right, or may be bad or incomplete or crazy … but its very publication and sharing is better than indifference, which is incontestably the enemy of innovation.

The right Culture is therefore necessary, but it is not sufficient. Innovation needs a structured process to drive innovation or there is little chance of collecting great ideas and no chance of bringing them to fruition or to market.

One of the clearest processes is that of The Microsoft Innovation Management Framework which identifies four operational sub-processes to innovation – Engage, Evolve, Evaluate, and Execute.

OrganisedFeedback very much subscribes to this model whereby we are able to “close the loop” on innovation by providing feedback from existing products and services into the innovation cycle. It is of vital importance to be able to focus on the front end of innovation - on ideation the place where ideas are generated an incubated and prioritised.

The key to success is not complicate: engage employees, customers, and partners in a friendly innovation community to capture and share new ideas. Formalizing this engagement through a crowd sourcing application which organizes feedback, transforms it from a passive suggestion box to a pro-active approach that effectively produces targeted ideas.

The goal of this process is to generate ideas that will drive new business value by getting closer to the customer, and learning how to make their lives better, and how your product will displace another.

One of the difficulties companies face in the Engage process is generating the right kind of ideas.

Ideas that fit with strategy
The core question is what can companies do in order to generate high-value ideas? Ideas that fit with strategy?

As discussed it is important to have a sound digital innovation environment to systematically capture ideas and manage them. A common challenge in the Engage process is that too many of the ideas may be off-strategy for the business. A great idea for a product that doesn’t fit within the corporate strategy is unlikely to succeed and generate value for the business. Suggestion boxes don’t work in this sense because the ideas aren’t focused. How therefore can companies focus innovation efforts?

The answer is to have a system that can create targeted “challenges” that specify a specific problem to solve or issue to address. In practice this means creating specific spaces for different communities and to solicit ideas for a particular kind of problem, product line, or market segment. It is best too to constrain ideas to a limited number of categories or strategies to allow people to get started and ensure ideas are on strategy.

Evolve takes the output of the Engage process to the next level. In this process, companies evolve ideas – as individuals or as teams – to increase their quality and value.

Such early organised feedback allows great ideas to be improved upon and issues to be raised so they can be resolved, with companies getting unprecedented input and feedback on ideas. This input can span globally dispersed teams.

Most ideas serve as the seed from which a fully formed innovation grows. In order to get the most out of ideas, they need to mature. Developing them in a virtual team setting provides the medium to bring group-knowledge together and share it with subject matter experts, communities of interest, and others by discussing, commenting and contributing to concepts, which enhances their value through the power of collaboration.

This is the way to get the most value from ideas. It is also a powerful way to identify initially compelling ideas that will fail to impress or recognize when the company is going down the same path they have before and should take advantage of past experience.

Of course, simply discussing ideas is not enough. It is important to be able to organize, de-duplicate, and merge ideas. It is necessary to provide filtering and search mechanisms so people can identify ideas that address their areas of interest, to track which ideas are getting the most attention, views, and comments and to provide mechanisms for the community to rate the ideas, from a simple “like” to providing specific feedback or validation on details like technical feasibility as well as being ablw to rank or weight comments of those participants with a greater expertise or “social reputation.”

Stage II review
It is also important in any system to be able to provide a secondary review process where a panel of experts can provide more detailed feedback and begin to develop the elements of a business case for those ideas that show the most promise.

After selected ideas have been matured and narrowed down in an initial evaluation they may re-enter the Evolve sub- process for further definition and clarification and written specification, or prototyping. Then they are ready to enter the second stage of the “Evaluate” sub-process to determine if they are worthy of a full business case. Ideas may iterate through multiple steps between the Evolve and Evaluate sub-processes until the ideas are mature enough to become a portfolio of potential products or projects that can be evaluated to determine the best mix of investments.

If the previous processes are executed effectively then one of the most common challenges – too much incremental enhancement and not enough breakthrough innovation – should be alleviated with a collection of high value ideas.

Of course all of the best ideas, proposals and business plans in the world are of no value unless they can be turned into a reality. The “Execute” sub-process takes the input from the previous processes and executes a formal project to further develop the idea or commercialize it.

For more information contact:
Jim Sproat, Director
Idea and innovation management:
0845 508 1585; LinkedIn: jimsproat

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Jim Sproat
since: 10/2012
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