Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Innovation Charm

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

"Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Occasionally in my writing I’ll make mention of or dedicate an entire post to a specific product, service, or company. Not because I have something to promote or gain by doing so, but rather simply because I find the subject somehow innovative, intriguing, or inspiring. This is one of those posts.

Because I don’t consider myself a Foodie, I feel comfortable saying The Food Network isn’t just for Foodies. I enjoy The Food Network. I can tune in to this channel at almost any time of day and find myself captivated. Over the last four and half years or so, one show in particular has been a true pleasure to watch – Ace of Cakes, which features Duff Goldman and the crew at Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, MD.

For those unfamiliar with the show, here’s a brief description from The Food Network website:
Shaping cakes with drill saws and blowtorches, and staffing his bakery with fellow rock musicians, he's not your typical baker. However, he's one of the most sought-after decorative cake makers in the country. Every week at Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, [Chef Duff] and his team of artists try to meet the demands of creating up to 20 cakes a week, some of which take up to 29 hours to build! From a tilted Dr. Seuss-like seven-tiered wedding cake to an almost perfect replica of Wrigley Field, Duff can build it. Go behind the scenes to see how he and his fellow cake bakers dish up sugar and spice in the most unexpected and entertaining ways.

In addition to simply being entertaining, one can’t help be amazed at the innovative cakes themselves – flavors, colors, shapes, techniques. It’s edible art. Take a peek at some pictures on their website gallery and tell me you’re not amazed.

Although the crew at Charm City Cakes will continue making, baking, and having fun for quite some time I imagine, the upcoming season of Ace of Cakes, which begins in January on The Food Network, will be the show’s last. If you haven’t seen the show before, you might want to check it out.

I think what has gotten me hooked into watching Ace of Cakes on a fairly regular basis, and what I believe infuses the innovative nature of the business itself is the passion exuded by the Charm City Cakes crew. I’ve written about it before, and I imagine I’ll write about it again. Passion is necessary for innovation.

Ever wonder how to pick the best ideas? Flexible promotion schemes are best!

There is a great controversy amongst idea management vendors and users about how to pick the best ideas and how to reward the best ideators. The only common theme amongst these systems is the best idea is selected by the wisdom of the crowd. The different ways of determining the wisdom of the crowd is the bone of contention. Any analysis quickly gets us to a place that says we need versatility to successfully promote the best ideas.

Why is promotion methodology so important?

One reason here: The problem isn’t that you won’t get enough ideas. The problem is you’ll get too many ideas. So many, in fact, you won’t be able to go through them all manually. You need some scientific way to determine the best idea.

Reputation Management

Some believe in reputation management. This means the best ideas are determined by whoever is the most active on the system. In this environment the people who submit the most ideas, make the most comments, in general make the most contributions, have the most value and their ideas also have the most value. This is sort of like Four Square where when you do things often you win a “badge”. So if you are mayor of ideas in the engineering department, then your ideas have more value. This type of thinking can be gamed if not monitored (people who just submit stuff for the sake of submission and to win the iPad on offer).


Some believe the most votes determine which the best ideas are. The only flaw in that thinking is it can be gamed, as well. If ideators rally their friends to vote for their ideas, they can get a false win. You might think it’s not worth it to play this sort of game at your job, but what if the prize for the best idea is a car?

Algorithms based on activity

Other systems gauge activity to judge the wisdom of the crowd. The idea with the most votes, most comments, most alerts, most bookmarks, the most views, the most votes on comments, in other words the most “participation” is the idea the crowd believes deserves the most attention. All the data just mentioned is being captured by the system, so why not use it to calculate the wisdom of the crowd.

Flexibility is the key

With all these mixed opinions about how to promote the best idea it rapidly becomes apparent there is no right or wrong. Instead an organization needs to be flexible. And this means the best methodology for idea promotion is the methodology that’s flexible.

A flexible promotion scheme allows an organization to tap into their own belief system and culture. If it is believed ideators’ comments have a point value of ten, that their comments have a value of one, then so be it. If the organization is skewed to the types of individuals who contribute less and observe more, then the points for views can be worth more. And ultimately if an innovation manager determines one idea deserves more attention than another then they should have the administrative rights to do just that.

