Idea Management

Idea Management The second in two key Innovation processes in Robert’s Rules of Innovation is IDEA MANAGEMENT. Ideation, or Idea management processes/system long-term development is essential to the Innovation effort. Ideation should be harnessed by a process with dedicated resources and with NPD and LTD teams working together. Ideation and the management of the Ideation Process pack the front end of the NPD funnel with a wealth of viable concepts. Explore more tips on Ideation in the book, Robert’s Rules of Innovation.

The Eureka Moment of Ideas & Idea Management


Idea management is the second of critical processes of Robert’s Rules of Innovation and is essential in Innovation and New Product Development (NPD). It is really important to fill the innovation pipeline with ideas from many different sources in your business. Ideas can be generated from associates, sales, and of course R&D. In addition, it is increasingly important to expand ideation outside of internal teams, and company departments.

According to the GE Global Barometer, in 2013 only 38% of executives felt that collaboration with other parties would be successful.  Many executives feared the backlash of collaboration concerning the protection of intellectual property.  However in 2014, 77% of innovation executives felt that the risk was worth taking.

Take for example companies such as P&G, Unilever, and Lego. These companies communicate new product idea challenges externally on their websites to crowd source ideation. Unilever has a page titled “Challenges and Wants,” where the company lists the many challenges they have begun working on, and projects they’d like to work with partners on. Synergy at its finest!

Though creativity is essential in idea management; processes and systems must be in place to manage ideas.  Every person in Long term Development (LTD) and New Product Development (NPD) teams are responsible for the encouragement and organization of the idea funnel.


Ideations for NPD can take different forms for different purposes:

  • Solution ideas solve existing problems
  • Improvement ideas upgrade existing products or services
  • Amalgamated ideas can be a combination of multiple ideas for products or services downsized into a single idea
  • Targeted ideas deal with a specific and direct path to discovery
  • Artistic ideas are born freely, shake up the norm, and flow without constraints


Like innovation, creativity and ideation are an experiment; it requires the opportunity to create. These opportunities open the door to many successes, but also allow for mistakes and failures. Understand the possibility, and welcome well-reasoned risk taking. There are several ways to create the opportunities needed for ideation planning:

Pre-Work or White Boarding for Collaboration – Get out those dry erase markers!

  • Define the topic
  • Identify the participants
  • Establish goals and timeframes

In this phase, problems or questions are posted with a timeframe for completion.

Ideation EventChosen participants examine the topic at hand and create ideas to address questions or problems.  Each day that passes gets crossed-out as time passes.

Post – Event

  • Ranking and evaluating
  • Taking action
  • Follow up communication

Once the timeframe has ended, all participants can build on input.  In this phase, ideas are ranked and evaluated.  A decision is then made for actions to be taken.  Communication lines must remain open to either take an idea to fruition or mark it as a failure.  This process will be repeated often since it is possible only one viable idea is created.  Any ideas deemed as “failures” must not be discarded since it is plausible that an idea marked as a mistake or failure was simply conceived at the wrong time.

Asim Naqvi is the Engineer and Lead on the Research & Development Team for GameStop, a move he made 5 years ago from Motorola.  He and his team are responsible for fixing common problems in game consoles:

“He and his team develop the recipes for fixing the common failings of gaming consoles, which customers can trade in at GameStop stores. The fun part comes when Naqvi and his team develop a fix: they then spend hundreds of hours playing video games to make sure their solution works before passing on instructions to the company’s technicians.”

A healthy, creative environment for ideas to form is the first step of idea management.  The actual management processes in place to harness those ideas are critical in new and ongoing product development.

If your company does not currently have a process in place, review Robert’s Rules of Innovation for each and every proven step of idea management and innovation.

If ideas are the seeds of innovation…

Innovation is a product of human activity. Innovation keeps life interesting, yet it begins first, with ideation. The creation of a new thought or idea.

If ideas are the seeds of innovation, idea management  is the formalization of the processes involved in gathering, sharing, analyzing and executing the ideas generated within an organization and its collaborative networks.

Ideation and idea management pack the front end of the New Product Development (NPD) funnel with a wealth of viable concepts. Since only a fraction of ideas actually reach fruition, ideation should be harnessed by a process with dedicated resources and with both NPD & LTD (Long Term Development) teams working together.

