Ideation in an Innovative Organization

Cultivating and Managing Ideation

In my second post, the components of an innovation vision were discussed. Once the vision has been established your organization must learn how to manage the ideation process from idea submission through the culling, vetting and decision making process.

Cultivating and Managing Ideation
Berlin’s Walk of Ideas

It helps to think of ideation in terms of the Pareto Principle. 80% of investment will go to 20% of the ideas. In other words; if 5 ideas are vetted then 1 idea will receive major funding and 4 may receive some discovery capital. How you arrive at which ideas are to be vetted depends the approach. The approach discussed below involves the entire organization and a designated innovation committee (IC).


Ideation in an Innovative Environment, The Entreprenur's Advisor
Good ideation management can turn innovation ideas into investments

Ideation Submission

Recognizing that an organization needs many ideas, the challenge becomes how to accept and manage them. The primary objectives become:

  • Encouraging idea submissions using a standardized submission tool.
  • Filtering the good ideas from the weak ideas. By this I mean that half of the ideas that are generated through the employee engagement process are merely a daydream without any substantive thought given to potential applications, markets or business potential.
  • Organizations can help management and employee efforts by making implementing as a prerequisite an online training course in Intellectual Property (IP) basics, how the platform works and expectations.

Ideation Culling

Of the remaining 50 % of the ideas that have been submitted; the amount of thought behind each idea may vary but the person with the idea believes there may be tangible value. The amount of thought behind an idea can be discovered with a list of leading questions as part of the submission process. This list of questions is unique for each organization.

A peer group then evaluates the ideas for potential using a predefined calculated scorecard for:

  • Sensibility
  • A check against existing submissions as possible duplicate efforts
  • Supplemental application use
  • Possible IP opportunities or concerns
  • Relevance to existing or potential markets
  • A determination if the idea can create value (not how much)

The peer group is made up of any person(s) wanting to get involved with innovation. The concept here is that ideas that have been submitted into the ideation platform tool are visible to anyone and people can anonymously vote or rank ideas as well as add their thoughts.

Votes, ranks and comments are recorded and tallied for idea viability. The objective is to have a short list of ideas that the IC might consider for vetting.

By involving a peer group, employee engagement, transparency, enthusiasm and the quality of ideas are increased. It is a Win-Win for any organization.

The Vetting

This is where true transparency begins and ideas are analyzed and measured against the metrics determined by executive management. The goal of the IC is to select the 10% of the ideas that have made it through the peer review that will go to the next stage of more serious vetting.

The IC should be a mix of organization leaders, interested parties and a rotating executive who will review the results of the ideas filtered in the peer review. The primary objective of the committee is to further vet the ideas by evaluating them for:

  • Operational focus
  • Strategic growth areas
  • Key metrics
  • Potential value to the organization including monetary value, image impact, marketing impact and industry positioning

How often the committee meets depends on the number of ideas in the innovation queue but should probably meet at least once a quarter to avoid good ideas losing their competitive advantage.

If done well, the number of ideas at this stage has probably been narrowed down to 1%.

Ideation Decisions – The 1%

After the ideas are narrowed down to the final choices the following should occur:

  • Each idea creator (innovator) is notified that their idea has been selected for further development and that they will play a key role. This may include:
    • Overview and management
    • Action planning
    • Financial planning
    • Resource planning
    • Marketing, Delivery, Reporting

    I make a point of this because of the need to encourage people to step-up and to develop talent within the walls of every organization wishing to thrive. However, starting a new venture is best done by a team and not just one person.

    Note: Should the idea originator not be up to the challenge, the 2nd choice would someone with an entrepreneurial background or as a 3rd choice someone with high energy, a positive attitude and integrity. These are the types of people you should be looking to hire in order to be an innovative organization.

    • An executive mentor is assigned to the innovator to help guide them through the learning process of taking an idea from concept to fruition. One person from the innovation committee is also assigned.
    • The innovator is given 90 days to present a Road Show (with the help of the IC and executive mentor). The Road Show is the full-fledged (15 minute) why should an investment in this idea take place.

    Key points for the innovator

    • The innovator should be empowered to act like an entrepreneur and approach the presentation as a start-up company would. They are made responsible for driving their idea forward. Organizations must have extreme patience with the innovator. This person should never feel their job is in jeopardy for two reasons:
      1. Mistakes will happen as this is part of their journey to become well rounded experienced leaders. Entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes and become stronger.
      2. These are your future leaders as they will learn about communication, collaboration, networking and countless other skills.
    • The IC will make resources available and/or provide additional information if possible such as market analysis, engineering contacts, IP requirements, Enterprise Architecture contacts as well as any other contacts as needed.

    The actual ideation process may vary but the seed planted in your organization by having an ideation process will be the cornerstone of future success.

    Next Post Subject: Perception and the Ideation Process

    The fourth post in this series will help you understand the impact to your organization when innovation becomes business as usual. At the end of the series a full downloadable version of How to Create an Innovative Environment in a Dynamic Organization will be available in the Entrepreneur’s Corner.

    Previous post in this series are:

    How to Create an Innovative Environment in a Dynamic Organization Part 1
    Components of an Innovative Vision

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