The Social Web

Socializing Ideas

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Frontline employees are usually the people that have the most contact with the customer in any organization. As a result of observations and feedback from customers, they are usually in a position to make innovative suggestions on the business. However, in many organizations, the ideas and suggestions can get lost due to a lack of process in place for taking the idea through to reality. The problem is seldom about a shortage of ideas; rather, they lack the ability to determine their value in a systematic, timely, and cost-effective way.

Last year I was invited to NY to speak at the WWD Retail Leadership Forum on Innovation Process Management. Among Retailers, innovation traditionally has been a compartmentalized, top-down process run by a small team. In my discussions with retailers at the conference I also found that one of the biggest challenges in the way of Innovation was Legacy. Every company has a legacy. Its the belief that "That which made you great will continue to make you great". The legacy tends to consume a majority of the firms resources. The legacy creates a system that fights off any ideas which are tangential to the legacy. How much time and resource would your management provide you if you had a great idea? As a result of the legacy issues we are seeing more of our customers establish separate processes one for incremental innovation to support the legacy and one for radical innovation.

The rapid spread and high availability of collaborative technologies has changed that model. It is now widely recognized that the next great breakthrough in products, services and processes can come from people anywhere inside or outside an organization. Several organizations including Dell and Starbucks have realized this and created sites and tools to tap into ideas from their customers. The "weapons of mass collaboration" have enabled thousands of individuals to work together and ideate across organizational and geographic boundaries. The Goldcorp Challenge is a great example.

The challenges of innovation are not new.  As we look back over the last 90 years of business we see that a mere 2% of companies outperform the market over long periods of time.  Innovate or die is a reality.

The tools in itself will not help organizations become innovative. An organizational culture that is focused on innovation and encourages employees to share their ideas will benefit from tools that help streamline the process. The tool should enable:

  • Capturing Ideas at any time. An employee should have ready templates or tools (such as Infopath forms or OneNote Templates) to quickly capture an idea.
  • Submitting Ideas and Socializing them using tools such as Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server. The tool should also enable people to find information and potential collaborators to work together on refining the idea. Social Networking tools would enable the ideas to be rated and further refined before they make their way into a feasibility process as part of the workflow.
  • Take the idea through a workflow process from concept to reality. The Workflow capabilities in Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server support this requirement. The tools should easily enable the idea to flow through the process of evaluation and action.

See EPMConnect for more details on this initiative.

Innovation Process Management Whitepaper



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