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Idea management is the second of critical processes of Robert’s Rules of Innovation and is essential in Innovation and New Product Development (NPD). It is really important to fill the innovation pipeline with ideas from many different sources in your business. Ideas can be generated from associates, sales, and of course R&D. In addition, it is increasingly important to expand ideation outside of internal teams, and company departments.
According to the GE Global Barometer, in 2013 only 38% of executives felt that collaboration with other parties would be successful. Many executives feared the backlash of collaboration concerning the protection of intellectual property. However in 2014, 77% of innovation executives felt that the risk was worth taking.
Take for example companies such as P&G, Unilever, and Lego. These companies communicate new product idea challenges externally on their websites to crowd source ideation. Unilever has a page titled “Challenges and Wants,” where the company lists the many challenges they have begun working on, and projects they’d like to work with partners on. Synergy at its finest!
Though creativity is essential in idea management; processes and systems must be in place to manage ideas. Every person in Long term Development (LTD) and New Product Development (NPD) teams are responsible for the encouragement and organization of the idea funnel.
Ideations for NPD can take different forms for different purposes:
- Solution ideas solve existing problems
- Improvement ideas upgrade existing products or services
- Amalgamated ideas can be a combination of multiple ideas for products or services downsized into a single idea
- Targeted ideas deal with a specific and direct path to discovery
- Artistic ideas are born freely, shake up the norm, and flow without constraints
Like innovation, creativity and ideation are an experiment; it requires the opportunity to create. These opportunities open the door to many successes, but also allow for mistakes and failures. Understand the possibility, and welcome well-reasoned risk taking. There are several ways to create the opportunities needed for ideation planning:
Pre-Work or White Boarding for Collaboration – Get out those dry erase markers!
- Define the topic
- Identify the participants
- Establish goals and timeframes
In this phase, problems or questions are posted with a timeframe for completion.
Ideation Event – Chosen participants examine the topic at hand and create ideas to address questions or problems. Each day that passes gets crossed-out as time passes.
Post – Event
- Ranking and evaluating
- Taking action
- Follow up communication
Once the timeframe has ended, all participants can build on input. In this phase, ideas are ranked and evaluated. A decision is then made for actions to be taken. Communication lines must remain open to either take an idea to fruition or mark it as a failure. This process will be repeated often since it is possible only one viable idea is created. Any ideas deemed as “failures” must not be discarded since it is plausible that an idea marked as a mistake or failure was simply conceived at the wrong time.
Asim Naqvi is the Engineer and Lead on the Research & Development Team for GameStop, a move he made 5 years ago from Motorola. He and his team are responsible for fixing common problems in game consoles:
“He and his team develop the recipes for fixing the common failings of gaming consoles, which customers can trade in at GameStop stores. The fun part comes when Naqvi and his team develop a fix: they then spend hundreds of hours playing video games to make sure their solution works before passing on instructions to the company’s technicians.”
A healthy, creative environment for ideas to form is the first step of idea management. The actual management processes in place to harness those ideas are critical in new and ongoing product development.
If your company does not currently have a process in place, review Robert’s Rules of Innovation for each and every proven step of idea management and innovation.