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What is Idea Management and How to Do It?

Organizations are aware that innovations can help in growth and staying relevant. It is at the core of success. Innovation starts with generating ideas. Many companies encourage their employees to be innovative and come up with new ideas. However, without systematic and well-considered processes, these ideas remain as thoughts and never get converted into reality. This is where idea management systems come into play.

In this post, we'll cover the following topics:

  1. What is idea management: a quick definition
  2. Idea management vs. innovation management?
  3. Why is idea management system needed?
  4. What to keep in mind in idea management?
  5. A typical idea management process
  6. Examples of different types of idea management
  7. Idea evaluation models
  8. The advantages of dedicated idea management software
  9. Tips for idea management

 

What is idea management: a quick definition

Idea management focuses primarily on the creation, development, and implementation of ideas. The aim is to create value from these ideas and turn them into reality.

Gartner defines idea management as follows:

"Idea management is a structured process of generating, capturing, discussing and improving, organizing, evaluating and prioritizing valuable insight or alternative thinking that would otherwise not have emerged through normal processes." 

According to a study (Brem & Voigt, 2007), idea management aims for the efficient generation, evaluation, and selection of ideas. There are a couple of things that make idea management difficult. Firstly, how to systematically collect and generate ideas, both internal and external. And secondly, the logical and fair evaluation and selection of those with the greatest potential for the future success of the company.

 

Idea management vs. innovation management?

Term idea management is sometimes confused with innovation management. However, they are two different but linked concepts.

So, here's the difference: Innovation management is the process through which an organization manages and implements innovation. It contains the process of managing all aspects of the innovation process. It is about organizational structures and processes that help an organization foster innovation and bring new ideas to life.

Idea management, on the other hand, is a sub-process of innovation management. It is a system that helps to generate, develop, and implement ideas. Idea management systems are usually used by organizations to supplement their innovation management processes. Idea management takes place at the forefront of innovation management.

Where idea management stands in the innovation process is shown in the picture below.

innovation process

 

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Why is idea management system needed?

To increase innovation success, organizations must build a system. The system regulates the way it collects information and actions. Companies tend to have plenty of innovation potential in their employees and organizations could benefit a lot from engaging the whole organization to share ideas. You need idea management to organize that. It helps to organize ideation systematically and provides the basis for innovation.

"Every employee has the capacity for innovative ideas but it depends on idea management to use this capacity" (Saatciouglu, 2002)

Idea management is important because it:

  • Encourages employees' creativity to generate new ideas
  • Collects all the ideas in one place
  • Helps to evaluate and prioritize ideas
  • Helps to implement the best ideas
  • Makes the innovation process more efficient
  • Increases chances of successful innovation

Idea management is a key part of the whole innovation management. Therefore, it's a vital pillar of business management in general. By using an idea management system, organizations can make sure they're using the full potential for innovation and increase their chances for growth.

 

What to keep in mind in idea management?

When defining the strategy for idea management, the first question that should be answered is why the organization wants to do idea management. This can be for example to:

  • Develop new products or services
  • Improve existing products or services
  • Find new ways of doing things
  • Save costs
  • Create new revenue streams

Once the purpose is clear, it will be easier to define how idea management should be done in the organization. After that, they should define, who is responsible for different tasks in idea management, and what is the role of different stakeholders in the process. You should name a manager for an idea, topic, or campaign. The manager is responsible for sending out requests for evaluation and ensuring that ideas move forward in the process.

There are a few key things to remember when doing idea management:

  1. Define the scope and objectives of the ideation process
  2. Choose the right evaluation model
  3. Ensure transparency and a fair evaluation process
  4. Encourage all relevant stakeholders to take part in the process
  5. Communicate the results of the ideation process to all relevant stakeholders.

Idea management is an important part of the innovation process and it's crucial to get it right to ensure successful outcomes of the innovation process. By following the best practices, you can set your company up for success.

 

A typical idea management process

There are different types of idea management strategies and each of them has its own special characteristics and methods. They mostly still share the same basic process:

1. Idea generation and collection: This is the first stage of idea management, and it involves collecting ideas from employees, customers, or other sources. This is the stage where ideas are generated. Ideas can be generated through brainstorming, problem-solving with innovation challenges, or other creative methods. The important thing is to activate employees to come up with ideas.

