Idea Management Heroes
If you run idea management software that captures ideas from the people in your company, you have probably noticed that about 20-35% of your colleagues use the system -- that is assuming that you do a reasonable job of promoting the system. Moreover, you have probably noticed that of these people, around half have just submitted one or two ideas; another half contribute ideas moderately regularly; and a very small percentage, just a very few people, contribute lots of ideas on a regular basis.
If you are like many people managing such systems, your initial reaction is to try and increase participation rates. After all, 20-35% is not very high, is it? Although understandable, this reaction would be wrong. Worse, such thinking misses a marvellous opportunity.
Why Your Reaction Is Wrong
Your company's bottom line benefits in no way whatsoever by having more people participate in your idea management initiative. If anything, there is an adverse effect on the bottom line: more people participating with more ideas is an operational cost. After all, it takes time for people to submit ideas. It takes time for experts to review ideas. It takes time to give feedback on ideas. Now, if the ideas being submitted by the additional users of the system were brilliant ideas, that would be a benefit. But, if the non-participants of your idea management system have a suitable brilliant idea and know about the system, they would have submitted their ideas already! Pressuring people who do not have brilliant, or even rather good, ideas will only result in mediocre ideas that take time to administer but are unlikely to be implemented or add value to your organisation. In fact, many innovation managers tell me that when people are pressured to submit ideas, they often submit complaints disguised as ideas.
The Missed Opportunity
Think about those very few people who regularly submit lots of ideas. They have demonstrated they three things that are very important to your organisation's innovation initiative:
- They are creative thinkers.
- They are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to formulate and share ideas.
- They genuinely want your company to be more innovative and want to be a part of making it happen.
In short, they are your idea management heroes. Instead of worrying about the 65-80% of your colleagues who are not terribly interested in the company's innovation initiative, you should be embracing your small group of idea management heroes. Ensure that senior management knows about these people and acknowledges their contribution to the organisation. Suggest that if they are not in positions that enable them to make creative contributions to the company, the situation should be changed as soon as possible. A creative mind stuck doing repetitive, bureaucratic tasks is probably a creative mind actively looking for new opportunities with a more appreciative employer.
Most importantly, ensure that your idea management heroes are invited to participate in other creativity and innovation activities, such as anticonventional thinking sessions, business plan competitions and other events designed to develop creative ideas.
Meet with them from time to time to talk about their ideas. Communicate with them regularly. Identify what prevents them from being more creative and what encourages them. Work with them to develop ways to develop and implement creative ideas that can feed your mutual employer's innovation initiative.
Idea Management Heroes
I reckon that the greatest benefit of an idea management system is not the collection of ideas that results, but the ability to identify creative thinkers who might lurk below the corporate radar. These people may surprise you. They may not be in positions that are associated with creative thinking. You and your colleagues may not have realised how creative they are. Moreover, they want to contribute their creative thinking to your company. Take advantage of it!
Do You Want Help with Your Innovation Initiative?
Are you struggling with implementing an innovation process in your organisation? Do you find that in spite of the efforts you make to organise and promote innovation actions, you are not getting the results you would like to get? Do you feel your colleagues would benefit from creativity training?
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