Ideations can take many different forms. They can be solutions; where there is a problem, there is a solution waiting to be found. They can be evolutionary by modifying an existing product or adding a feature to it. Ideations can be symbiotic; combining multiple ideas, using different elements of each to make a whole. They can be revolutionary (a brand new perspective). Ideations can be serendipitous; where the intended idea is generated by the unexpected. They can be targeted; dealing with a direct and planned path to discovery, or they can be artistic, disregarding practicality and allowing ideas to flow without constraints.

Whichever form your ideas take, how you manage them dictates the outcome of each endeavor. Frequent and intelligently facilitated ideation sessions lead to successful new products… and the much sought after AHA! or Eureka! moment.

Here’s a fun little side fact for you: The Eureka moment is said to be named after the myth that the Greek mathematician Archimedes, having discovered how to measure the volume of an irregular object, leaped out of a public bath, shouting “Eureka! Eureka!” Or, translated: “I’ve found it! I’ve found it!”

Now, getting back to the business of ideation, here are some idea management tips:

  1. Tear down the walls or create dedicated ideation space – Break up teams into people who know each other but are not “that friendly” with each other in order to minimize group think.
  2. Provide a framework to capture ideas – Accept ALL ideas and get them written down on the board. You never know when a concept can be recycled for future use.
  3. Setting and Location – Create a positive environment to delivery pitches, but vary the format as well as locations and times of ideation sessions. Predictability can kill ideation. Mix it up to get people out of their comfort zones.
  4. Info Alchemy – Create and maintain your idea inventory & review it regularly. Build a database of ideas from which new combinations and solutions can be derived.
  5. Include a diverse group of people – In addition to your team, include members such as the sales team, people who interact directly with customers, and maybe even a few select customers themselves to offer their insight into the meeting.
  6. Establish rules of engagement – At some point during the ideation process you will need to inform your team what you are, and are not looking for. Communicate what the overall process will look like, and how ideas will be evaluated.
  7. Recognize and reward contributors – Instill a sense of urgency in every employee about what needs to be done; give them the support they need to feel their good efforts will be rewarded.
  8. Encourage the creative process – The Challenge sponsor must promise that the crowd’s efforts will not be for nothing and that the ideas will all be taken seriously and some will be further developed.

Last but not least start with White Boarding or Brain writing versus just Brainstorming that should follow… ask your Innovation Coach about this.

For additional Tips on Idea Management, see Robert’s Rules of Innovation ™ by Wiley, Spring, 2010.


2013 Innovation Resolution: Make Mistakes

At the beginning of every year, I pick one solid quote to live by for the year. This year, my quote comes from Neil Gaiman. Gaiman himself never graduated from college. He never even enrolled in college. Yet, today, he is one of the most celebrated and prolific writers working today.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.” – Neil Gaiman


Innovation is impossible to achieve without taking a necessary amount of risk. To increase initiative and innovation, you have to encourage and even embrace failures and mistakes.

At its core, innovation is an experiment of sorts. It requires a culture of risk, opportunity and challenge.  For every innovative product that comes out of the NPD process, there are plenty of ideas that don’t. There are plenty of failures and plenty of mistakes. What’s important is that companies have a tolerance for failure and encourage risk taking.  It is not enough to encourage employees to take risks. Your organization’s culture must clearly communicate how you will support innovators who take intelligent risks.

No Risk = No Innovation; one of the ten Imperatives to Robert’s Rules of Innovation. Rather than view failure as inherently bad, successful innovation requires that executives and teams commit to learning from each experiment gone bad – and incorporate those teachings into the next endeavor.

For your 2013 New Year’s Resolution, I encourage you to make mistakes!  Do not be afraid of failure.


Here are some tips to get you started:

- Encourage.  Promote well-reasoned risk taking. The pursuit of innovation isn’t some fool-hardy flight of fancy. Insist upon a plan to be presented first to ensure understanding and buy-in across the affected organization. Know your tolerance for risk and failure in the pursuit of innovation. Clearly communicate the risk profile you are asking your people to adopt and state why it is important to the organization’s success.

Test.  In order to develop and test ideas, innovators need robust and consistent, processes and frameworks. True innovation requires thorough testing in pursuit of success. Testing, measurement, and an accounting of what’s been learned – even in failure – brings measurable outcomes from successes and failures alike.

Trust. Do you – as a CEO or team leader – trust your people to pursue new ideas on behalf of the company? Build a culture of trust in the individual’s pursuits – so long as safety measures are in place to safe guard against failure damaging the organization.


Adopt Failure as a Learning Experience!


