Following the “what is”-series regarding different business areas is here an article about what Idea Management is. The idea of the “what is”-series is to write the articles in a way that people who have never been in contact with the area will understand.
Idea Management is the process of receiving ideas from people to be able to improve business. The ideas usually come either from customers or from employees.
But Idea Management is not only receiving the ideas. It is the whole process of receiving, prioritizing and implementing ideas.
Some companies use a letter box to receive ideas from their employees. Sometimes they take the papers they receive and sort them in order of priority and sometimes they put them into an Idea Management Software to make sure they have everything stored. Some companies use the Idea Management Software for collecting ideas from the employees and let them follow the progress of the idea through the system. When using the idea management software towards the customers some companies use the voting functionality, having customers adding ideas and then let everyone vote for the ideas to see which ideas are most popular to implement.
The main issue that organizations get into are however that they have not thought through the strategy around what to do with the ideas before starting to collect them. Most companies have a great intention, but managing ideas and rejecting ideas in the right way is not always easy since you have to consider the psychology around keeping people inspired even though their ideas are not chosen. It is also common for companies to collect ideas and then not have time to do anything at all about them. This is usually one good way to make employees dissatisfied at work.
If you have decided to receive ideas from your personnel it is a great idea to create a small project of it. You will have to define what scope the ideas should be within. As always it is good to clarify the scope by defining the boundaries.
Since ideas can be anything from where to celebrate Christmas to creating new products to market there will of course involve different amount of complexity around the process after receiving the idea. An example of how you can do for a bit larger idea projects is described in this article.
The ideas should be handed in by a specific date and an idea management group should be assigned to go through the ideas and recommend the best ideas to the decision makers. The best thing is to bring all ideas into an Idea Management Software to make sure that all ideas are stored for future opportunities. I would hesitate to bring in budget too much in the idea management process if the scope isn’t something like a restaurant visit, a trip or so. Most people have less knowledge of all costs involved so bringing in the money aspect into larger ideas tend to destroy the inspiration.
When the best ideas should be presented they should be done so by the employees who came up with the ideas. They should, before presenting the ideas, create a professional presentation and bring in issues around implementing the ideas, such as risks, some ideas around costs, etc.
Having the originator of the idea presenting the idea and what it can do to the company is a great way of encouraging the personnel to do even better work in the company.
When the idea is about to be implemented it should first be tested to make sure it is possible to implement. Ideas can sometimes look good on the drawing board but very hard to implement and costly to market.
Of course the person who came up with the idea should be part of the implementation in some way. Not necessarily in an active position but at least in a passive supportive position.
After having verified that the idea is possible to market and be a part of the organization it is time to start launching. A launch can be for the organisation as well as for customers since an idea can be for internal as well as external use.
I always encourage recognition for ideas that are implemented. Having a person involved in the whole process of realising the idea is one type of recognition but sometimes it can be really nice with a diploma for “Best Idea of the month” and a dinner for two or something similar. This kind of recognition is a cost effective way of having people more involved in the business and make work a challenging part of their overall life instead of a must.
I also believe to encourage people to come up with ideas even though they might be totally crazy and hard to realise. This is why I usually don’t remove ideas from the Idea Management Software but rather set a lower priority or set the in a state as “ideas for the future”. This is an important part of not making people discouraged because their idea might not be chosen.