Idea Management a Modern Approach to Innovation

innovation idea managementInnovation 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.

9 Responses to Idea Management a Modern Approach to Innovation

  1. This seems like it would work a lot better than the traditional method of management coming up with all of the ideas. Not only would you get more ideas to work with but also employees would probably feel better about their job if they could contribute more. It really seems like a no brainer to me.

  2. I really like this whole idea management approach to business. Every company should be using this to keep their employees more involved. We need to move beyond the old practices of business and embrace new ways of doing things.

    • I completely agree with what you said. It seems like doing things this way would really make employees feel like they are valued a lot more within a company. Having workers that are happy and more productive will be a lot better for a business.

  3. … it seems to me, that the main problem is not having employees acting as intrapreneurs. The challenge (to avoid saing “problem”) are the managers, who fear loosing their power. “What, ther is a guy from another dept. telling me, how to do my job?” I know the (hundreds of) reasons, why his idea cant work!

    –> Enable / push every single manager, to foster and accept new ideas (e.g. based on % of revenues / cost savings per year from ideas from other dept.)

  4. I would like to associate the conversation to the timing factor. Focused innovation management helps bring the good idea together with the right timing and the right people. A good or great idea at the wrong time or presented to the wrong person goes nowhere ……..

  5. The thought that went through my mind while reading this is that ‘old-fashioned’ managers who actually “manage” their underlings are becoming obsolete. They have to be more like a combination of coach and collaborator… someone who works with employees to find a direction and then takes the reins to guide the action where it has to go. Definitely an innovative way of developing ideas that work.

  6. Great post and some very thought provoking replies. My manager has been very pro-active in guiding our team to think as team players and not merely employees – and this included listening intently to our ideas and acting on them. Times have certainly changed regarding this dynamic since our parent’s time.

  7. Melanie says:

    So managers turn more into idea shepherds. Gather them all up, separate the weak from the strong and protect and nurture them. I can see how some old-school types would have issues with this. But old-school business is failing more frequently these days.


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