Monday, March 7, 2011

Idea management software is just like Facebook except everyone is talking about work

There’s got to be more to an idea management system than just idea generation. Even if it is the true purpose behind rolling out the system in the enterprise. I’ve written in the past how an idea management system can also be a knowledge management system. And it’s those same attributes that enable an idea management software system to be a full blown social media system. Sort of just like Facebook.

The first bit of good news when taking this stance: Everyone on your team is familiar with Facebook and knows how to use it. When you introduce the idea management system they’ll feel right at home, looking at things and commenting on what they find interesting.

The Facebook analogy for an idea management software system is a good one. Like Facebook, when an idea system is installed at your company, you’re hoping people on your team can congregate there and share information. It is, after all, a collaborative tool. So like Facebook, your users should be able to post things. They should be able to post images and videos. They should be able to post white papers and spreadsheets and links to things they find interesting. If the system administrator has the idea management system set up so it’s the place to go to find RSS feeds from news sources germane to the common purpose, that too is a reason for the users to log into the system.

And like Facebook people should be able to post events and profiles. Then all this information should be tagged so it can be discovered with a search by a user. And when something is posted that a user finds interesting, they should get an email alerting them to that fact.

Still, just like Facebook, the user community should be able to look up all this information when they need it. If a user has a problem, an issue, a topic where they need more information, the idea management system, with all of its Facebook-like attributes, is the first place someone can go. One searches on the words of the topic and gets a search result with a list of all the events, images, videos and files in the system. Because it’s an idea management system one can also get a list of all the challenges and ideas that are in the system. You also get a list of profiles… so not only can you look at information to help solve a problem, you can also find an expert to help.

Like Facebook users can comment on all the objects they encounter on the idea management system. Again, because it’s an idea management system, users can also vote on ideas and challenges.

Here’s why the idea management system needs to look, feel and act like Facebook: the user community needs a reason to show up there. You need users to be involved for more than when they have a brainstorm and want to post an idea. You need the users to collaborate and help enhance and shape other people’s ideas. These serendipitous occasions only occur when users are logged in (or are alerted by email).

A good idea management system, with its Facebook-like qualities, will be an interesting place for the user community to show up and collaborate. Like Facebook, they can log on for a few minutes here in the morning and a few minutes in the afternoon. They can see what the most popular places are and click on them. They can see other’s recent postings and click on them. So…just like Facebook, but installed internally at the company, the idea management system engenders users to talk about their work.

With all of this social media activity going on, with all this Organizational Engagement, you’ve assembled everyone in one place. Once assembled, innovation managers can provide Strategic Guidance by posing Challenges to the user community. “We’re so glad you are all talking. Now please talk about this”. The system leaders can let the community know what company management thinks is important and then ask for help.

The idea management system is a great place for the user community to submit unsolicited ideas. These unsolicited ideas typically lead to incremental improvements with rapid returns on investment. But the main reason organizations adopt idea management systems is to help get Radical or Breakthrough Innovation. So management puts their heads together and plants “seeds” or posts Challenges: “How do we make our company more ‘green’”. “Please tell us what our next product should be in order for us to compete”. If you’re in the food business, everyone wants to invent the next chicken nugget.

One more terrific thing about these social media attributes is the fact they enable the system to measure the “wisdom of the crowd”; to judge which are the best ideas. Sure, it is fine to count votes as a means of calculating which idea the crowd thinks is best. But vote counting can easily be “gamed”. A better measure of what the crowd thinks is to use a social science algorithm that measures, yes votes, but also how many comments, votes on comments, how many views, how many follows, how many bookmarks, how many alerts. A calculation that aggregates all those social media activities more closely measures which idea the crowd thinks is best.

Picture your organization with a collaborative tool enabling all your smart people to work together, to educate each other, to share information in order to keep each other informed. Imagine a place where the members of your team view, comment, discuss, shape and enhance ideas. Your team can have a go-to place to solve problems. They can find an expert when they need one (even if they’ve never met or are in a different time zone or a different division of the company).

This collaborative tool is not the entire vehicle for forcing innovation into your organization. But an idea management system, with its knowledge management and social media attributes, can be the backbone for your innovation effort. Your idea management system can be the place the members of your team routinely show up. They can socially engage with their coworkers and comment on other’s submissions. Most importantly they’ll be encouraged to post their ideas. And these ideas may just end up being what helps your company compete. Your next new “breakthrough” product awaits.

And don’t worry about training too much. Your user community already knows how to use Facebook. When the idea management system rolls out they’ll figure out what to click without anyone’s encouragement.

Ron Shulkin is Vice President for the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation management system. You can learn more about CogniStreamer here

You can have a free copy of Ron’s white paper explaining idea management software in detail by going here:

Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) . He has written extensively on Idea Management (Read Here) . You can also search on this FEI web site for my name and find dozens of blog entries on the topic.

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.


janelle said...

Great post Ron. Just a note on not only having 'facebook-style' functionality and end-user ease of use, Brightidea just launched a Facebook App, extending the front-end of idea management to the largest social network site online.

Dave said...

An idea management system IS a knowledge management system ; just map out the feedback loops. See

John Joseph said...

Thanks for sharing these insightful information. Many businesses nowadays use customized content management systems that allow them to incorporate certain social media features. Along with easily sharing project data and files, your team members can also use the system to stay connected with each other through messages and instant chats.

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