Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The idea management wars

The idea management wars. I’m going to blame Forrester and Gartner. They predicted every big company would have an idea management system in place within the next five years. Suddenly Innovation is the byword at every organization and executives are telling their directors to “Go out there and get us an idea management system”. Hurry up and don’t be too picky because that’s what Forrester and Gartner (and Aberdeen and Frost & Sullivan) says we’re supposed to do.

And of course that premise is ridiculous. But the need for innovation is not ridiculous. Companies, and for that matter industries, business corridors and even countries all recognize that pursuing an innovative approach might be the key to survival in the hectic, competitive, highly technical world we all live in. And an idea management system is certainly at the heart of such thinking.

First, without a doubt a culture of innovation is more important. People need to know that their employer is open to new ideas. Specialists need to know they’re allowed to spend some time on their pet projects; their novel ideas. They need to know that if they fail it’s not a disaster. In fact it’s a sign they’re stretching, trying something new, something different. It should be rewarded.

It’s often hard to believe at large corporations that disruption, chaos and failure may feel like an uncertain sea, but it is instead the nourishing soil for great new ideas and innovations. The team members must feel it is OK to fail in fact “we’re impressed you tried”.

Having got the “you need more than an idea management system” phrase out of the way….You still need an idea management system. It has to have a couple of attributes: It has to be collaborative, it has to have a social science driven idea promotion scheme and it has to let contributors see the progress of their contributions. And there are lots of systems to choose from.

I examined the market earlier this year and found oodles of solutions (the number keeps changing with new introductions, failures, mergers, etc.). A couple of these companies have been quietly deploying systems for as long as a decade. Some led the market, but made the mistake of selling perpetual licenses and have since sagged under their own weight. Some others have had huge capital infusions and in light of Forrester and Gartner have used the money for marketing (sometimes instead of development).

A couple of the vendors are spitting out the seeds from their sour grapes, being critical of the competition. It is a stressful world we live in, but still we should all learn to be gentlemen. The fact is the market is so huge every vendor in the space can make enough sales to sustain themselves. But there is pressure, and the visionaries who create such cool innovation software sometimes can’t understand why the market doesn’t see appreciate their vision.

The acquisition of idea management software should be pursued the way any other enterprise software is acquired. Good discovery needs to be conducted internally. A survey of the vendors (including demonstrations) needs to be conducted just so the team can learn what features should be asked for. A requirements list (and a wish list) needs to be composed. Then a healthy survey of the available software (with a grading mechanism) needs to take place (“who did we see again that had that doohickey we liked?”).

Of course you want to check the financial stability of the company. You want to see their track record at other companies. A good place to start is to talk to your competitors, your partners, your customers and your suppliers and see what they’re doing.

Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation management system. You can learn more about CogniStreamer here http://bit.ly/ac3x60

Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) http://bit.ly/dvsYWD . He has written extensively on Idea Management (Read Here) http://bit.ly/b2ZEgU .

CogniStreamer® is an idea management software tool. It is an open innovation and collaboration platform where internal colleagues and external partner companies or knowledge centers join forces to create, develop and assess innovative ideas within strategically selected areas. The CogniStreamer® portal is an ideal collaborative platform that invites users to actively build a strong innovation portfolio. In addition it provides a powerful resource for internal and external knowledge sharing. The CogniStreamer® framework is used by industry leaders such as Atlas Copco, Bekaert, Case New Holland, Cytec, Imec, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp. CogniStreamer® represents the best use of adaptive collaborative technology such to harness human skill, ingenuity and intelligence.


Erin Schumpert said...

Great post Ron. A large majority of companies have the motivation for innovation, whether it is to merely stay afloat, create momentum or maintain their competitive edge. Innovation for innovation's sake alone becomes difficult without the proper tool(s). However, what's equally as important is a game plan, a set of well-defined goals and objectives that are communicated effectively to the company. It is important for companies to ask themselves: What are our goals with regard to innovation? What resources do we have to dedicate to the innovation process? How do we make this sustainable? The ability to answer such questions is the first step towards achieving a successful and sustainable innovation initiative.

Binfawy said...

Great post Ron!
Can you please share the Gartner/Forrester resources you mentioned at the beginning of the article?



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