Sunday, November 3, 2013

CIO as ‘Chief Idea Officer’: Three Aspects of Idea Management

Innovation is not a serendipity, but a management discipline

Innovation is the light every forward-looking organization is pursuing. However, innovation should no longer be treated as serendipity; it can be managed systematically and scientifically. From strategic planning, to resource allocation and funding, to program management, to rewards and recognitions, the comprehensive innovation management with platform support, and on-site program management can help an organization build a strong innovation program from the ground-up.

1. The Principles, Barriers and Practices in Idea Management

The owners or stewards of idea management are ‘corporate intrapreneurs’ who need to transform problems and opportunities into tangible and value-creating ideas to build solid business valuesThe main principles of idea leadership may include: 
  • Ownership over administration 
  • People over tools 
  • High-quality ideas over many ideas 
  • Content over process 
  • Communities over competition  
The main barriers to innovation: What're the obstacles to building a scalable idea management which means for sharing and building ideas throughout the enterprise... even across silos and geographies. Do you think that the main barrier to doing that is a lack of software? Perhaps not, the main barriers are related to culture (do you share?), language (do you understand each other?), incentives (do I want to share with you?), focus (do I even pay attention to ideas from others? Are your ideas relevant to me?),  pressure (do I find the time to listen to you?), skills (can you outline your idea in a way I can follow?), etc..

Key things to remember when trying to aggregate/manage good ideas:
1). Good ideas nearly never emerge spontaneously. They need to seed and mature.
2). Most good ideas emerge from interactions, not single individuals.
3). Most organizations have too many ideas. But more is not always better.
4). Describing a good idea in a short template is very difficult for most people.
5). Good ideas and expertise are correlated. There is nothing most wasteful than ignorance in action
6). Innovation is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.
7). Less than 5% of the ideas submitted will be implemented. This could leave more than 95% of people frustrated.
8). Bottom-up ideas are mostly incremental and process driven. Idea portals tend to have limited bottom line impact but can create healthy emulation if combined with other tools.
9). The person submitting an idea is not necessarily the right one to pursue it, but sometimes he/she is. 
10) Set the criteria to evaluate and prioritize  ideas accordingly, but how.
11). Innovation is a means, not an end. If you don't know where you want to go, you are unlikely to get there.  

2. How to Evaluate an Effective Innovation Platform 

The appropriately configured innovation platform creates a scalable means for sharing and building ideas throughout the enterprise. As a result, innovation becomes a persistent, shared reality — even across silos and geographies. A well-considered tool/platform for innovation, in the given culture, operating environment, and governance, which can be part of innovation management planning and implementation, could strengthen the innovation effort and success rate to the organization. But how to evaluate an effective innovation platform/tools:

What features Idea Management Tools should have:
1). Where people who are contributing receive updates on the status of their ideas
2). Help achieve maximum visibility of ideators & contributors and also showcase success stories to help keep up the motivation level
3). Enable the management to communicate their thoughts & guide the people
4). Open up these ideas for collaboration to help bring valuable inputs to help development of the idea
5). Facilitate ease of idea evaluation with stage gate process
6). Reports to manage & monitor performance of activities
7). Integration with existing LOB applications 

How to evaluate Innovation Process Effectiveness?
1). How will it increase speed in the innovation process
2). How will it decrease risk in the innovation process
3). How will it effectively leverage diversity to create meaningfully unique ideas
4). How will it effectively use the power of stimulus to create meaningfully unique ideas
5). How will it help to reduce fear in the organization? 

What’re characteristics of the idea management platform?
1). Easy to submit ideas and challenges
2). Easy to find relevant ideas without wading through
3). Easy to track the stage of an idea and how it is progressing
4). Easy to collaborate and find like-minded people in the community
5). Engaging enough that users come back over and over.

Top 5 criteria + extra 1 to Assess Idea Management
1) Simplicity of use (friendly tool, accessibility from any devices...)
2) Flexibility to manage different discussions and votes
3) Link with usual company IT systems used by employees
4) Social & collaborative systems to encourage discussions
5) Transparency in follow-up a system of innovation process from the idea up to implementation ! Give feedbacks and management & peer recognition are so important.
And the extra one - the last but not the least - a charismatic, influent, open minded board sponsor

3. People are Innovators, not Processes 

Every good innovation management tool (idea, concept, project, and product) is as good as the people that are using it. People are innovators, not processes. The tool comes AFTER the strategy is set to place and common business goals are well defined. And the main function of the tool is to SUPPORT innovation activities. 

How to get creativity? There is two ways creativity can be influenced:
1).By providing a challenge to select set of audience
2). By displaying content on interest (innovation news, success stories & case studies)

Why should people join?
1) Rewarding:
It’s an accepted thumb rule of rewarding people which motivates them to join and engage, create and share ideas
2) Recognition also it has been observed that recognition too helps people to participate. 

Who should join?
It relies on where the organization is looking for ideas. It can be a specific set of people or all the people in the organization; it can be customers/ consumers, general citizen, we’ve been living in such a crowd-sourcing, idea-abundance world now.

How to build an innovative team & culture?
3C (Communication, Collaboration, and Coordination) are necessities for good idea management and shaping culture of innovation. The expectations for cultural and governance settings to do the heavy lifting alone without a well suitable tool/platform, or relying on a magical tool/platform alone without genuine commitment to shifting cultural and governance settings as part of innovation strategy, are skewed ways of understanding what it takes to innovate

Idea Management, like all other key management disciplines, takes well alignment of people, process, and technology, the capabilities of managing innovation in the organization is part of the value of innovation. 


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