You have a great idea … now what?
During my time working in corporates I have either had ideas that could have a huge impact at the company I worked for (in my mind anyway) or my company has asked me to contribute ideas.
In the past if I have had an idea I would need to take it my immediate manager or discuss it with colleagues at the coffee station. The problem with this is that my managers have always been very busy and unsurprisingly wouldn’t give much time and attention to my idea. This is generally where my “brilliant” ideas have died because if I wanted my idea to have a chance I would either have had to put the idea into action myself, shout loud enough until someone took notice or play politics until the right manager adopts the idea.
Another way for me to contribute ideas has been suggestion boxes that have appeared in pause areas over the years. Of course, physical boxes aren’t the only form of this as they can also be centralized email addresses or online forms.
While this idea collection is well intentioned the execution of this is often terrible. Usually the suggestions either disappear or result in no further action at all. In all my years of working I have never personally received any feedback on any ideas I have placed into a suggestion box.
Idea Management software tool
Today the idea box or centralized email address has been replaced by Idea Management software.
Even within Idea Management software there are three processes that can be used.
1.The centralized model
This is the simplest model where employees access the Idea Management software and add ideas by category and a category manager is notified of the new idea. The manager can then contact the employee to discuss the idea in more detail.
A steering group meeting is held at regular intervals which discusses nominated ideas and decides which ideas will be implemented. Successful ideas are converted into projects while the reasons for unsuccessful ideas are automatically communicated back to the stakeholders using the software.
This model is often used by companies with less than 200 staff and who operate in a hierarchical model. For larger companies this process often leads to bottlenecks as the number of ideas often become diverse and need a larger number of people with expertise to evaluate them.
2.The Decentralized Model
This model is like the centralized model except that there is no central steering group making decisions - that responsibility is moved to the category managers.
The category managers often have the expertise required to make decisions within their own category and so decisions can be made faster.
There is still an idea process owner but they mainly manage the flow of the ideas and assist the category managers when needed.
This model is often used by companies with more than 200 but less than 500 employees. When a company exceeds 500 employees the challenge is that there are often ideas that overlap and are cross-functional.
3.The hybrid approach
This model is just a combination of both models and is generally used by large companies. Examples of where a hybrid approach is used is when there are product related ideation and general company-wide process development needed.
These different types of ideas can be allocated into tracks. A dedicated process owner or steering committee is put in place that then monitors all tracks and the tracks themselves are either centralized or decentralized as in the two models explained earlier. The role of the process owner, or steering committee, is to support the decision makers of each track.
Key success factors
Even though the three models are different there are certain aspects that need to be in place, regardless of the model used:
Category managers: These are the people making the decisions on new ideas. Their role is to act as the devil’s advocate and spar with the creator of the idea, and others interested in the idea, to develop the idea further by asking tough questions.
The best category managers have these five traits:
Empathy: Understand and share the feelings of their community.
Communication: Communicate regularly to the staff in your category.
Passion: Love and identify with the category you are representing.
Thick skin: They could get criticism when an employee’s idea is not selected.
Creativity: The potential to see into the ideas proposed.
Expert participation: Having an expert, or consultant, included within the steering groups are useful for two reasons:
They help understand what the idea is really about, how difficult it would be to implement and how large the impact would be.
The ideas need to be communicated back to staff and the reasons for accepting or rejecting the idea need to be fully understand.
Rewards: Rewards can be used as recognition and to encourage the desired behaviour
Willingness to move fast and experiment: The first version of the process will never be perfect. It is best to get started with the best guess and to see how it goes. The important thing is to have an Idea Management software solution that is flexible enough to quickly and easily adapt to different models.
Which model works for you?
Hopefully we are making it as easy as possible for staff to share their brilliant ideas and have moved beyond the physical suggestion box.
We, at Idea Storm, can assist you and your company to do by being a value-added partner of a leading Idea Management solution called Crowdicity. We would love to chat to you about your idea management needs and how it can work for you.
This blog doesn’t reflect the views of the company I work for.