2. Developing ideas: This is the stage where ideas are developed and refined into feasible solutions. Make sure you activate the ideators to also develop others' ideas to get the best solutions.

3. Evaluating ideas: In this stage, ideas are screened to find which ones are worth pursuing. There should be transparent evaluation criteria and processes decided in advance, as well as the people responsible. There are different evaluation models we'll describe later on.

4. Selecting ideas: In this stage, the best ideas are selected for further development and implementation. Approved ideas go straight to the next stage, i.e., implementation or, for example, customer mapping, followed by implementation. Make sure you have a plan and the resources needed for implementation. Other ideas are stored in an archive, waiting for the right moment to be implemented.

5. Implementing ideas: This is the stage where ideas are implemented and brought to life. Make sure you communicate about the implementation to increase motivation to participate.

6. Results: This is the stage where results are monitored, and feedback is collected to improve the idea management process. In this stage, you can also enjoy the benefits of innovation.

6 steps idea management

 

There are different ways to go about idea management, and the best way depends on the organization’s needs and resources. There are many software tools available to help with idea management, but it is also possible to do it without any specific technology. The important thing is to have a clear process in place so that ideas can be generated, collected, and evaluated in a structured way. The details of how idea management is timed, the ideas are evaluated or typically implemented depend on the type of innovation activity.

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Examples of different types of idea management

Continuous ideation

Idea management for continuous ideation, for example for a suggestion box, can be conducted in two ways: either following the calendar or based on when the idea has been submitted.

In the first case, there is usually a time, for example, one week each month, when ideas submitted that month are reviewed. In the latter case, there is a time period, for example, 2 weeks in which the idea must be evaluated after the submission.

In continuous ideation, it is common that a lot of ideas are implemented because the investments are usually small, and ROI is good. Evaluation in this case is often non-numerical and contains expert opinions. The tone is often conversational and straightforward.

 

Product and service development

In product and service development, the focus is on developing new products or services. In this instance, often there are several great ideas, but they come at a greater cost. Investments in product development are often higher, with a correspondingly higher return on investment expectation. While there are plenty of ideas for implementation, companies must be strategic about what they choose, given budget and resource constraints.

The evaluation is often more thorough and numerical. There are different criteria based on which ideas are assessed. Usually, in product development, evaluation models like RICE, or traditional numerical evaluation are used. The evaluation may also consider for example the feasibility of implementation and the market potential.

 

Idea campaigns

Idea campaigns, such as innovation challenges, are an efficient way to generate ideas on a specific topic and crowdsource the ideation to all relevant stakeholders. The idea management in these is highly linked with the schedule of the challenge. In an innovation challenge, there are phases for idea collection, development, evaluation, and top idea selection. That means, that the idea management happens in line with the challenge schedule.

Since there is only limited time to create and develop ideas in the challenge, it is vital to communicate regularly and activate the participants. The evaluation of idea campaigns is often done by a panel of experts. The criteria used to assess the ideas are different for each challenge, but usually include originality, feasibility, and alignment with the challenge topic.

Innovation challenge steps

 

Idea evaluation models

There are multiple ways to evaluate ideas. Different ideation processes and objectives and goals require different criteria and evaluation models to review ideas. To help the decision-makers and make idea management both seamless and fair, it is recommended to choose the idea evaluation model beforehand. Here are a few to mention:

 

Expert opinions

In this model, experts evaluate the ideas. This is often used when the company wants to get new perspectives or if they want to evaluate ideas that are complex and need in-depth understanding. The evaluation is based on the opinions of the experts and no numerical values are given to the ideas. The assessment can be a simple conversation as such "would you implement this idea" or a broader statement on the feasibility of the idea.

