By: Paul Van Zandt
Traditional innovation can only take your business so far, and without an evolution of processes, you might find it harder than ever to move new ideas forward. Introducing structures and systems to formulate, organize, and act upon new ideas is one of the best ways to optimize internal innovation. This practice is better known as idea management, and in this article we will define and discuss idea management in full.
Idea Management Definition
Idea management is a process that allows businesses to develop, organize, nurture, and launch ideas to help them reach their maximum potential. This is done traditionally through an idea management software but also must be prioritized in the culture of the business. It’s important that ideation is emphasized culturally in order for this process to reach all of the necessary touchpoints throughout an organization.
Idea management is different from innovation management and requires the implementation of a couple key systems. Those can be seen as:
- A place to develop and brainstorm ideas both internally and externally.
- An understanding of how ideas relate to specific problems and clear paths to a tangible goal.
- A structure that takes initial ideas, references them against existing problems, and nurtures them into development, ensuring there is real action taken.
Creating and implementing an idea management system can be difficult at first, so to make the process easier we break it down into a couple of tangible steps that you can utilize for your business.
Idea Management Walkthrough
Developing and committing to an idea management framework is difficult because you might not be sure where to start. Here are some solid steps to follow in your idea management framework.
Create Targets and Spot Issues
The very first step in the idea management process will be to create targets, or goals, for your team, and begin spotting issues that might need a solution. It’s important that issue spotting comes before the idea generation phase, because if you’re thinking up ideas with no end goal in mind then the vast majority of them will be useless.
When thinking of targets, try and think of what you want your internal processes to look like in 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years, and what it would take to get there. Take this same mindset and apply it externally to your customer experience, product, and marketing machine. This is a good starting place and will help identify the roadblocks in the way of you reaching your new goals.
Build Ideation Framework
The next phase is the one people are most comfortable with and it’s the ideation phase. This is where most of the brainstorming will happen, but before you begin documenting new ideas, you need to create a process that facilitates this process not just once, but many different times. Think about the different stages you want teams and ideas to go through on the way to deployment. This could be a cross referencing phase, a place to conduct retrospectives, specific exercise to weed out less effective concepts, etc.
It’s easiest to execute an ideation framework through an online whiteboard. These tools can be used to both create your strategy and facilitate your many brainstorming sessions.
Collaborate and Evaluate
Once you have a roadmap in place for conducting your brainstorming sessions, you can begin collaborating to find new solutions. This is a very flexible process and should be conducted in whatever format works best for your team.
After brainstorming, take a day and come back to your ideas to evaluate which are the most likely to succeed. Take these ideas and begin thinking deeper into how they could be implemented and why they’re so helpful. This analysis will be important when it’s time to begin implementing your solution.
Implement Ideas & Review
After evaluating your options, you should begin the implementation process and review what seems to work best. Not every idea will be a success, so it’s important to zoom out and review your potential solutions before they’re launched to your final product. Implement these solutions on a smaller scale where they can hopefully grow and receive some internal feedback before a final launch.
Iterate and Launch
After you’ve gotten feedback, sorted through possible solutions, and figured out what works best, it’s time to iterate that solution until it’s flawless. Take some iterations to see what works best and, once it’s all set, it’s time to launch your idea. This marks the end of an idea management process that is built not only to succeed once, but to find success over and over again.
It’s important at the end of the process to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how this can be improved for your next ideation sprint. Don’t only focus on the success because there are big lessons to be learned within failure.
Why Is Idea Management Beneficial?
Idea management isn’t just a way to brainstorm. It functions as a revolutionary way to create tangible action and ensure success with ideation, innovation, and problem solving. Because of this it’s incredibly beneficial to businesses.
One of the reasons idea management is so beneficial is because it’s solving a real inefficiency with ad hoc problem solving. Traditionally, it’s very easy to lose ideas between the cracks when brainstorming, and often the most valuable information can be left behind. This is partly solved by using a better brainstorming tool like an online whiteboard, but also solved by using an idea management system. When ideas are unconnected and unaligned, it’s impossible to find their full potential. This is one of the many benefits of implementing an idea management system.
Idea management provides a structure that increases the velocity of ideation and implementation. By identifying problems as the very first step and following clear paths to success, ideas are much more likely to succeed and are able to move forward faster and more efficiently.
Innovation is typically less organized than it should be, and this is something that makes it inefficient. Idea management processes allow you to standardize and regiment the innovation process and therefore increase your teams velocity.
Because teams interact with these processes together, idea management is inherently a collaborative process. This means prospective ideas are engaged from multiple different perspectives and are baked in collaboration to ensure they’re more risk averse.
This doesn’t just happen in the brainstorming phase, but collaboration should be integrated in the review and iteration stages as well. This means that every idea that launches is a team effort and is able to benefit from a full collaborative process.
Better Follow Through and Management
Idea management is also beneficial to the management side of the business, including project management. It makes organizing and tracking ideas far easier, and saves a lot of time for anyone tasked with that responsibility.
This is both thanks to the software programs involved in idea management, but also the regimented method of ideation and idea storage. Because each stage is so standardized it becomes much easier to track ideas wherever they are in the idea management process.
If your team is feeling the inefficiencies of ad hoc innovation, it’s time to switch over to a custom idea management system. By increasing team velocity, simplifying management systems, and creating collaborative environments, idea management helps push your business to the next level.
About the Author
Paul Van Zandt is the founder of Fresco, a startup enabling real-time collaboration for people everywhere. Fresco allows you to collaborate with your team on an incredibly simple interface customize your workspace, and save all of your changes online in digital permanence. If you liked this article, make sure you check out Fresco to see how you can begin utilizing a futuristic brainstorming method.