Innovation is all about translating ideas into real products, real services and real solutions. Ideas without execution are a hobby. Is your organization in the business of innovation? This week’s show boils it down to a simple equation. Ideas + Innovation Culture = Innovation Success. The process starts with ideas and the management of them. But ideas won’t develop and thrive without the right culture. Core Attributes are about setting the basis for Innovation Culture. When you set up a good system of gathering ideas and lay a foundation for innovation culture, innovation success ensues.
Creating Order from the Brainstorm of Ideas
The process starts with ideas coming from many sources. Then comes the question of how to manage your ideas. How do you log, track and rank them? Where are your ideas today in the innovation lifecycle? What about from all the brainstorming sessions over the last few years… and could you easily put your hand on the list of those ideas? Ideas have value over time.
The Idea Management System, Step By Step
If you believe ideas are the currency of the economy, you need to manage ideas as a valued asset for innovation success. Treat ideas as a valuable asset.
What’s needed in an idea management system?
- Idea capture and tracking
- Easy way to put ideas in system, track over time, evaluate them and link to other ideas that could grow into something significant.
- Done by people on innovation team but also open to other people in the organization who can submit an idea easily – have one place to look for all assets
- Idea evaluation – some form of an idea evaluation tool that allows for management to assess and look at ideas more closely
- Does everyone in the organization look at it and vote
- Use a ranking process like F-Focus, I-Ideation, R-Ranking, E-Execution
- Crowd source feedback
- System must allow for Ad Hoc Team Collaboration
- As people submit an idea, people can search the system to see if someone has a similar idea across the organization – can team up, combine efforts and areas of expertise
- Social hub of innovation within an organization
- Get better ideas – cross organizational efforts – collaborations that generate exciting ideas
- Supports whatever your organization’s process is for innovation
- Tool needs to match today’s and even tomorrow’s process
- Track ideas through the gating process your organization uses
- Follows phases of innovation used
Lot of tools out there that force you to follow their process – be careful – you need a tool that follows your process.
- Needs to support pausing ideas
- Difference between a good idea and really great idea is not about the idea. It’s about the timing.
- Market, customer, organization, government regulation are not ready – lots of reasons.
- Key is you always need ability to pause the idea – capture it so that can pause and pull out an idea later when timing is right
- Ability to issue challenges
- Don’t run idea management system like an electronic suggestion box – ideas will become incremental
- For breakthrough ideas, issue challenges: carefully worded questions, problems, areas of interest put out to the general population with some form of incentive for spending time thinking about ideas/approaches that will answer or solve that in form of ideas
- Well constructed challenges (problem statement) generate wealth of good ideas
- Gets org thinking – signaling where the org is going, what the direction of org is
My Experience With These Tools
- Without a system or tool, you are lost
- You have to treat them as a valuable asset
- Don’t restrict access to the tool
- Open it up to 100 percent of your organization
- You have to trust your employees
- Promote your tool
- Get people to engage on the tool providing their feedback
- This becomes the mechanism by which ideas are trained and tracked
- Promote constantly and consistently
- Close the loop with the idea submitters
- If someone submits an idea they need to hear back
- Give them feedback
- Think about applying some form of gamification
- Make it fun
- Give them a point or scoring system
When I took over a new role as CEO, I set out a hundred day plan looking at the organization and figuring out what made it tick. I spent a significant amount of time doing one on one interviews with all the key stakeholders. I asked them four questions:
- What should we preserve?
- What should we stop doing?
- What is it that you most hope I do?
- What do you hope I do not do?
Ninety-five percent of employees were afraid that the new CEO would not change anything. They understood that in order for the company to flourish, some things needed to be changed. I realized that I had to build the core attributes from scratch. So, how do you do that? The key is to help everyone understand why core attributes are so important. What is it the team wants the organization to become? Core attributes articulate what you stand for. The ones we came up with are:
- We need to be passionate
- We think big and bold
- We are fast and agile
- We are a team
- We unlock individual potential
- We lead by example
- We are resourceful
Once you have captured this, you are ready to start the process. Having the list is the beginning of the process. The senior executives must own this; this must always be controlled by the senior executives. We need to manage the process to get everyone on board with the innovation culture. It is communicating the process and communicating the core attributes. Instead of telling people these are the core attributes, we published them and invited people to come in as part of group sessions. We collected a list of core attributes employees liked and helped brainstorm recommendations to the executive team about how we could live it. We have included core attributes into our performance management. At the end of the year, employees are getting assessed on those core attributes. The impact on the organization was beyond anything I expected. It is not static and it is a never ending process, but it develops an effective framework for an innovation culture that drives success.
We reached deep into the Killer Innovations archive to bring you this week's show: Ideas + Innovation Culture = Innovation Success.