When organizations look to increase their capacity for innovation, many do so by focusing on producing and managing new ideas.
They often forget, however, that although the solution lies in those ideas, before setting about finding them, one should clearly identify the problems that innovation is supposed to solve.
Innovation, managing ideas with a purpose
The search for many ideas, and new ideas, can also mean that other previously suggested solutions are forgotten.
This article published in HBR.org highlights the case of Kodak, whose innovation lab created a prototype in 1975 for the future digital camera. The idea was put away in a drawer and Sony, years later, gained the upper hand in the digital camera market.
This anecdote stresses the need for corporate systems that collect and manage new ideas, allowing organizations to:
a) generate a large volume of new ideas, ensuring visibility for all of them.
b) filter good and bad ideas, based on their feasibility (in terms of cost, benefit, or time) and their relation to the organization’s needs.
c) avoid the best ideas from being lost among the clutter of new proposals.
How to achieve this? Through a system and methodology that enables the large-scale collection of ideas, preventing excessive pressure on an organization’s management, that would make it become static.
That said, what should organizations focus on?
- Focus on strategy: all the collectives that participate in finding ideas within the organization should be aware of its strategy. When we speak of internal innovation programs, the use of communities open to employee participation enables the alignment of said participation with the objectives of the program, on a large scale.
- Focus on Pprticipation: to give rise to more ideas and do so more swiftly. The use of innovation communities makes participation 24/7, as it is not restricted to office hours, but depends rather on the creative inspiration of employees; anytime, anywhere.
- Focus on quality ideas: many organizations have mechanisms to collect ideas from their employees, such as the classic suggestions box, or simple forms or questionnaires. They don’t, however, focus on idea management, meaning that their process begins and ends with the act of collecting ideas, without processing results. Innovation communities, on the other hand, give the company’s management the tools to manage ideas, while they also provide the support of all participating employees, who collaborate by voting, commenting or co-creating ideas (crowdsourcing).
- Focus on scouting: to guarantee that good ideas are not lost, and that they achieve the desired visibility (the aforementioned ‘Kodak effect’). In innovation communities, all ideas are visible and can be evaluated by the organization. They also provide easier access to a portfolio of good ideas.
- Focus on cultural change: lastly, opening innovation to all employees inspires a work model based on collaboration, transparency and an absence of fear to innovate (there are no ‘bad’ ideas, a priori). It also helps to address so-called ‘innovation antibodies’, who–generally speaking–tend to be people in middle management positions who, because of suspicion or insecurity, might block ideas from their colleagues.