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. In the following article, innovation practitioner Robert Brands shares a few idea management tips to help companies get back to the business of ideation.

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, or they can be symbiotic, combining multiple ideas, using different elements of each to make a whole. Other categories forms include revolutionary ideations (a brand new perspective), ideations that are serendipitous; where the intended idea is generated by the unexpected, targeted, dealing with a direct and planned path to discovery, or even 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!”

Getting back to the business of ideation, here are some idea management tips to help you succeed:

  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 deliver pitches in, 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 and 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 own team, include members such as the sales team, people who interact directly with customers, and perhaps 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 what you are not looking for. Communicate how overall process will unfold, 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. In addition, 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 and when on doubt, ask your Innovation Coach about this¹.

By Robert F. Brands

About the Author

Robert F. Brands is President and founder of Brands & Company, LLC. Having gained hands-on experience in bringing innovationto market, creating and improving the necessary product development processes and needed culture, he delivered and exceeded to bring “at least one new product per year to market” resulting in double digit profitable growth and shareholder value.

Robert is the founder of Innovation Coach.com, he is an innovation speaker and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation, a 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival” with Martin Kleinman published March, 2010 by Wiley. The book contains assessment tools, tips, in depth chapters on the importance of Intellectual Property, working with multinational teams and more. For more information on New Product Development Process or any of the other imperatives please visit RobertsRules ofInnovation.com.


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

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