Innovation is one of the hardest to manage and most necessary elements in modern business. Idea management is a new concept that is bringing employees, customers and management together in an attempt to keep business on the cutting edge.
In this article, we will look at Internal Idea Management. That is how to solicit, sort and use ideas from your employees. Idea management is itself an innovation. It flows in the opposite direction from traditional management where all ideas, plans and programs were formulated at the management level and employees were then simply tasked to carry them out.
Idea management requires a new and very different view on the part of managers. Management normally doesn’t solicit ideas unless there is a need. This doesn’t mean that ideas shouldn’t be solicited on a regular basis or that managing ideas should not be a normal part of business operation. It’s just that it usually doesn’t happen that way. This is why “traditional” managers normally don’t like idea management. They feel that asking employees for ideas would be admitting that they are stumped and can’t figure out a problem. They can’t see any other reason for stepping outside the management level for ideas.
But, more modern managers realize that no human being and no group of human beings will be able to solve everything and that asking for ideas should be no more embarrassing than asking someone to pass the sugar. Modern managers also realize that a consistent flow of ideas is an excellent management tool. It spreads the effort and enables fresh concepts to enter the mix.
But ideas cannot be randomly solicited. The old style suggestion box, that use to be a feature in many offices, has vanished because it was a generality that had no place to go. When an employee put a suggestion in the box, who’s responsible? What do they do with it? Where do they forward the suggestion? The ideas placed in the old fashion suggestion box were totally random and mostly gripes.
Idea management solves these problems by systematizing the way ideas are handled.
An important way that idea management differs from the traditional suggestion box is through focus. Ideas are not solicited randomly. Regardless of the way ideas are submitted, through contests, team meeting or in any other way, ideas are focused on a topic. That topic might be a problem that must be solved or a goal that must be reached. Whatever the topic might be, it is owned by that particular manager who is responsible for what the topic is about on a daily basis. He or she will be the person who will evaluate and reject or accept ideas.
Once you know who owns the topic, you can get together and brainstorm with that person to determine what criteria an idea must meet to be considered as worthwhile for development.