In a business environment defined by rapidly accelerating change, the speed of harvesting and implementing ideas for new products, services or business models will become the key to growth, differentiation and competitive advantage for your business.

To be clear, it is not the creation of new ideas that is the issue; it is the heavy lifting of the management of those ideas. The issue for most firms is their inability to recognize and harness good ideas that exist in various states and places throughout the organization. Without a dedicated process, most ideas go nowhere. Without building an assembly line to efficiently identify and move good ideas through the firm to market, you cannot fuel your growth engine.

“Ideas are the easy part” – In most growth-oriented firms, innovation is not held back by a scarcity of new ideas. Every company, regardless of size, has a wealth of ideas supplied by people in the organization. But one of two things tends to happen: 1) A series of “good” ideas eventually trickle their way to the desk of the business owner or senior executive(s) and just sit there waiting to be more fully explored or 2) Leadership did a great job of defining “innovation,” discussed the critical need for new ideas for their firm’s growth and differentiation and motivated everyone to take part, but now, the floodgates have opened. Ideas are flowing – good ideas, crazy ideas, thought-provoking ideas, impossible ideas. You will start seeing groups forming as they cluster around particular ideas that excite them, begin getting requests for all kind of resources, and witness a lot of activity all going in different directions. All this good energy and activity can quickly start bubbling up and boiling over into chaos.

Herding and corralling ideas - While generating a lot of new ideas is a prerequisite to innovation and an important first step for your firm in responding to rapid industry change, it is also important to remember that all ideas are not created equal. Firms serious about growth and innovation recognize this and create the time and the processes to actively solicit, gather, rank and manage the potential of those ideas. Ideally, an end-to-end idea management process should lead to a carefully chosen innovation portfolio of best new ideas that are methodically nurtured to fruition.

Software for ideas – A great tool to be aware of are specialized software programs specifically designed to address many of these idea management issues. Idea management systems, as they are called, help firms to routinely gather, share and evaluate new ideas throughout the organization with speed and flexibility. These are some of their benefits:

            Encourage all employees to capture and grow new ideas – Through the day-to-day rush of work, people rarely capture all their ideas and have “Eureka!” moments. These systems let everyone easily and quickly jot down the core of an idea, and then return to the system later to add more thinking and details to their thought. In addition, they allow employees from all over the company to comment on, add to, further improve and learn from each other’s ideas. 

            Focus employees’ creative efforts around specific organizational goals and objectives - Research by leading suppliers of idea management systems shows that when employees are asked to generate ideas or suggestions around a specific business problem or objective, the quantity and quality of ideas tends to increase significantly. Also, it is recommended that you focus your innovation efforts to predetermined areas where your firm wants to differentiate—innovate where you differentiate.

            Promote greater transparency and participationEmployees can see the acknowledgement and actions taken on all of the ideas they have submitted, which increases their enthusiasm for and participation in idea campaigns. Also, these database-driven tools make it easier to track and measure how much each implemented idea has contributed to the firm’s bottom line, making it possible to reward all employees who have contributed to winning ideas.

            Quickly share successful new ideas and best practices - By vastly simplifying the transfer of valuable ideas and new best practices across geographic and organizational silos, firms can multiply the bottom-line benefit of a single idea many times over.

            Increase a company's speed to market - Idea management systems help companies to capitalize on their best ideas faster. They do so by providing a structured process and checks and balances for promptly evaluating ideas and moving along the best ideas to implementation.