Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How to get ideas that are not 'a dime a dozen'?

Today, every enterprise has or plans to have some sort of an idea management initiative to capture the ideas of their employees and customers.  This could be because of a very strategic vision or the result of the hype about tapping into the wisdom of employees & customers. Some have mastered the art, but the rest end up being me too. Throughputs - some get as many as 150,000 ideas in a year and some just 15 from the same number of employees and customers. The effectiveness is equally extreme; some making real money from it and it becoming a main stream process for them, while others are completely clueless about the direction to navigate into.

Question is how organizations get hold of ideas that can elevate them to the next level, help them create a service or a product that could define a new market. In other words how do organizations harvest ideas which can make substantial & positive difference to the organizations’ objectives?

Part of  the answer lies in following two strategies, this is with an assumption that all other operational aspects are taken care.

Before you ask for ideas
  • Shift your pitch from “Do you have an idea  ... “ to “Do you have an idea FOR  ...” Basically shift your pitch from generally asking for any idea to asking for an idea for a given challenge.
  • If you can’t think of a challenge then run a challenge to find a challenge, you will be surprised how many you unearth!
  • Stop behaving like you have the right to ask for ideas, instead create an atmosphere of co-creation.
  • If you do not genuinely intend to read each of the ideas received and try to figure out the intent behind each idea then stop right here (It saves your time, yes theirs too!). Often the intent of the idea provider will lead you to the ideas you are after. 
After you get the ideas
  • Lookout for the possibility of combining two not so good ideas to get the good one out of it. Or pick up the clue to make the not so good one, a really good one.
  • Make the review team a mix of someone who could see the bigger picture and also someone who may not. 
  • Refrain from judging the idea on the basis of how easy or difficult it is to implement it.
  • Look at the act of rewarding the person with a good idea as an act of encouraging the innovation spirit and not as an act of buying out the idea.
In short addressing the points relevant to your enterprise from list above, a well defined challenge with an incentive and a committed evaluation team could fetch you ideas which are not a dime dozen.


  1. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

    I think your point about combining two ideas to create one better idea is a really excellent point. So often people get fixated on the problem with an idea rather than searching for the solution to the problem. In fact, they often overlook an easy solution because they're so focused on the challenge an idea represents.

    One good brainstorm exercise for combining seemingly unrelated ideas to create a better idea is called "forced connections." This technique literally forces you to find some connection and develop it into an idea. If you're looking for a step-by-step guide on how to brainstorm using this or another brainstorm technique, visit http://brainboltz.com

    Once again, great post. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

  2. Excellent conversation. As you, I believe that an idea is never good by itself but that it can be nurtured by collaboration and by building connections with other ideas and even more with relevant market/customer insights.
    However this can be a very consuming and large activity even if you have focused your idea search on a given strategic area or a specific problem.
    There is however today an idea management system that is equiped with a correlation engine that automatically makes those connections, not based on semantic searches (Google like) but on statistical algorithms.
    It first allows users to be prompted when entering a new idea with existing relevant ideas and insights. This automatically helps the person either to stop entering an idea that already exists or to input a higher quality idea, since he/she can check out relevant information.
    The second key benefit is that the correlation engine provides visual maps that establishes meanigfull connections between ideas, but also between ideas and insights and people. This greatly helps to build a cluster or relevant ideas and to assign the most appropriate persons for coming up with a concept proposal that can go to a more formal evaluation step.
    Of course that is not a panacea for a poorly organized idea management process but my experience is that it helps a lot in motivating participants (they see a lot more than just their own input), provides a much better output and gives a more strategic vision to management.
    Hope this helps. As it may look like a sales pitch, I should add that I am not working for a software editor but for a company who has looked at all idea management systems on the market and decided to select one who can really help us implementing idea management best practices to our customers. When I see your input and similar blog posts, I think we were on the right track.

  3. Munish- great post. You provide some interesting thoughts here around innovation and collaboration. When implementing an innovation process, collaboration is key, however, crowdsourcing, I believe, is equally important. Being able to effectively tap in to the collective intelligence of a user community is extremely powerful. And by "effectively", I mean a mechanism that helps eliminate the noise and highlights the ideas that are most relevant to long-term business goals and objectives. As you mentioned in your post, if a company has a "call for innovation" practice in place, they may receive hundreds of ideas, but then what? Even if you have a resource dedicated to innovation, is that resource going to manually sift through those ideas? This has been a major pain point for companies looking to create an ongoing innovation program. The old suggestion box methodology or idea repository is not sustainable. There are a handful of idea/innovation management tools out there today that specialize in the capturing of new ideas, but don't provide a way to effectively manage the influx of submissions. Spigit combines automatic idea filtering based on a set of configurable idea criteria along with Web 2.0 tools to weed out irrelevant ideas and foster user collaboration. As a former community manager, I've worked closely with many companies to launch sustainable innovation processes that are both scalable and manageable. By breaking down company silos and encouraging cross-functional collaboration, these companies have uncovered both incremental and breakthrough ideas that will forever change the way they do business. I believe, and think that many others would agree with me, that employees are a company’s greatest asset. Companies need to be leveraging the collective intelligence of the workplace. Encourage, engage, execute.

  4. Thank you for the article Manish.

    It is interesting to note the focus remains on employee based ideas and that of user crowdsourcing yet not on engagement of the incredible talent that resides in the Professional creative and creator industries.

    Is it perhaps that such industries full of individuals that are arguably, the most naturally gifted, qualified and experienced innovators, would (and should) expect some form of financial reward if thier professionally articulated ideas are commercialised for the profit benefit of the brand owner and the user benefits to the consumers?

    There are three channels for ideas scouting - employees, users and professional problem solving creative Originators.
    The first two may need a lot more time committment in sifting and filtering as well as development, investment and organisation cost than the third.

    So why is the third channel not being harnessed effectively?

    Take a look at www.creativebarcode.com - this is an interesting newly launched model focused open protection to support the inclusion of the professional Originator community in open innovation activities. The news room, testimonials and case studies give an insight into how well it is being received, even though it is early days.

    It would be interesting to hear others thoughts on what is the best way in which to harness the talent of the Professional creative industries in open innovation

  5. Thanks for the good ideas! I was recently reqruited to a company to become their innovator and some of your ideas definately are good to keep in mind and helpful!