Does a Bottoms up Approach to Innovation/Idea Management Really Work?
The Black Hole
Many corporations have been ‘doing Idea Management’, or so they say, for years. It was in the form of the suggestion box near the vending machine or the cafeteria. Quickly the suggestion box became the “Black Hole” from the perspective of the employee since most ideas were probably never read let alone implemented.
The risk, of course, with implementing an idea management program in any corporation is the ‘Black Hole’ perception. If the program isn’t well designed you will not only disappoint inventive minds, but you will completely turn them off to your program.
How Do We Avoid This?
One of the most effective ways is maintaining good communication (and frequent!) with the submitter of an idea. Let them know a live body has read the idea and explain next steps. Additionally, aligning with expert reviewers by subject takes the experience from a ‘fun way to get employee feedback’ to ‘this could actually work’ status. Establishing the appropriate foundation will determine how beneficial a bottoms up approach to innovation/idea management is to a company. Other effective ways to keep employees motivated and engaged in Idea Management programs are:
- Challenges – pick a topic at the core of your company’s strategy and launch a campaign to encourage employees to answer “how might we increase market share in….” or other relevant question. You may find it helpful to leverage Design Thinking workshops to come up with the ideas. Use crowdsourcing as a first layer of evaluations.
- Acknowledge great ideas – announce contest winners, provide prizes, share success stories.
- Create a buzz – this should be fun in addition to being productive.
- Transparency – share expert reviews with the submitter. They should understand why their
idea isn’t being implemented.
Not Invented Here
Believe it or not, some leaders do not take kindly to the next big idea in their specific area of expertise coming from a relative unknown, or worse yet, somebody external to their team. This is a top down mentality and will be frustrating to idea submitters. This type of mindset will quickly shutdown a bottoms up approach to innovation/idea management. Changing this mindset must come from the top executives by encouraging their leadership teams to listen to the ideas of others and incentivizing them accordingly.
Why do it at all?
Easy answer – It works. Every idea is not going to be a home run. In fact, home runs are a very small percentage of the number of ideas evaluated. It is essential to pick the few ideas that clearly stand out.
Another obvious answer – When a market opportunity presents itself, the firms that have idea management programs in place will be most likely to respond first and act as thought leaders and early movers. Timing is, in fact, everything when it comes to innovation. If it takes a year to complete an ‘idea to marketplace’ cycle, you could possibly miss out on the opportunity.
So ‘wake up’ your idea management programs if you think they need a boost. It could open up a world of possibilities!