The most successful companies today strive to be entrepreneurial and innovative. However, It is not enough to create a one-time “aha” moment. To get results in Innovation, a structured, repeatable process is essential. Look to all imperatives of Robert’s Rules of Innovation.


Here’s to a New Year of Innovation!




Stay inspired this Holiday Season – The 12 Days of innovation

Robert’s Rules of Innovation wishes you and yours a wonderful Holiday Season.

May you stay inspired in 2013!


Tis’ the Season for harrowing crowds, spiked eggnog, and delicious holiday feasts. It’s also the time of year for distraction, procrastination, and a lull in business productivity.

Many companies see a lag in productivity and innovation during the holidays. According to a study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, 70% of organizations regard interruption of workflow as their top concern during the holidays. However, the key to business success in the long run, is to create a sustainable culture of innovation. With a little help from the 10 imperatives of Roberts Rules of Innovation, and a fun little jingle inspired by Doblin, may your holiday be both innovative and productive.

For many years, innovation was seen as the development of new products. However, creating new products is only one way to innovate. “Initially developed in 1998, the Ten Types of Innovation showed that companies that integrate multiple types of innovation will develop offerings that are more difficult to copy and that generate higher returns.” – Doblin Group,

Without further ado, the 12 Days of “Holiday Innovations” (taken from Doblin), with a few extra inspiring points to make the full 12 days.


On the first day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • A Profit Model Innovation: An innovation in the way in which you make money.

Spotify uses the “freemium” model, where the software is provided free of charge, but a premium is charged for advanced features.


On the second day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • Network Innovation: An innovation using connections with others to create value.

Target works with renowned external designers to differentiate itself.


On the third day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • Structure Innovation: An innovation in the alignment of your talent and assets.

Whole Foods has built a robust feedback system for internal teams.


On the fourth day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • Process Innovation: An innovation in superior methods for doing your work.

Zara’s “fast fashion” strategy moves its clothing from sketch to shelf in record time.


On the fifth day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • Product Performance Innovation: An innovation in distinguishing features and functionality.

Airspray’s instant foam dispensers.


On the sixth day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • Product System Innovation: Complementary products and services

Mini Cooper’s complementary flatbed pickup and annual oil change.


On the seventh day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • Service Innovation: Support and enhancements that surround your offerings

“Deliver WOW through service” is Zappos’ #1 internal core value


On the eight day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • Channel Innovation: How your offerings are delivered to customers and users.

Costco provides it’s members with low-price, quality, and brand-name merchandise.


On the ninth day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • Brand Innovation: Representation of your offerings and business.

Virgin extends its brand into sectors ranging from soft drinks to space travel


On the tenth day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • Customer Engagement Innovation: Distinctive interactions you foster.

Wii’s experience draws more from the interactions in the room than on the screen


On the eleventh day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:

  • Sustainable innovation: Innovate or die – Sustaining success means ongoing renewal of your IP portfolio. Innovation restarts the product life cycle.

Apple’s ipad, ipod, iphone, ihome etc.


And finally…


On the twelfth day of holiday innovations, my true love brought to me:





Can Innovation Be a Structured Repeatable Process?

calendarWhen Innovation comes to mind, the first thing people may think of is creativity, spontaneity, or a momentary stroke of genius. But can innovation occur out of a structured, repeatable process? The answer, in short, is yes. In fact, in order to build a long-term culture of sustained innovation, a structured process must be put into place especially in idea generation or ideation. Although it sounds counter intuitive to say “structure” and “ideation” in the same sentence, organizations need to conduct at least two ideation sessions each year in order to foster continued growth. A good innovation leader has the foresight to schedule regular ideation sessions year after year, and not just when sales are dwindling.

Ideation, or idea management, is part of a long term innovation effort that, if facilitated intelligently, leads to successful new products or services. Even if a small percentage of concepts make it through the process, the payoff could be significant for the company. So schedule those bi-annual ideation sessions and invite members from various departments in your organization to participate. You’ll find value in fresh perspectives from customer service, engineering, production, marketing, and your salespeople. Here are some tips for hosting ideation sessions that will lead to the best possible outcomes.

  • Break up teams into people who know each other but are not “that friendly” with each other in order to minimize group think.
  • Vary the format as well as locations and times of ideation sessions. Predictability can kill ideation. Mix it up to get people out of their comfort zones.
  • Accept ALL ideas and get them written down on the board. You never know when a concept can be recycled for future use.
  • Build a database of ideas from which new combinations and solutions can be derived.