 

3-4 criteria evaluation

This is a more structured way of evaluating ideas, as it uses quantitative criteria to review the submissions. The evaluation happens against 3-4 criteria. For example, an idea for a new product might be evaluated on its potential market size, feasibility, and alignment with the company strategy. This type of evaluation is often used when there are many ideas to review, and the company wants to focus on pursuing them further. In this case, each stakeholder gives a value to the idea (1-5) on each of the chosen criteria. The criteria can for example be feasibility, impact, or novelty.

numerical evaluation

 

Weighed assessment

The weighted assessment is similar to the 3-4 criteria evaluation, but in this case, the stakeholders weigh each of the criteria according to its importance. So, if the company strategy is deemed more important than potential market size, it will have a bigger impact on the final score. This type of evaluation often takes a bit longer than the 3-4 criteria evaluation, but it is often seen as fairer, as each stakeholder can emphasize the importance of the criterion according to their own expertise.

 

RICE -model

The RICE model is commonly used in product development to assess and prioritize initiatives. It stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort. This type of evaluation is used when there are many ideas, and the company wants to focus on a few high-impact ideas. In this case, each stakeholder gives a value to the idea (1-5) on each of the chosen criteria. The criteria can for example be feasibility, impact, or novelty.

RICE evaluation model

It's vital to keep in mind that no matter which evaluation model you choose, you should ensure that the evaluation is as fair as possible. That means that all stakeholders should have a chance to know the criteria and that the process should be transparent.

 

The advantages of dedicated idea management software

There are several advantages of using idea management software, especially if you're running a large ideation process. First and foremost, idea management software makes it easy to collect ideas from all relevant stakeholders. It provides a dedicated space for ideation. That way, you can be sure that all ideas are collected in one place and that no ideas are lost in the process.

Secondly, idea management software helps you to keep track of all the ideas. Having all the ideas in one place makes it easy to review and compare them. This saves time and resources, as you don't have to go through different channel sorting and filtering ideas. For example, you can easily see which ideas have been evaluated by experts or which ones are most popular among employees. 

idea management software

Another benefit of using idea management software is that it can help to improve communication and collaboration within the organization. This is because ideation is a process that requires different stakeholders to work together.

Using idea management software can also help you to save time and resources. This is because it helps you to automate some of the tasks associated with ideation, such as sending reminders or collecting ideas from different channels.

Idea management software also allows you to track the progress of your ideation process. This is important, as it helps you measure the success of your initiative and improve it for the future.

Finally, many idea management platforms offer features that help you with evaluation. For example, some platforms have built-in automation for evaluation, features for numerical evaluation, and the possibility to assign tasks.

Some companies can proceed with a good idea with no specific software solution. However, it's a great benefit for any business to have idea management software that can help with each phase. We currently have a three-month trial with full features available for our idea management software Orchidea. You can try it out and make your idea management handier.

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Tips for idea management

Here are some tips for effective idea management:

  • Encourage everyone to participate: Make sure that everyone in the organization knows that they can and should contribute ideas. Encourage employees to come up with new ideas and make it easy for them to submit their ideas.

  • Make it a part of the culture: Idea management should be a part of the culture of the organization. That means that it should be seen as something positive and as an important part of the work.

  • Define the process: Make sure that there is a clear process for idea management, so that everyone knows what to do and how the ideas will be evaluated.

  • Evaluate ideas objectively: Ideas should be evaluated objectively, based on defined criteria. Make sure that the evaluation is fair and that the best ideas are chosen for further development.

  • Communicate regularly: Communication is key in idea management. Make sure that everyone knows what is happening with the process, and that they are kept up to date on the progress. Also, good communication keeps ideation in people's minds.

  • Get feedback: Ask for feedback on the idea management process, so that it can be continuously improved.

  • Celebrate success: When an idea is implemented, make sure to celebrate the success. This will encourage employees to take part in the process and contribute new ideas.

 

Conclusion

Idea management is a process that can help organizations to generate, develop and implement new ideas. It's a structured process that includes all the steps from generating ideas to implementing them.

There are different models for idea management, and the right model for a company depends on the organization and its needs. However, it's important to make sure that the process is fair and objective, and that the best ideas are chosen for further development.

Idea management software can be a great help for companies in managing their ideas. There are different software solutions available, and they offer different features. However, most of them offer some kind of functionality for each stage of idea management.

Tips for effective idea management include encouraging everyone to participate, making it a part of the culture, defining the process, evaluating ideas objectively, communicating regularly, and getting feedback. It's also important to celebrate success when an idea is implemented.

What are your thoughts on idea management? Share your best tips in the comments!

 

Sources:

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