So what is the deal with digital idea management? What is all the fuss about?
Well, imagine this: Your employee wakes up in the middle of the night with a great idea. If implemented correctly, it could change your business drastically. Rather than going back to sleep they write it into the company’s idea management app. The next day their manager sees the idea, likes it and comments on what the next steps should be. Many other employees like the idea and add feedback. Management then decides to look further into it. They develop the idea with the relevant employees. The company then implements it and generates new savings (or profits) which increases its stock value significantly.
Nothing like this ever happens in a company that doesn’t use idea management. But in a company that does use idea management, the above scenario might just become a reality.
IT-glossary’s definition of idea management is the following: 'A structured process of generating, capturing, discussing and improving, organizing, evaluating and prioritizing valuable insight or alternative thinking that would otherwise not have emerged through normal processes.'
Like most definitions, it is a little dry and many may need to read it 2-3 times to understand it completely. So let’s look at a simple visual guide that represents this better and then go through each step.
Locate a challenge or an opportunity
Before the actual idea management process takes off, a challenge or opportunity will most often be located. This is a way to start the idea management process and get the good ideas flowing. You and your team members are more likely to get an idea if you have one or more overall purposes to get ideas about. Consider this: if your boss invites you to a brainstorming meeting (basically the antique version of idea management), you will rarely be asked to simply get good ideas out of nowhere. You will always be presented with a challenge or opportunity (“How can we increase sales in August?” or “How should we market our new product to better reach a younger target group?”, for instance). Then, together, you will try to come up with ideas to solve the challenge or further develop the opportunity.
The challenge or opportunity can be very specific or very broad, but either way they make sure your ideas have purpose and direction. This is the starting point of the idea management process.
The next step of the idea management process is the actual idea generation. This part of the process can include not only employees but also customers and suppliers. By doing this, a company guarantees input from all aspects of its business. Idea generation among the company’s own employees is still the core of idea management though.
In the past, brainstorming has been the most popular form of idea generation. It is often a very forced way to create ideas and recent studies have proved that it is often ineffective. Therefore, idea management has had to change. Most people get their ideas on the fly, while grocery shopping or in bed, and idea management platforms need to capture them as soon as possible. That is where Ideanote comes into the picture. By using an online platform/app like Ideanote, you can capture newly generated ideas immediately.
Ideas create other ideas and therefore, feedback is very important in idea management. After logging an idea into an idea management app or an online platform, other employees can often add insights. Ideanote uses features such as likes and comments so others can influence ideas. This helps management gain perspective on which ideas could have positive changes for their workforce, suppliers or customers. After management is confident that they have enough feedback they have to ask themselves some key questions: Can we use this? Is this applicable to the company? Is this feasible to do? If the answers are positive they move on to the development phase, but if the answers are negative, you can hit pause by storing the idea in the platform. More on that later.
If an idea is good enough it should be developed further. This can often be costly, but if a company has an effective idea management system, like Ideanote, they will have enough feedback to justify these costs. This phase is very dependent on the idea itself. If it revolves around a simple process change this can be quick and easy. If the idea is a complicated new product, development can take a long time. The results might also be negative. A new process might not increase productivity and a new product doesn’t always work. Management therefore has to ask themselves more questions at the end of development: Does the idea work? Does it increase productivity? Does it increase profits? If the answers are positive, they move on to the implementation phase, but if the answers are negative the idea is stored.
If necessary: Store the idea
An idea might not work out as expected – but that does not mean it should be thrown away. Instead, the idea can be stored within the idea management platform and be further developed at a later time. In the past, ideas that were not initially successful were immediately ditched, but that is no longer the case. A prime example of this is the iPad. Many companies had previously tried to launch tablets but none of them succeeded. Apple knew this but took the chance anyway and learned from past mistakes.
It is important for companies to have access to old ideas. Technologies, attitudes and perceptions change, so a company has to know when they should look at old ideas again. The first step is to have these ideas stored and sorted in an idea management platform.
On the other hand, if an idea is good enough, the company can implement it. This is the last phase of the idea management process. After the feedback phase and the development phase, the company should have a clear roadmap for the next steps. But in the end, the idea has to stand on its own and if it has had enough support and has been managed probably it will have a much better chance to do so.
Idea Management Takeaways
Idea management is a simple but a very important process for companies. It works both for complicated and simple tasks. But like so many processes, idea management works best when it incorporates new technology effectively and if you want to do that, you need a good platform, like Ideanote, to maximize your output