Many companies find it hard to prioritize ideation. Here are five ways to break the pattern and gather a wealth of ideas for your organization.

In today’s rapidly changing world, it’s easy to think that most companies are innovation factories—full of ideas for new products, services, and processes. They need to be, right? Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Most organizations only innovate when they are forced to do so. Many still rely on old knowledge or even guesswork to face challenges that arise.

To continue creating and delivering value for customers, organizations have to come up with new ideas. Ideas are the foundation for innovation, yet many companies struggle to ideate consistently and successfully.

There are many reasons for this, but there is always a solution. Here are five common habits that hurt ideation and how to break them to steer your company to success.

Habit #1: Not Prioritizing Time for Ideation

Ideation, like any other business activity, requires time, discipline and commitment. Most companies do not actually prioritize ideation unless there is an emergency! If you are waiting for an emergency to come up with new ideas, you are simply being reactive.

Rather than only ideating under duress, leaders should consistently set aside time in the calendar to generate ideas with their teams. Ideas should come from all employees and departments because it takes a multitude of ideas and viewpoints to face challenges and capitalize on opportunities. When ideation is not prioritized, organizations do not have enough ideas, let alone enough variety, to advance the business. Schedule regular time for coming up with ideas, whether through calendared meetings, structured brainstorming sessions, brownbag lunches, or online tools. After all, as my co-author Ron Price and I demonstrated in our book The Innovator’s Advantage, it takes thousands of ideas to generate a single marketable success.

Habit #2: Failing to Create Structure

Another reason that organizations don’t ideate is because there is no structure for the task. Do you remember the last time you were asked to a brainstorming session? Were the ideation activities organized to build upon one another? Or was it just an impromptu huddle? What happened to all of the ideas generated during the session? Were they collected and evaluated? Or did they disappear once everyone left the room? Brainstorming is often exactly that—a lot of ideas storming at each other in unstructured chaos.

There are many proven methodologies for successful brainstorming. The key is have a clear plan for when to ideate and what to do with those ideas once they are shared. Once a system is identified, this will encourage and enable productive idea generation, and ensure all participants feel heard and that their ideas matter.

Habit #3: Omitting Incentives for Ideation

If employees do not feel valued or heard, they will not offer up their creative thinking to ideate for their company. Unfortunately, many employers take their employees’ ideas for granted. They assume since someone is employed, the company should get that person’s ideas. This is a fallacy. No employer has a right to an employee’s creative capacity. It is volunteered. Incentives are a great way to show appreciation and create excitement.

If an organization can create an environment that attracts, encourages, and incentivizes workers to contribute ideas, it will have a wealth of ideas. Ideation can be rewarded simply through words or other methods such as monetary gifts, extra time off, a special badge of acknowledgement, or being named to an elite group.

One of the best sources of incentive for employees is actually recognition from a customer. This goes a long way in motivating employees, not only to do good work, but to focus on even more ideas for solving the customers’ problems.

Habit #4: Not Using Idea Management Tools

Nothing is more frustrating to an employee than contributing a great idea that is never acted upon—or even worse, forgotten. One simple and powerful way to encourage ideation is through an idea management tool that allows the company to collect all ideas in one place, often online, for sorting, evaluation and monitoring. This way, employees can always see their ideas and when and how the company uses them. Without a management tool, leaders may not ask large groups of employees for ideas as there is no central place to store them.

Your idea management tool can be simple or complex, specific to idea generation or part of another highly used project management tool. As long as it creates transparency for employees, which in turn will encourage them to ideate. With these tools and systems in place, you can then teach your employees to be better idea managers.

Habit #5: Unsupportive Leadership

Organizations need leaders to prioritize and support ideation. An unsupportive leader—or worse yet, a leader who thinks he or she has all the ideas—can be a huge hurdle for ideation efforts. For innovation to be a success throughout the company, employees at every level should ideate.

There are many reasons that leaders don’t fully support ideation, whether because they don’t enjoy ideating themselves or don’t think their employees have the answers. Leaders should be a shining example for creative thought and regular brainstorming. Knowing how to guide employees to ideate, how to listen and question in a psychologically safe way, how to avoid judging ideas pre-maturely, and how to think futuristically are all crucial skills for leaders.

Breaking these five habits will give your company fuel to tackle any oncoming problem or opportunity with a bank of ideas to support you—and lead you toward successful innovation.

It will create an environment where employees feel it is safe to volunteer their ideas and that those ideas will be valued. When leaders show employees how to be creative and to think more widely and deeply about the problems and opportunities around them, it will excite employees about for the future.

About the Author

Dr. Evans Baiya is an internationally recognized and trusted guide to business leaders and innovators. Using his 6-stage process, he helps the businesses identify, define, develop, verify, commercialize, and scale ideas so the businesses and individuals can learn, grow, and thrive.  He is the co-author of the award-winning book, The Innovator’s Advantage and co-creator of The Innovator’s Advantage Academy, a detailed step-by-step innovation training. Learn more at

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