Taking this thinking further, maybe each campaign deserves its own promotion scheme and a drop box with a selection truly empowers those putting forth challenges. Maybe the ideas we collect for a particular engineering project should be judged by votes, the next one determined by views, and a third set determined by an algorithm of all the activity taking place on the collaborative system.

Because, think about it, what if you invite your partners to participate? How will you gauge the strength of their opinions? What about customers? Just like each department at your organization, and just like every channel, every discipline, every geography, you need to have a flexible approach to determine what wisdom they have waiting for you.

A good idea management system offers flexibility in the promotion scheme. Just like we might want to invite different groups of people to work on the campaign (or different groups of people at different stages of the process)…Perhaps we want to hold the idea contest open for a certain length of time or publicize it a certain way or invite the public or our partners to participate…. every “best idea” should be able to be determined by the most likely factors in the environment it is requested.

Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation management system (with flexible promotion schemes). 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.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Accept Innovations For What They Are

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

The word innovation has taken on in recent years almost mythical proportions. I’m a bit surprised it’s not always spelled with a capital “I” nowadays. Innovations are the holy grail of business. They’re supposed to be big. They’re supposed to be wildly profitable. They’re supposed to transform your business. People are supposed to get excited about them. They’re supposed to change the world.

But how many truly do? And when they don’t change the world or have the transformative or financial effect we expect, do we find ourselves not calling them innovations any longer? If so, that doesn’t seem quite right.

Perhaps our expectations of innovations are simply unrealistic at times.

[Meanwhile, in the remote recesses of my brain…]

It was raining in Minneapolis on July 4, 1997. It was raining pretty hard in fact. I know this because that was the day I saw the movie Con Air – a movie I wouldn’t have likely bothered to see in the theater, except that the rain had put a damper on normal outdoor activities with my wife’s family and Con Air apparently was the only movie all in attendance could begrudgingly agree on for some reason.

Having watched many a movie throughout my lifetime in a plethora of genres, I had a basic appreciation of Con Air before ever stepping into the theater. And it wasn’t because I had read reviews, seen a preview, or heard about it from a friend. I simply understood Con Air to be a summer action flick. It was going to be over-the-top, unrealistic much of the time, perhaps a bit corny, likely to have more than a couple of in-your-face explosions, and a basic lack of sophisticated dialog. I’m not certain whether it registered at the time that the movie was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. This fact in and of itself would have set the tone for me. My expectations were calibrated. When the lights went down, I sat back to enjoy the ride.

The movie was what I thought it to be. But based on the discussion that ensued after the movie it was obvious that everyone else, besides me and my wife, had not appreciated the movie for what it was. Either their expectations were completely off, or they had hoped for something decidedly different. “It wasn’t realistic. The dialog was terrible. The plot unplausible. There’s no way a plane would ever crash like that on the Vegas Strip.” I’ll readily admit that the movie wasn’t that great. It’s the kind of flick you end up watching late at night on TBS when nothing else is on. But in that moment, Con Air had apparently become the worst movie they had ever seen.

Really? What exactly were they thinking when they went into the theater? Obviously they weren’t quite able, ready, or willing to simply accept Con Air for what it was – a summer action flick. It’s as if the appropriate criteria for evaluating the movie-going experience was left at the concession stand.

Do we sometimes do this to innovations? Are our expectations sometimes too high (or sometimes even too low)? Do we at times simply use inappropriate criteria to evaluate them?

Innovations come in all shapes and sizes. Some are better than others. Some we could perhaps do without. Hairagami is different than an iPod. I prefer Dippin Dots over Slow Churn ice cream. The theory of relativity is decidedly not the same as credit default swaps.

What do you expect from your innovations?

Con Air cost about $80 million to produce and grossed just over $224 million worldwide. Not too shabby for the worst movie ever. And somewhat ironically, Con Air actually received two Academy Award (Oscar) nominations in 1998 – one for Best Music, Original Song, and one for Best Sound. It’s also worth noting the movie took home the 1998 Razzie in the category of “Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property”. In the end, you just have to have the right attitude toward certain things and simply accept them for what they are. Innovations are no different.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A lesson in how to use idea management systems

We’ve talked about idea management systems; why to have one; what they should do; what they can do. Today let’s talk specifically how people will use them once they are deployed.

