Be Thankful For: Ideation

by | Monday, November 25th, 2013

It’s Thanksgiving week and we all are giving thanks for our families, our health, and of course, football. But what am I thankful for in the new world of business and innovation? I’m thankful for IDEATION.

Ideation is a technique in the early, fuzzy front end part of innovation, the part of the innovation lifecycle where ideas are gathered and curated.  A whole new industry has blossomed around this activity and its tools.  Salesforce had one of the first tools available and was heavily used as part of Obama’s grassroots campaign.  Other big players that have sprouted are Spigit and BrightIdea.

Why I’m Thankful for Ideation

  1. Ideation was one of the first crowdsourcing concepts taken from the Internet and applied to a business context.  It helped shepherd in a wave of other concepts and tools to shape the way companies generate new revenue and enhance their business through the Innovation Lifecycle.
  2. Ideation holds the promise to generate better ideas with more accuracy and speed, enabling businesses to shorten their product lifecycles.  The wisdom of the crowd can come to as accurate or more accurate a conclusion than any back room analyst can but much quicker.  The process of group think naturally curates and validates the content because of the diversity and breadth of experience that exists within the crowd.  And if the crowd consists of your target audience or your front-line employees who are closest to our customers, then the outcomes of this process should lead to more accurate insight to your customer’s true needs and wants than an analyst validating through his opinion and numbers.
  3. Ideation has amplified the voice of your individual customers and employees giving them a greater sense of influence.  The old suggestion box process was always unsatisfying.  Ideas would disappear into a black hole only to be reviewed by individuals with their own opinions and agendas within a command and control communication process.  It left the contributor feeling as if his opinion had little impact.  But Ideation puts their opinions in front of everyone increasing the transparency of the overall process and one in which your idea can be validated and enhanced as others contribute to it.  When I introduced Ideation to my last company, I can’t tell you how many emails I received from our employees thanking me for giving them a vehicle for their voice to be heard.

But That’s Only Part of the Process

Ideation only solved a small part of the overall innovation process.  The good news is that it has only amplified what is missing during the design and execution phases of the lifecycle.  As Ideation raises new ideas transparently in a public forum, it will naturally put pressure on those to implement the ideas otherwise they will lose their audience.  Hopefully, this will pressure businesses to take a more holistic view of the innovation lifecycle and impress upon them the importance to implement the rest of the process.

Bringing ideas into the open is a necessary but tricky process as it may bring forth ideas that may seem counter-intuitive or potential land mines to touch.  However, it only reflects the true needs or wants of your customers.  Case in point:  the 2008 Obama campaign utilized Salesforce’s new idea platform to poll the voters on what they would like to see in Obama’s campaign platform.  It was a nice tool as it really allowed voters to contribute what they were concerned about and then to build upon those ideas.   Ideas that scored the highest through votes and contribution rose to the top.  Interestingly enough, the number one concern of the public at that time as expressed by voters was legalization of marijuana.  Obama completely ignored the topic even within virtual open houses on the Internet that discussed some of the top ideas.  It was obviously considered a political landmine.  But look at where we are today?  Marijuana legalization has become a top agenda for many in the U.S. with a majority favoring it in some way.

You Can’t Ignore the Voice of Your Customer

Ignoring the voice of your customer will only last so long.  They are telling you what they really want.  The best approach is to have a conversation in the open and respect your customer’s voice.  You can have an honest conversation even explaining why you may not be able to address their concerns at the moment, but simply recognizing acknowledging their concerns in an open forum can go a long way to build customer loyalty and trust.  Ignoring it will simply do the opposite.

At RE:INVENTION, we understand the voice of the individual and the power it has in developing new products and services.  We understand that a truly successful innovation process addresses he complete lifecycle.

Have a happy Thanksgiving holiday and enjoy it with your loved ones.

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