Idea Management in the Modern Workplace

Do you remember your first day at work? The excitement and trepidation you felt leaving the safety of the academic world behind and entering this amazing new world of business? As a young school leaver, you would be full of ideas, but often internal processes lacked the ability, and management the impetus, to capture your ideas.

Fast forward a generation, with the advancement of creative thinking and cloud technology, young school leavers today expect to contribute and participate in company-wide innovation. However, generating new innovative ideas and transforming them into real-life opportunities is challenging for companies, especially the big Tech firms with dispersed workforces. However, these are not insurmountable challenges in today’s digital transformation age.

But to stay current and competitive it’s business-critical to embrace idea management in today’s modern workplace right from the onset of onboarding employees.

Idea Management in the Modern Workplace

What is Idea Management?

Idea management is defined as a process of generating, capturing, discussing, and improving valuable insights or alternative thinking that would not have come out through a normal process. Participating in the idea management process is a critical rewarding skill in the modern workplace. It enhances critical thinking and innovation, creating a higher level of productivity and employee satisfaction.

Idea Management in the Workplace

Idea management in the workplace has changed with digital transformation in the modern world. The new generation of employees for instance is looking to share innovative ideas that will help them solidify their position in the company. Their quest for these innovative ideas has led them to be more creative and more engaged at work.

In the majority of workplaces, idea management is not handled as a distinct concept. Instead, ideas come and go intuitively without being captured, processed, developed, or applied in any systematic way.

But handling idea management as an essential business process to help you improve your products and services can unlock significant benefits for your company.

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Why Is Idea Management Necessary in the Workplace?

Many technological innovations begin with an idea that is generated, processed, and utilised to generate new, or improving existing, products and services. Without new ideas, there wouldn’t be innovation and many companies wouldn’t be able to thrive in today’s competitive market.

Statistics show that most organisations fail in their first innovation attempts. But this is ok. We learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. So, you need to embrace failure as a part of the innovation process and turn it into a positive driving force to succeed.

Idea Management Challenges in the Modern Workplace

Idea Management in the modern-day workplace still has its own challenges to overcome to make the process smooth and successful:

  1. Management (i.e. the decision-makers) doesn’t involve the idea owners in the decision process
  2. The idea owner doesn’t have the right skill set to sell their idea to management
  3. Management has other critical business priorities delaying the innovation process
  4. There’s a lack of available resources to implement ideas

Again, these challenges are not insurmountable. For example, having people with the necessary expertise collaborate with the idea owner to produce and present a business case on their idea will provide the best opportunity to get a “yes” from management. The point is that you need to think about how to address these type of challenges in advance. Solving these problems early will open the door to generating innovative ideas to increase growth.

Tips how to Generate Ideas in the Modern Workplace

Encouraging participation in the ideation process still needs to be worked at. “Build and they will come” is not a solution that will work with idea management in the modern workplace. Check out 10 Key Lessons on how to Generate Ideas from Employees for some critical insights on how to be successful with innovation.

In addition to these 10 key lessons, here are a few more that you should think about.

11. Hire the right people!

Diversity promotes discussion, leading to creative thinking. Therefore, hiring people with diverse backgrounds and alternative viewpoints allows the company to see things from a different perspective. It will breathe a fresh atmosphere into the innovation process. Check out the Harvard Business Review article – How Diversity can Drive Innovation

12. Provide space for creative thinking

The new generation of workers coming into the business from school and university have high expectations. And rightly so. They will be full of enthusiasm and innovative ideas which they are eager to share with their superiors. So, empowering these new employees and creating the framework for creative thinking, will set the right tone from day one and encourage future participation in projects and innovation opportunities.

13. Create time to innovate

Asking employees to participate in an ideation process whilst doing a full-time day job is both short-sighted and unrealistic. As well as providing space for creative thinking, you also need to allow them time from their day job. Participation in idea management in the modern workplace comes with its own challenges, which doesn’t need additional barriers to innovate.

14. Open up the implementation phase

It is one thing to generate great ideas, but it is an entirely different process to actually implement them. However, raising awareness and progress of the implementation phase is just as important as generating the idea itself. Include the successful idea owners in the implementation phase of the process and communicate out regular progress updates to all employees. This will send out a positive message to other potential idea owners and as a result, will increase future contribution.

Feedback on all ideas is a critical part of the process to promote future participation (see Lesson 8: Avoid the dreaded idea black hole for more detailed explanation).

15. Reward creativity

A business thrives in an environment that rewards creativity. And creativity only happens when a business creates a positive atmosphere that permits it. When creativity happens in your company, look for a means to reward it, especially when it comes from new hires.

Reward doesn’t have to monetary either. Recognition is often a more powerful tool for encouraging future employee engagement in idea management to today’s modern workplace.

Written by Åse Angland-Lindvall

With relentless energy and an unrivalled vision for helping companies to be successful, a core skill she gained at her time at E.ON and Ericsson, Åse helps companies understand the need for continuous innovation.

27/01/2021

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