For companies that want to stay in business, innovation is a one-way street. However, you may still have questions: What should I do to innovate? Where should I start? In order to address these questions, all innovation processes must be well planned and well managed.
Planning, organization, and initiative go hand in hand with innovative business, and if your business plan is to follow this path, the ideas program can really contribute to this journey.
What is an ideas program?
We know that all innovation starts with a good idea, right? And to ensure you don’t miss great opportunities, you can organize the suggestions by implementing an ideas program.
The ideas program aims to capture ideas for the innovation funnel by leveraging employee and customer insights to create opportunities and solve problems. In short, the ideas program is a space to organize ideas that have the potential to provide innovative solutions to the business.
The key benefit proposed by the ideas program is to tap the potential that is usually not used by the organization. The potential of those who are on the front line and deal daily with the products and services: the employees, who are involved in different fronts, and learn and observe a lot in their daily work and may have great ideas to suggest to the company as innovation.
And why invest in an innovative ideas program?
Implementing an ideas program is a way to consider and address organizational issues and processes with the future of the business in mind and recognizing that all participants can have great ideas, you just have to know how to engage them.
The ideas program is an essential step in the innovation process, so the next steps are related to processing ideas to feed the innovation funnel.
What is the Innovation funnel?
To implement an ideas program, it is essential to understand the innovation funnel. This funnel may vary from company to company, because each company has its own characteristics, but this funnel is basically a series of steps that must be followed, consisting of the three stages: the top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel.
Top of the Funnel: collect new ideas
In the first stage of the innovation funnel, the top of the funnel, companies that invest in open innovation aim to collect ideas, and it is in this stage that all innovation proposals are collected and gathered. Here there is still no purpose of selecting or filtering the proposed ideas, but rather, to gather as much information about different perspectives that can be used to support the established goals.
In the concept of open innovation, companies should not innovate alone, but rely on partners such as startups, universities, and customers, relying on suggestions from inside the company and from other players. Thus, outside ideas can also enter the funnel.
Middle of the funnel: identify the best proposals and opportunities
In the second stage, the middle of the innovation funnel, the goal is to start filtering the collected ideas. To do this, it is necessary to conduct a thorough analysis of all proposals to determine the feasibility of implementation, the generation of value or financial return, and the level of risk of each proposal, also evaluating those that have the greatest potential, that is, low-risk and high-reward relationships, as well as to define the metrics by which the idea can be constantly monitored.
The better these idea selection criteria are defined, the more reliable will be the decision on whether or not to proceed with each proposal. All projections should be studied carefully, especially if the company has collected a high volume of suggestions in the first stage of the funnel.
Bottom of the funnel: project planning and execution
In the last stage of the innovation funnel, all the ideas approved in the middle of the funnel are implemented. This stage is considered to be the most complex because, in addition to the rigorous planning required to take the project to the development stage, it also requires a thorough and continuous follow-up of all the actions performed.
To increase your chances of success, it is always important to have a plan that involves all teams throughout execution. Thus, it is possible to keep the team involved, analyzing the project’s progress, and evaluating whether it is really producing the established goals.
How to structure your ideas program?
Successful idea management is characterized by success factors, of which the most important for an ideas program include:
Plan the idea capture strategy
Before capturing ideas, you must define some processes:
- How can people submit their ideas?
You can enable submitting ideas through a suggestion box, or an online form to send ideas, for example.
- What will be the idea evaluation and approval process?
Will the ideas be evaluated and approved by an innovation committee? By specific areas or managers? Which flow best fits your company’s reality?
- Of the selected ideas, which ones will go forward for implementation?
This requires selection criteria. Some examples are: Is the implementation fast? Will it promote cost reduction? Is it a feasible idea for implementation?
- Once selected, how will the idea be implemented?
Organizing ideas into projects to implement them is key.
- How will the results of innovation projects be measured?
Create metrics to evaluate how many ideas were sent, how many were implemented, and which ones brought results, and if possible, it is very important to quantify the results generated.
Top leadership commitment
Companies where boards and executives are constantly motivating employees to develop ideas are more likely to stimulate the creative potential of their employees.
Creative work environment
It is common for many ideas to be suppressed in the company because leaders often do not listen to employees and people are afraid to come up with ideas. Companies that promote a creative work environment eliminate the fear from employees that their ideas will be rejected and labeled as wrong or absurd.
Unfortunately, many organizations still don’t have this practice; people think that listening to stupid ideas is a waste of time. It is important to reinforce that most innovations actually came from ideas that were considered absurd. The goal should always be to inspire and promote creativity, because it takes many ideas for at least some of them to lead to innovative solutions. Therefore, do not use filters. Give participants the freedom to think outside the box.
Idea generation campaign or challenge
Organizing challenges is a good alternative for capturing ideas, because the company can focus the idea suggestions on the improvements it really wants.
We present two examples to do implement these challenges:
– Choose a challenge for each sector and also allow other sectors to contribute;
– Choose a challenge for all teams, which can be a general company issue.
After launching the challenge, set a period for submitting ideas.
To do this, companies and their partners must map out broadly the challenges and opportunities that can be used for idea collection campaigns. Other strategies adopted by many companies include launching innovation programs, promoting lectures, and organizing countless initiatives to gather as many insights as possible.
Criteria for idea selection
Once these ideas are collected, they can be organized according to technical criteria. For example, we can use development time versus cost. Does this idea have a long development time? Or is it easy to implement? Will it cost a lot? Or is it a low-cost idea? This allows you to create standards based on the needs of your organization.
It may not be interesting to implement a specific idea at the moment, but it should still go into the idea bank, and when necessary you can revisit this bank and access the archived ideas.
Ideas must become actions
Once the approval and prioritization criteria have been selected, it is important to implement the selected ideas. They must be organized from project management, and their implementation must be planned through a structured project.
Thus, this idea can be transformed into an incremental innovation, that is, an innovation that brings significant improvements to an existing product, process, or service. Or a radical innovation, which are innovations that create new products, processes, or services. This is why the idea bank is so important. Because we can organize, store, and channel these ideas to generate innovative solutions.
Incentive and reward system
Since innovative ideas come from people, the involvement of your team is key to good corporate innovation results. And acknowledging people is important, right? It makes people feel valued.
There are many ways to recognize your employees and implement an incentive and reward system, whether it is sharing profits related to the idea, cash rewards, travel, time off, or redemption of gifts. The important thing is to value the authors of the innovative initiative.
Have an effective innovation idea management software
There are barriers that prevent companies from having an ideas program that produces results and effectively promotes innovation. And the biggest of these obstacles is usually the management of the program itself, because not all managers are prepared to manage idea generation in an efficient and organized way. As the innovation funnel shows, this process involves several stages, and idea management software will help you to better organize this process.
SoftExpert ICM is a solution that offers a range of features for an effective ideas program:
Create customized idea submission forms and share them with your employees, partners, and customers;
Launch innovation challenges or campaigns;
Submit ideas through a flow for approval and technical evaluation by stakeholders, experts, and the innovation committee;
Establish different methods for prioritizing ideas, such as scoring, voting, risk analysis, and others;
Turn promising ideas into projects. Be clear about the progress of processes, deadlines, and responsibilities;
Create a scoring and prize redemption system to reward the authors of innovative ideas;
Have visibility into the results of every step of the process, evaluate metrics and return on investment through intuitive real-time reports and portals;
Manage your organization’s innovation portfolio and lifecycle.
Do you want to learn more about everything SoftExpert ICM has to offer? Then request a demo from our experts and see how your business can go further!
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