First off, I’d love to get input from others familiar with idea management systems. Feel free to use the comments section to your heart’s content. The great thing about flexible, collaborative systems is that they can be used in so many ways. So consider this just a big first pass at it, not a presumptuous comprehensive overview. Just like your idea management system, the clock is ticking.

Let’s think about what an idea management system is…An idea management system is a collaborative tool, somewhat like Facebook, but it’s installed internally to an organization and the only thing people are talking about is business.

So let’s extend the Facebook metaphor further. Like Facebook, you can post things like files, images, articles, videos and links to sites on the internet. There are always members of the team who find (or know) something of value and they can share it via the idea management system. With all this posting of information, a collateral byproduct of the idea management system is that it serves as a Knowledge Management System, as well. When you’re researching a topic you can look up information that your team has provided. And, odds are, if something is interesting to others, then it may be interesting to you.

If your team has a place to post information (or ideas), then they're likely to be shared and discovered by others.

And also like Facebook you can look at people’s profiles to learn more about them or to discover what they tweet or what they’re interested in or who follows them or who they follow. You can learn more about them by seeing what they post; what ideas they’ve submitted.

You can start or participate in discussions. Perhaps your thought is not “idea-ready”. You can instead either compose it or save it as a draft until it is ready, or you can just have a sidebar discussion about something with others. These discussions can be fruitful and perhaps a supervising innovation manager can eyeball an interesting discussion (or comment), decide it’s “idea-worthy” and promote it to be an idea.

And like Facebook, you can comment on what people post. These comments have real value. They shape the idea. They are a measure of the wisdom of the crowd. And not only the number of comments speaks to the value of any given idea, but the votes on comments add to the ideas perceived value to the crowd assembled to collaborate.

The collaborative idea management system provides a stimulus for people to contribute.

An idea management system provides a place for people to post their ideas. Without this environment, those ideas might just get lost.
Like Facebook, I always picture the users in an organization popping on for a peek for a few minutes every day. Some organizations encourage their people to put aside time to work on special or pet projects and this is an excellent time to get on the collaborative tool for ideation. And because people have posted interesting things and links and biographies, the user community can use the idea management system to look up things of interest; to problem solve; to find an expert to help.

So with all this collaboration, an idea management system gets your company a pretty cool thing: Organizational Engagement.

But the purpose of the idea management system is, of course, a place to gather ideas. So, if you and your coworker chat about work at lunch and come up with a brainstorm, you can get back to your desk, log into the idea management system and post your (shared) idea.

And if you’ve always thought “if our company did something differently or faster or slower (or whatever), the company could make or save money”, you can post this idea too. Both of these are examples of unsolicited ideas and this is a great place to get incremental improvements. And incremental improvements can deliver quick wins with rapid returns on investment.

The issue with an idea management system is not that you won't get enough ideas. You're likely to get too many. That's where some sort of automated promotion process helps winnow down the list to the very best ideas.

But for breakthrough ideas, you need Strategic Guidance. And the idea management system can provide strategic guidance with the use of Challenges or Seeding. Whatever the company’s management is talking about in the boardroom; whatever they’re worrying about at night can be articulated as a challenge to the team. The idea management system can be used to ask for help from the user community: Please give us your ideas.

So some examples of this can be: What should our next breakthrough product be? What can we do to improve our chances at the big event we’re attending? How do we turn our company more “green”?

These breakthrough ideas are where the really big payoffs reside. They can help your organization compete effectively in this challenging economy.

Unlike the structured environments and systems that are so useful for marching projects toward completion, the front end of innovation flourishes by providing a collaborative tool. It is great that it is unstructured (the structure would only inhibit progress at this stage of the game). The Web 2.0 tools brought into the Enterprise serve to provide a disruptive, unpredictable, chaotic milieu that can yield serendipitous yet wonderful results.

You should probably think of the idea management system as “Research” while all the systems that ensue (traditional Project Management, PLM, PPM, etc.) are more like “Development”.

How does your organization use idea management? What’s your vision for what an idea management system can do for your team?

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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Innovation Is Afoot

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, 'I've never seen anyone run like that before.' It's more than just a race, it's a style. It's doing something better than anyone else. It's being creative.” – Steve Prefontaine

In one of its most recent innovations, Nike went off the standard innovation grid. Or rather it created it - The Nike Grid that is.

