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Mining your organization for ideas

Idea management can help your organization stay competitive. Here are 10 best practices for getting the most from it.

October 29, 2012 02:37 PM ET

Computerworld - Whether or not your organization has a formal innovation program in place, it's very likely you've already implemented some form of idea management. This could be as simple as an online suggestion box or as sophisticated as an ideas module that's part of a corporate innovation management suite tied to a global initiative.

Recently, the "ideas" topic has been getting renewed attention for a number of reasons. One of them is the number of software vendors adding ideas functionality to their various social and collaboration platforms, thus competing with the more traditional pure-play idea management vendors.

The principles and best practices of managing ideas are fairly well established, so you don't need to start from scratch. Here are 10 best practices that I've gleaned from my own experiences and from participation in a number of innovation consortia, such as the Berkeley Innovation Forum, that may help you with execution:

* Define your scope. Know what kinds of ideas you're after. Are they business-, process- or technology-related? Or all of the above? Are they big-bet, highly disruptive ideas, or more tactical and incremental in nature, or some combination of the two? You may want to define a set of innovation topics or categories to help guide your audience and assist with subsequent routing to appropriate reviewers and stakeholders.

* Know your target communities and innovation roles. While you may have some idea forums that are open to all employees, such as general suggestions, it's important to know your target communities and the types of ideas you want to solicit from each. Determine your "open innovation" strategy and develop a plan for how you'll involve customers and business partners in addition to employees. You may also want to explore the concept of innovation scouts and brokers to see if that model may work in your organization. Basically, scouts and brokers are formally assigned resources who search for opportunities and then direct them to the appropriate parts of the organization.

* Align the process with your organization's sophistication and needs. The level of granularity of your idea-submission forms, as well as the complexity of your business processes for opportunity categorization, prioritization and ultimate investment, needs to be tailored to the maturity of your organization. Start simple to help spur adoption, and then go from there.

* Ensure that processes are in place for appropriate evaluation and implementation of ideas. Ensure that you have all the people, processes and technology to act on the ideas in an appropriate and timely manner. Ideally, link to a corporate innovation program. This requires executive sponsorship, funding and assigned resources who are ready, willing and able to implement these processes.

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