Monday, September 27, 2010

It takes more than installing an innovation system to successfully roll one out.


It takes more than installing an innovation system to successfully roll one out. There are a couple of steps, people and teams required. Some of these resources are from your third party vendors. Others are people you’ll require internal to your organization.

Who gets invited?

Of course most organizations start out with a Proof of Concept (POC) or Pilot program. This makes sense as you can ascertain how to eventually deploy the system enterprise-wide with what you’ve learned during this first phase. The question is: “Who do I ask to participate in the pilot?”

Some project leaders might choose to limit the participation to those within their own department. This way you can control the users because they all report to you. You can also limit exposure, so if you come across any negative experiences, it’s “our little secret”. You iron them out and don’t make those mistakes on the enterprise roll out.

But social science tells us the POC’s users should have several attributes. One, they should come from a wide cross section of departments, job skills, expertise and experience. Having engineers, marketing people, information technology folks, etc. provides the different insights that typically benefit an idea management pursuit. If you want chaos, disruption, the free flow of information then you welcome it with open arms. Failure is not a goal, but it is an acceptable part of the results.

Two, the user community should be of a certain personality type: The innovators and the early adopters. These types of folks happily embrace the exciting new technology. They welcome the opportunity to try out something new. They’re thrilled to watch the process unfold, knowing they are playing a part in an exercise likely to yield breakthrough steps for their organization.

A workshop led by a third party innovation expert is probably the best way to help you identify and recruit your users. The value of your user community increases with wider adoption, as you reach “critical mass”. Social science (and my head of development, Wim Soens) tells us we should have a minimum of 50 to 100 “active users”. We consider “active users” people who log on at least 5 times per month.

Internal Roles

It’s not like you can introduce the idea management tool like a general collaboration tool, by giving out log ins and letting it take care of itself (forgetting about it). You need innovation managers for a variety of reasons.

One, you need to challenge your user community properly. Incremental innovation is fine and you should be happy to accept unsolicited ideas. But what we really want out of the system is help in the areas that concern the organization: We have a big event coming up and we need to figure out how to maximize all the money we’re spending on it; Revenue is down from last year and we need to energize our customer community by introducing the next breakthrough product. In fact an idea management tool should really yield breakthrough innovation and innovation managers are there to properly challenge the user community.

And they are also there for fine tuning. You don’t want your user community to go off on useless tangents. While you’re chasing that next breakthrough product, someone says, “Why can’t we make something like the XYZ product we all had when I was a kid?” Suddenly everyone is commenting and voting on this line of thinking. You might need an innovation manager to step in and say, “That product was pulled from the market because it was discovered it was poisonous. Focus on this instead”.

You also need internal innovation managers to keep an eye on the action. Maybe they’ll eyeball a comment or a discussion that deserves to be promoted to an idea. Maybe the tag cloud or similarity search inherent in your system allows the innovation manager to notice two separate ideas are similar enough to be merged (or similar yet distinct so the ideas should remain separate but be clustered as they get promoted through the system). (By the way, note to self, make sure your idea management system has tag cloud and similarity search technology, as well as the mechanisms to promote comments and discussions to fully fledged ideas).

Here’s a third reason to have an innovation manager. You need someone to nurture system adoption. There is a big controversy amongst idea management software vendors on how to encourage participation. Some may support the concept of ‘rewards”. This can include T Shirts, iPods, iPads, Laptops or even Cars. The problem with that is how you top these for the next best idea challenge.

Others may go for the “badge” system. In this concept, the software notes who participates the most. Like Foursquare, you can get a badge for being an expert in something or other. In fact these systems promote the idea that users should have some of their bonus pay associated with this. The problem with this is that it is easy to “game” the system. What is to stop users from just submitting willy nilly without thought to the quality of their submissions? They’ll just post all sorts of garbage, get the badge and get their bonus.

Finally getting to my point, the third reason for an internal innovation manager is to “market” to the community and encourage them to join the discussions currently being bandied about in the idea management system. An innovation manager can send out a newsletter with links to the most important ideas, challenges, discussions or comments. “Click here to post your idea on this subject”. These newsletters can be sent out daily, weekly or monthly. Also he can set up a twitter account that users sign up for and send out tweets.

The idea management system itself can help the innovation manager by pointing out to the user community what the most popular places are in the system and who contributed most recently. What discussions are everyone participating in? What ideas seem to be getting everyone’s attention? What videos are they watching?

Adoption is important and selecting the right audience for the POC is key. Marketing is important, it keeps people in the game. Tag cloud technology is important, it lets users find experts and enables innovation managers to find similar ideas to cluster or merge.

It’s not just collaboration: It’s collaboration with a purpose! It’s not just the collection of ideas: It’s the solicitation of ideas the organization needs. So you need the right software, the right users, the right leaders. And the payoff? Not incremental innovation (although that’s nice) but BREAKTHROUGH INNOVATION that enables your organization to compete effectively and stimulate your customers to start buying again.


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.

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics