Every serious innovation program should have some form of system in place to solicit and find ideas that will help the organization to achieve its goals. These systems, if used properly are very effective at finding nuggets or premature concepts that can be fed into the innovation funnel for further development and possibly eventual implementation.

This is all great, however should the goal be about finding the right ideas or should the goal be about finding the right people? I would suggest to you the goal should be the later. You should be looking for the people who have the right mix of experiences and perspectives that afford them the insights they needed to come up with the ideas. Once you’ve found the right idea or person, you should take full advantage of the opportunity.

Don’t just accept the idea submitted on face value. Have a talk with the person who submitted the idea. Find out how they came up with the idea (their inspiration). Ask if they have other thoughts or insights that might be helpful. Ask if they would be willing to work on the project or be an adviser to the implementation team. In other words, take full advantage of the person not the words submitted in the system.

Don’t stop there! If others commented or collaborated on the idea to help further flesh it out, make the effort to talk to each one of them also. Find out if they know of any obstacles or risks for implementing the idea that they may not have entered into the system. Perhaps they have ideas for enhancing the concept or know of someone else who might. Again, take full advantage of the people not the words submitted in the system.

This may seem like an unnecessary or burdensome step in your process, but I assure you it’s not. You’ll find that ideas that go through this personal touch step end up being far more valuable and easier to implement. There is also a very positive cultural effect on your innovation program as a whole. People like being personally recognized. An automated email from the system congratulating a person is nice, but nothing beats the sponsor personally taking the time to thank and talk to the submitter and fellow collaborators. The good will from such efforts will spread like wild fire. It’s a win-win-win for all!

So the next time you run an idea campaign looking for ideas on how to pursue an opportunity, remember what you’re really looking for are the right people!

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