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While most organizations believe that Innovation is required to remain competitive in today’s marketplace, they often do not put enough emphasis on building the organizational capability for innovation. Idea management is a critical step in this process.
While creativity and ideas can be found in numerous places and in numerous ways, how you manage them determines the viability of a product or process. Ideation should be harnessed by a process with dedicated resources, and with NPD and LTD teams working together.
According to Linda Hill, a professor at Harvard Business School, “Companies struggle to innovate because they do not know how to lead the process.” By simply making small changes in the way you manage ideation, you create an organization that, not only is willing to innovate, but has the ability to do so. Follow these helpful tips when nurturing creativity and managing the idea process.
1). The Rules of Engagement – when meeting with your innovation team, clearly convey what you are looking for. Since this is sometimes too general, it is also important to outline what ideas you are not looking for. Provide the summary of the overall process and how ideas will be evaluated in this process. Purpose makes people willing to take risks and do the hard work inherent in any innovation process. Identify the need for continual improvement and what is required to implement the changes you need to succeed.
2). Protect your intellectual property, and beware patent trolls – In the research and development industry where innovations build on top of other innovations, obtaining patents to protect your intellectual property is a large part of managing your ideas. Not only do patents protect newly developed products or processes, they contribute to unrealized value creation.
A troubling trend gaining more exposure lately is the increase in Patent Trolls. Top patent licensing company Conversant Intellectual Property Management recently launched an educational campaign against the use of extortionist demand letters victimizing small and medium-sized businesses. Bad demand letters often sent by shell companies (Trolls) are a big problem for U.S. small businesses, costing them millions of dollars in settlement fees. Watch their educational video here and educate yourself.
3). Think “Diversity” – Innovation usually emerges when diverse people collaborate and share. When holding meetings, it is often advantageous to include other individuals in your organization that may not be part of your innovation team. This may include customer service representatives, sales team members, or even customers. Customers are often willing to offer input that represents the consumer side of innovation and can take some of the guesswork out of the question, “What does the consumer want?”
4). Shake Up the Norm – To achieve a varied demographic, break up think teams into groups that may not normally work with each other. This can help to shift the normal “idea leader” into more of a supporting role, while giving a voice to others not normally involved in the innovation process. Constructive conflict can result in better solutions and ideas.
5). Boycott the Conference Room – Never hold a meeting simply for the sake of holding a meeting. Dismiss unnecessary members or excuse team members when their talking points are finished. Variety is the spice of life. Meetings that follow the same format in the same location for the same amount of minutes week after week can stifle the creative juices. Move an idea meeting into the break room or outside. Utilize agendas one week and free-form brainstorming the next.
6). Give Out Gold Stars – Creativity is sometimes a taxing intellectual process. Contributors must be recognized and rewarded. Employees that are supported are satisfied employees.
Many employees “crave” the ability to create. Jason Kroskrity is the Senior Manager of the Chemistry and Electronics Laboratory for Mattel. He spoke about his career opportunities when studying epidemiology at UCLA:
“The idea of not having a creative piece as part of my profession started to scare me,” Kroskrity says. He left school and was recruited to Mattel by a high school friend in 1998. As described by Forbes, “Now in the lab where Slime was born 40 years ago, Kroskrity and his team come up with the chemical components of toys, such as the cosmetic grade ink for a Barbie digital nail printer that paints photos right onto fingernails. One of his most recent projects to hit the shelves is the Hot Wheels Car Maker that lets kids inject melted wax into a car body mold. It passed muster with a tough critic—Kroskrity’s nephew.”
7). The Idea Database – Like sales items and raw goods, ideas should be inventoried. Create an idea database and review it regularly. Some great ideas may have been created at the wrong time. Often a great idea is waiting for the right problem to come along.
Creativity is boundless when you free it from rules, time constraints, and location constraints. Once you have fine-tuned your idea machine, ideation will pack the front end of your innovation pipeline. Ensure your innovation process is ready to review and maximize these ideas. Robert’s Rules of Innovation can help you with the management of ideas and to navigate through the series of steps to successful innovation.
To get results in Innovation, a structured, repeatable process is essential from start to finish. Look to all imperatives of Robert’s Rules of Innovation: These rules of innovation are meant to be applied regularly as part of a sustainable growth strategy. All these parameters should be continually utilized – and not just when sales or ideas are low – to achieve successful, lasting innovation.
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