The other night, I sat across from a friend who was rambling about a new project at work. Her eyes were wild and her hand gestures signaled that she was in fact, very stressed. You see, my friend is at the lower end of a company, wanting to make her way up the ladder. Her work had asked her, and her colleagues, to come up with some new ideas towards a project they had commissioned. My friend felt that she had plenty to offer, but no one was listening. When I mentioned ‘Idea Management’ to her, her eyes went blank. She had never heard of it before, and had no clue as to how it would help her. That night, I went home and googled the term to send articles to my friend. What popped up gave me hardly any information, or was a drawn out spiel on what it was, but nothing on what it does. Yet Idea Management is something that shouldn’t be ignored, as any idea is the raw material for innovation if you allow it to be.
So what is Idea Management?
In its simplest term, Idea Management is when ideas are generated and evaluated, and then selected in order to fit a company’s strategic goals. This meaning can change from company to company, as there is not one particular definition for Idea Management. Many critics throughout the world have attempted to narrow down this very broad term with studies going back to 1982. One of the earlier critics, Jay Galbraith, stated that Idea Management is used on an individual level as a process, but is also as an organizational process that proved that every idea is an innovation.
Other critics, such as Lynda Applegate (1986) state that Idea Management is a decision support system with an emphasis on brainstorming, while other critics state that it is the part of the innovation process where ideas are captured from employees. No matter how many definitions circle, it all comes down to the one thing that every critic has mentioned. The idea itself.
Spanning back to the history of ideas and the workplace, you could say the suggestion box was the start of idea management. People were able to write down what they thought, which was then processed and selected by hand. Though the suggestion box gave people the ability to have their own voice, they did not get feedback on their ideas and were left to feel as if they had no input. How many times have you written down your ideas, submitted them and never heard anything back? The suggestion box provided a platform to get ideas, but not to evolve them. The reason it eventually died out was that people needed more than just contributing, they also wanted to develop the ideas they were putting in.
We can not say when the first idea began, as the world around us is built on the innovation of people. Ideas can pop up at any time, and everyone has them. The issue though, comes down to sharing those ideas that pop up, and feeling as if they are being heard. Idea management allows companies to set out a challenge, and then allow employees to provide solutions using their own ideas with a set structure that allows the organization to select the best option.
What are the benefits of Idea Management?
Idea Management allows every employee within your company to have a voice. It enables employees to engage and become involved in their work, which leads to higher employee participation. Brainstorming and sharing ideas with colleagues also encourages collaboration. Instead of keeping your thoughts to yourself, you have the ability to evolve them with the help of other ideas.
Those who feel as if they cannot have a say when they have a lot to share, are able to do so while being heard. Ideas have always needed to be recognized, yet not everyone has the opportunity to develop them. People who don’t have authority in their jobs are given the chance to put their ideas in, which eventually makes them feel more fulfilled and important in their job. Take my friend for example, if her colleagues could recognize her ideas and help her develop them, she would be interested in the project instead of feeling excluded from it.
Idea Management also encompassed and encourages the concept of Challenge Driven Innovation, where a company speaks out to a community, such as employees in the workplace, to generate ideas towards a challenge they set. By crowdsourcing, you are able to get a higher quality of generated ideas as people are given the context to steer them in the right direction. You are able to get a wide range of ideas of different perspectives, which leads to new innovations.
What software like Hunchbuzz provides is a social innovation platform to enable and do all of the above. People are able to share their ideas easily, and check on them as they develop in a very clear, open and transparent way. Hunchbuzz has taken the suggestion box and turned it into something that everyone can access, with your ideas being directed and shared through your choice.
Mikelstone, E., & Leila, E. (2015). Discussion on the terms of idea management and idea management systems. Regional Formation & Development Studies, 17, 97-111.
Mikelstone, E., & Liela, E. (2015). Literature Review of Idea Management: focuses and gaps. Journal of Business Management, 9, 107-121.