If asked, most people would indicate that they are willing to share their ideas with their employer as well as with their coworkers. Even though there may be an element of “political correctness” here, most people probably are willing to engage in idea sharing and contribute to ideation, given that conditions and circumstances are conducive to such contributions. Typical as they are in mature organizations, questions such as “Do we really have time for this?” or “What’s the charge code?” can easily frustrate any initiative, innovative or not.
Not everyone can be expected to genuinely care about the organization for which they work (and vice versa). In R&D environments, this can be particularly noticeable as many professional engineers feel as strong identification with their discipline as they do with their (current) employer. In fact, the smartest and most creative individuals are often the first to disengage if they perceive things are not going the right way.
It may even be possible that some individuals feel it more useful keeping a great idea to themselves in case they are laid off or decide to quit. This attitude is obviously not desirable but certainly understandable considering that even rejected ideas are in most cases still legally owned by the company and not by the employee.
Basic human behavior aside, overall - as innovation is forward looking in nature - it is critical that the organization has confidence in the vision and strategies of its leadership.
Another important ideation management challenge is the often chronic condition of real or perceived lack of time. Both deadlines and everyday distractions take away time necessary for people to make creative contributions. Ideas need time to “breathe” and people need time to “soak” in the problem, challenge or opportunity. This requires some form of organizational slack or opportunities for people to spend time thinking and connecting with others beyond the needs of their current assignment.
It should be noted that time is required for several different ideation activities: creative thinking, making idea contributions, collaborating with others, participating in events, reviewing contributions and so forth.
Poor definition of problems, challenges and opportunities may also render ideation efforts ineffective. This requires special attention as the urge is often to move quickly towards solutions even if the problem or opportunity has not been that well defined.
It must also be easy for people to make contributions without necessarily having to follow documented procedures or climb a steep learning curve of a new tool.
During idea searches and reviews, people would preferably have access to all existing idea artifacts as well as to relevant market and technology research, in addition to competitive intelligence information. It would therefore be beneficial to maintain an integrated tools environment or at least provide easy access to different information environments.
Having made contributions, most people accept the fact that their ideas may be rejected, but they would like to know why. They would like to get feedback in a timely fashion and they would like to see that, if not their own, at least some ideas are actually acted upon. In some cases it may be an advantage to have an actual ideation point of contact to approach with an idea instead of simply being referred to an online ideation tool. Such a tool may be a good one, and may include ratings and comments by others, but will always remain impersonal and unable to share the passion a person may feel about their idea.
It is also important for people to be able to stay connected with their idea in case it is adopted for further development. This in turn requires both some overall continuity of technology and projects and some organizational flexibility to allow people the freedom to follow their idea and participate in the effort of moving it to market.
For part three, please click here.