In addition to my regular posts for the Front End of Innovation, I sporadically contribute an occasional post to my own blog sites – including The Future of Board Games (which is obviously related to my work with Big E Toys) and Gonzo Innovation (which is largely about social innovation and other immersive innovation techniques). I mention these other blogs only because Nikegrid.com reminded me of a post from The Future of Board Games entitled Board In The City, which I wrote back in September 2007.

Beginning on October 22, 2010 (and lasting 15 days) Nike turned London into an urban board game by breaking down the city into a grid of 48 postal codes. Runners/Players participating in the game competed with one another and as teams by starting runs at various phone booths throughout the city, dialing a specific number, punching in an ID code, and then following instructions to find the next location. The more phone booths from which a runner checked in, the more points he or she earned.

Specific challenges made the race akin to a scavenger hunt by enabling players to gain extra points, as well as virtual badges for various activities or achievements. In September 2007, it was in the context of a scavenger hunt as part of the Board In The City post that I wrote:

“Scavenger hunts have been around for a long, long time, but still I believe they are a harbinger of things to come. They’re relatively easy to put together and can be quite fun, and no doubt will become increasingly more complex and varied in the years to come. Especially given the technology that exists today – cell phone, camera phones, text messaging, GPS, and more – it seems quite reasonable that such games will get more and more sophisticated with more and more coordination and variation. There is obviously no actual board to speak of. The board is the neighborhood, the mall, or the city. I have to believe at some point, someone, somewhere will actually formalize rules for such a game, complete with technology variations and scoring systems.”

Well done Nike. You’ve found a way to effectively combine exercise, fun, competition, technology, social networking, and more. Participants absolutely loved The Nike Grid.

Prefontaine’s words could just as easily be applied to innovation. “It's more than just a race, it's a style. It's doing something better than anyone else. It's being creative.”

Well done indeed.

If you’re interested in hearing more about The Nike Grid from a first-person point of view, read this post from participant James Spalding.

As Rhys Rose writes on the Nike Grid Facebook page - “So Nike, the question on everyone’s lips is when is the next one?”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Customers Are People Too: Where Innovation Begins

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

We play for the fans, not the critics.” – Russell Hammond, lead guitarist for the fictitious band Stillwater (played by Billy Crudup) from the movie Almost Famous (2000), written and directed by Cameron Crowe

Where does innovation begin?

Most innovations big and small are the consequence of defined customer requirements. That being said, everyone can probably think of an anecdotal story in which innovation was the result of mishap, coincidence, or chance. Think penicillin. Think microwave oven. Accidents certainly do happen. Unintended innovations do occur. But with the general loss of pure research and tinkering for tinkering sake, inadvertent innovations in most realms have gone by the wayside. Innovation these days is most often driven by customer requirements combined with an organizational desire to create great design.

The term “customer” in the phrase “customer requirements” I think presents a couple emerging challenges though.

1. Customers don’t want to feel like customers anymore. They don’t want to feel like a number, like a piece of information in a database. They don’t want to be talked to or at, but rather with (most of the time anyway). They’re increasingly interested in having a voice. And should they not feel involved (when they choose to be involved), or should they not feel like a person when interacting with your organization, customers have more tools at their disposal to simply shut you out.

2. Customers don’t simply act like customers anymore. As author Clay Shirky pointed out a couple years ago in his book Here Comes Everybody, “the category of “consumer” is now a temporary behavior rather than a permanent identity.” People have the power to easily produce, publish, and distribute creations of their own more so than at any other time in history. They’re not relegated to the simple role of consumer. Blogs, YouTube, Pro Tools, CafePress, Etzy, iUniverse, thegamecrafter.com are but a few examples of this power. Consumers are producers. Producers are consumers. If you’re the guitarist Russell Hammond, who do you play for when the fan and critic become one and the same?

I say, simply play for people.

Innovate for people.

At the heart of all innovation are people – creators, designers, manufacturers, distributors, and yes… customers. Customers are people too. Have empathy for them. You must think of them as more than simply customers.

