By: Rob Hoehn
One of the things that was surprising to us at IdeaScale was that many of our customers came to us looking for idea management software not because they didn’t have enough good ideas, but because they simply needed a place for those ideas to live. How could that be the main reason?
Well, sometimes it’s not just about finding the right idea, it’s about finding the right idea at the right time. And if you don’t have a defined space for holding, searching, prioritizing, and delivering on ideas – you’re going to lose ideas that don’t arrive in a linear fashion.
That’s the great thing about human creativity, right? It’s not bound by constraints like timelines, resources, or technological capacity… so it’s very possible for an idea to arrive ahead of its time. But if you don’t capture an idea at the point of inspiration then it’s very likely that you won’t be able to recall it when times have changed. That’s why creating a searchable log of all your relevant ideas is so important when it comes to innovation.
A simple example: in a recent podcast interview with the innovation team at The Cleveland Cavaliers, the team talked about an employee experience idea that was once rejected, but is now accepted policy. A longtime employee suggestion was to create a dog-friendly workplace, but with their existing facilities and policies, they weren’t able to act on it. However, when times changed and they moved to a totally new office (the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse) and were looking for new ways to enhance the workplace, they were able to come back to this idea with all its supporters and links to supporting documents that enabled them to take action on it. Now employees can bring their dogs into the office.
It’s for this same reason that the Cleveland Cavaliers know that having a backlog of ideas can actually be really helpful (actually, the Cleveland Cavaliers try to close the loop on every idea in their funnel even if they can’t take action on it – although they have a goal of implementing almost all of them). But for those that don’t make it through the first time, when an organization like the Cavs is ready to explore a new concept, trend, or direction, they can first search their existing database of ideas to find out of there’s already some inspiration and support that can further juice interest in that subject.
Some of our customers don’t even use the word “archive” for this very reason when it comes to building ideation funnels. They’ll move any idea that’s not ready for prime time into something called a “lab” or the “idea mine.” This gives the ideas the ability to ripen and the opportunity for time to catch up to them. So if you think an idea has promise, even if it can’t be implemented today, maybe it’s better to move it into some sort of parking lot, rather than eliminating it completely. So if you’re running an innovation program, think about your backlog of ideas and find out if there are some in your past that might be perfectly aged now and go back to them.
To learn more about how the Cleveland Cavaliers empowers continuous improvement as part of their innovation program, listen to the full podcast episode here.
About the author
Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.