What methods do organisations employ to obtain ideas? Here’s a high-level summary of three of the approaches that I have experienced. All can feature in an organisation’s innovation journey, depending on the organisation, resources and commitment to innovation.

Suggestion Box

Suggestion Box

It now seems so obvious as to the problems with this approach, but at the time, it seemed like the best, and maybe the only option. It can work, but my experience was that it was incredibly hard work and resource intense! It is what most people, especially leaders initially think of when they start considering innovation and getting ideas from their people.

  • Pros:
    Tapping into employee engagement, can get good ideas, builds links, ownership can be clear, simple process, look at all ideas.
  • Cons:
    Random, reactive, very resource heavy (have to review and respond to all ideas), unpredictable, high chance of failing.

When should this method be used? If resource-rich, happy to take risk, with an engaged workforce that has ideators, experts and implementors.

Team-Based Innovation (or Continuous Improvement) Continuous Improvement

This method, with roots into Kaizen methodology, gives many ideas that can be implemented at a team level, which tend to be small in nature. It aims at problems, rather than formed ideas, and the team is responsible for solving problems.

In my experience, it can very engaging for teams, and when truly understood by the team leader/manager, incredibly successful in improving that team’s performance. However, you need to train people in it, and often need resources to make it happen. To make this really successful, implemented ideas must be shared. Metrics need to aim at quality, rather than quantity; beware of those that game the metrics!

  • Pros:
    Simple, everyone can be involved, gives many implemented ideas, can directly improve a team’s performance.
  • Cons:
    Need to train people to use it, must be correctly targeted, risk of low quality, silo orgs need to find a way of sharing ideas.

When should this method be used? In a process-heavy org, when no resource for big ideas or have another process to hunt for larger ideas. It can work hand-in-hand with Six Sigma programs.

Innovation Challenges using Crowd Sourcing Idea Challenge

This is the way to bring real focus to innovation. It ensures that ideas solve key strategic issues are identified. Leaders need to accept that the best ideas can come from any level in the organisation, and diversity of thought must be encouraged to bring about disruptive innovation. The challenge seeks to find the “wise person in the crowd.”

This method usually utilises an idea management platform that enables collaboration across a community. The noise and views of the crowd identify good ideas that need to be investigated in more depth. The best platforms have sophisticated algorithms to automatically graduate the best ideas to subsequent stages, as well as different functions and tools to enable an inspiring activity.

  • Pros:
    Delivers ideas on topic fast, can bring fun and inspiration, collaboration is vital, establishes priorities, senior leaders can easily and visibly be involved, graduation mechanics replace much of the back-end review resource
  • Cons:
    Could miss the random brilliant idea as there is no home, not every idea can be taken forward, must get clear focus and engagement from senior level to ensure a successful outcome.

When should this method be used? When there are big issues/problems, when leaders accept that others will have ideas, when innovation resourcing is part-time, and to kickstart innovation programmes.

This overview has been intentionally high-level, and so therefore, brief introduction to the main methods used. If you want to find out more, then please contact me, I’d love to talk further!