I recognize a shift from “customer” to “people” may have little pragmatic value when it comes to defining requirements. It’s difficult to talk about “people requirements” without some other “customer” context. Such a shift may therefore be largely a semantic one or perhaps simply an attitudinal one. But I think it’s important. For this is where innovation begins – with people.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Outcome Expectations (aka Hiring Criteria)

Dr. Phil Samuel

We already know that when it comes to innovation, the most important fact is that the customers hire products and services (solutions) to get a Job done. Many providers do not approach product development and customer fulfillment utilizing this crucial fact. Instead of focusing the key unit of analysis as the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD), many have been incorrectly focusing their analysis on the customer or solution attributes. On the other hand, innovation vanguard firms know that by focusing on the higher purpose - a Job To Be Done (JTBD) - they can create a significant advantage for the customer and provider.

The second important fact is to know that every JTBD is associated with a set of customer criteria called “outcome expectations”. These are a set of solution neutral criteria customer uses to choose from among the competing solutions. The “outcome expectations” are also called “hiring criteria”, implying that customers use these criteria to hire a solution. Some of these criteria are expressed positively (customers want more of them) and relates to the benefits associated with the Job To Be Done. Others are expressed negatively (customers want to minimize them) and relates to the cost or harm incurred while getting the Job done.

Keeping up with our discussions about the candles and light bulbs, customers were hiring them to get the job of illumination done so that they can be productive when darkness was prevailing. When they wanted to get the job of illumination done, it came with a list of solution neutral criteria. These included (more) ease of achieving illumination, (more) safe production of illumination, (more) control of the amount of brightness, while minimizing costs associated with illumination, time involved in achieving illumination, the resources (such as fuel, equipment, and people), impact on environment and unexpected outages. We will note that none of these expectations discussed attributes about candles or light bulbs. When candles are the prevailing method of production of illumination, it is easy to limit the focus on the functions of the candles. It would be normal for the candle companies as well their customers to limit the discussions around making the candles last longer, brighter, reducing the smoke and soot, minimizing the dripping of wax and improving the fire hazard. For this reason, the innovation vanguard firms know not to depend too much on just the literal voice of the customers.

Often, market researchers as well as solution developers miss out on opportunities by segmenting the customers by demographics and psychographics. The right way to segment a group of customers is to segment them based on Job To Be Done and Outcome expectations. Customers who place similar emphasis on Job To Be Done and Outcome expectations belong in the same segment. For example, there might be a set of customers who want illumination but place a high priority on reliable illumination that does not adversely affect the environment. For another set of customers control of brightness and cost may be higher priority. By understanding how customers place importance to outcome expectations, firms can create solutions geared to that segment of the market to gain significant competitive advantage.

Dr. Phil Samuel is the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) for BMGI, a management-consulting firm specializing in performance excellence and innovation. An integral part of BMGI’s management team since 2005, Phil brings more than a decade of experience to his role as CIO, helping clients in-source creativity and increase organic growth potential. Phil is a dynamic speaker and published author, whose most recent credits include the books, “Design for Lean Six Sigma: A Holistic Approach to Design and Innovation” and “The Innovator’s Toolkit: 50+ Techniques for Predictable and Sustainable Organic Growth.”

FEI is on Xing!

We've recently launched the FEI group on the Xing network in anticipation for our FEI Europe event! This will give our European attendees and other innovation colleagues a place to network. Make sure to join below.

Join FEI on Xing

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vote For Free

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” – Winston Churchill

Not everyone gets invited to Stage-Gate® meetings. Not everyone sits on your Board of Directors. You may have a voice in what gets done and how things operate at your organization, but your power and influence is relative. You don’t for instance usually get to cast a meaningful vote for your leader on a regular basis. Organizations throughout the world, although perhaps collaborative in nature, are not democratic.

Today is Election Day in the United States. It’s a mid-term election, meaning people aren’t voting for the President this go around. That will happen again in two years. Because of this, voter turnout is likely to be relatively low. It’s a shame of sorts. I mean really, where else and when do you get to cast a vote for your leaders?

Sometimes I think we take voting for granted in this country. We don’t recognize that our right to vote does not exist throughout the world. There was a time, not all that long ago, when it didn’t exist around here for everyone either.

A few years ago, Larry Keeley - President of Chicago-based Doblin Inc., a leading consulting firm that focuses on effective innovation – writing for BusinessWeek listed “participatory democracy” as the ninth greatest innovation of all time. I would likely put it even higher. The effect of democracy is (and has been) profound throughout history.