By holding regular ideation sessions, your organization is adopting a proactive strategy in the new product development process. To get results in Innovation, a structured, repeatable process is essential. Look to all imperatives of Robert’s Rules of Innovation:

  1. Inspire
  2. No Risk, No Innovation
  3. New Product Development Process
  4. Ownership
  5. Value Creation
  6. Accountability
  7. Training and Coaching
  8. Idea Management
  9. Observe and Measure
  10. New Result Net Reward

These rules of order 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.

Jump Start the Idea Process for Maximum Efficiency

Innovation begins with just one great idea – built upon, tested, retested and executed with care. It can take thousands of ideas, over the course of weeks, months or even years to reach that one great idea that will bring Innovation and profitable growth to a company. The goal of successful innovation is to get to those monumental moments quicker and more often in order to stay ahead of your competition. That innovation effort is only possible through Idea Management – by holding ideation sessions within your organization. Be sure to create and maintain an idea hopper so you don’t lose any ideas that could potentially pay off later on.

There may be naysayers of ideation sessions, who claim they do not work or that there is no room in the budget. However, it’s all about that small percentage of ideas that make it through the process and produce immense payoff for the company. We’ve all seen that one innovative idea or product that’s catapulted sales and increased shareholder value tremendously for an organization. All it takes is that one great idea among thousands.

Do not overlook the importance of ideation sessions in the process of achieving Innovation. To maximize efficiency, invite your customers and salespeople to participate. It’s a golden opportunity to hear the needs of your consumers, and salespeople can produce invaluable insights about the marketplace. Include other departments of your organization as well, even the ones labeled “not creative” because it would be a shame to miss out on a potential opportunity. Everyone is a consumer so all opinions are relevant.

A diverse group, forced to perform out of their comfort zone, produces the highest quality work. So hold your ideation sessions outside of predictable times and locations – try it at a client’s office or a third party venue. Avoid Monday mornings, Friday afternoons or right after lunchtime when energy levels drop. Most importantly, accept every single idea that comes through without objection or ridicule. By asking the right open-ended questions to unlock new insights and discoveries, to narrowing down to specific concepts, you can jump start the idea process and reach the next “Aha!” moment sooner than your competitors. A concept that doesn’t work at the moment could prove to be successful later on down the road – so store best practices. Maintain an idea database, cross fertilize and keep those ideas until the right technology or cost is possible.

Robert’s Rules of InnovationTM is focused business innovation, with Robert Brands’ goal to bring one new idea to market every year. For more tips on Idea Management and the 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, see Robert’s Rules of InnovationTM published in March 2010 by Wiley.


Is your Idea pipeline being filled and maintained?

If even 1% of new ideas succeed, it can lead to a huge payoff. A steady stream of ideas is what fuels Innovation, so one of Robert’s Rules of Innovation imperatives is Ideation, or the idea management processes .

On any new product development team, it is up to the leader to facilitate ideation sessions that produce a regular supply of new ideas. In order for these ideation sessions to be as effective as possible, it’s valuable to include members such as the sales team, people who interact directly with customers, and maybe even a few select customers themselves to offer their insight into the meeting.

In these brainstorming sessions, which should be held regularly like two to three times a year,  it’s ideal to include a diverse group of people – perhaps from customer service, engineering or production – to create a setting ripe for creative ideas and to avoid group-think. The process should be a structured repeatable process. All ideas should be written up on the whiteboard or flip chart, then recorded and stored for future reference, with absolutely no ideas dubbed as bad. Negativity causes fear of judgment, which can seriously hurt the Ideation process and any chance of new and original ideas. Remember, good ideas can come from anywhere, so the more diverse your team and the more removed they are from their usual environments, the better for developing ideas essential to Innovation.

Read the rest of this page »

Innovation Trend Spotting: Shepherding a Team of Opportunists

When an entrepreneur creates a new product or company, the result usually is borne by spotting an emerging trend, conceptualizing an innovation, or seizing an opportunity unmet or consumer behavior emerging in the marketplace.

Read the rest of this page »

Innovation and Idea Management: From Ideation to Collaboration to Execution

Innovation thrives on a diet of news ideas. Alt:  Innovation: What a great idea !

It needs new views, fresh thinking, a different perspective from across the organization.

We’ve noted that Innovation = Creative x Risk Taking. Setting aside risk for the moment, creativity is a central element to the innovation process. But it must continually be nourished with new ideas from a variety of sources.

Read the rest of this page »