The adage goes “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” There always seem to be strings attached to most things. Nothing is truly free. But voting in the United States doesn’t cost you anything, except perhaps a little bit of time. If you’re a citizen of voting age, you basically have the right to vote here. It is free. Ironically, it’s when we don’t vote that we typically end up paying a price.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Integrate Idea Management Systems …. With What Exactly?

It seems everyone wants to be sure that their idea management system integrates with other systems deployed at their companies. I’m always interested in hearing with what exactly they want to integrate. Sometimes I hear really smart, creative integration schemes. Sometimes asking for the ability to integrate is part of a check off list. So what should you worry about integrating your idea management system? Let’s think.

Why Integrate?

First of all I’ve been helping companies deploy enterprise wide systems for a long time. These are “enterprise systems” because they are either used by the lion’s share of team members or because they impact everyone at the company. These systems beg the question of integration. CRM systems need to integrate with accounting systems because customer data should not be in silos. On line real time video needs to be integrated with other communications systems. So I understand that deploying a system that sits by itself off in a corner is not a good idea.

Downstream Tools

There are logical integration points for idea management systems. By definition, an idea management system addresses requirements at the Front End of Innovation; therefore the data generated will likely be used “downstream”. So if you think of FEI as the vehicle for “research”, the same data is going to be required when “development” ensues. When great ideas are generated (and agreed upon in a collaborative environment) then the idea needs to be managed with one of several traditional “stage gate” systems. These include project management, product lifecycle management (PLM), and project portfolio management (PPM).

The productivity of these development systems will be enhanced if each project starts off with the idea and all the studies, justification, documentation and financial analysis that elevated it to the status of “best idea” and worthy of development. A good idea management system treats all the data within as merely “objects” in a data base. If the database is an industry standard (e.g. SQL) then it is easy to identify, capture, scoop up the data and shove it into the subsequent environments via API’s or Web Services. This is a really good example of desirous and useful integration.


Most (good) idea management systems have a messaging component. Users can be alerted when an idea is commented on or worked on. And these systems also have a service to invite other users, which usually kicks off a message to another user. These and other messages can be integrated with emails. And a messaging system internal to the idea management software will likely have pop ups or other indicators that a message exists. If an organization already has a messaging system it can get really confusing if users have to check for messages in multiple places. Integrating the idea management’s messaging system with any existing enterprise messaging system is a good use case for integration.

Single Sign On

Enterprise IT departments are in the business of providing technology to make their end users’ life easier. Single sign on with Active Directory (AD) or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Users can log onto the idea management system just by pulling it up in their browser instead of keying in a user name and password (again), thereby saving valuable time. (LDAP) is a standard request for any enterprise software.

Financial Systems

I’ve been asked to integrate idea management with Financial Systems. A bit downstream, but still during the front end of innovation, the collaborative group need to justify cost effectiveness and collect other financial attributes. Being able to draw on financial data without too much searching in order to flush out an idea is a big step toward productivity. This integration point is trickier but a pretty reasonable request.

Knowledge Management

Another fine attribute to an idea management system is to take advantage of the collaborative tool’s ability to act as a knowledge management system. Idea management systems should enable users to post files, videos, images, RSS feeds, Twitter accounts, etc. But if a knowledge management system already exists in the enterprise (quite frequently SharePoint based), this too is an excellent example of a productive integration point.

How to do it

The very best way to address integration is to allow your idea management vendor to participate in two steps. First you should conduct a discovery session where the enterprise organization discusses all the possible places where integration can occur. Second you orchestrate a meeting or conference call with all the various software vendors. They can decide what has to be integrated, when and how integration should take place and the best methods to perform the integration.

None of this is to say that integration should be part of Phase I deployment of your idea management system. It is just a good idea to architect the deployment so that integration is possible. Phase I should be getting the idea management system up and running. Then let’s connect all the pieces together. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.

Idea Management is a software tool that impacts the entire enterprise. Integration with other systems can be valuable and promote productivity. It is always a good idea to think through what should be integrated, invite your idea management team to help you figure out integration points you haven’t thought of, then manage and create an integration plan.

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.

Clicky Web Analytics