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Turn Your Business Into an Idea Factory

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on May 11, 2009

Idea management systems are not just for large corporations. Every business needs an influx of potentially useful ideas to help it stay competitive. There are many methods for collecting and selecting the best ideas. In most companies, there’s no shortage of good ideas. They come in every day—from customers, suppliers, employees. And, of course, there are those ideas you get in the middle of the night when incubating a problem or opportunity!

The key is to systematically gather and review those ideas and then sort through them. Not all ideas fit your business’ needs. Not all are feasible. Some may require greater resources than you have. These are "back burner" ideas—but don’t file them away and forget about them. Consider them from time to time. Find the ideas that solve the problem facing you today and that you have the resources (knowledge, budget, and time) to implement. And then do it.

The reason some companies never seem to innovate effectively is they have no system for turning new ideas into reality. A business that is an idea factory knows where to find ideas, how to select the appropriate ones, and how to integrate them into the business.

Lisa Gundry
Professor of Management
Director, The Center for Creativity and Innovation
DePaul University

Reader Comments


May 11, 2009 1:25 PM

Dear Lisa,

Hello! The article is very important for me now, because today my task is to find the best ideas, make projects and implement them. Not far ago in Lithuania was established the new Institute of creative industries and inovations, which just try to find its place on earth and in which I am working now.It would be interesting to know more about the methods for collecting and selecting the best ideas.

Mark Turrell

May 12, 2009 8:15 AM

There is some merit to this approach, but it highlights a major weakness in the approach: the over-focus on ideation over implementation.

If one considers 'innovation' to be the process of doing new things that deliver value (a broad definition), then innovation contains two core components: ideation/creative thinking/idea generation and execution/scale up.

Of the two, the easy part is definitely idea generation. Most companies have plenty of ideas, and have a flow of ideas coming in through their doors every day from multiple sources. The hard part, though, is execution and scale up. That is what truly distinguishes the good from the merely average innovator - large company or not.

The current focus on 'idea management' as a buzz word is not helping the situation, in my view (being an IdM professional). It is distracting firms' from the real issue of implementation - and designing idea management systems and programs for the purpose of successfully implementing the best ideas at scale, to have meaningful impact on a business.

Final thought. The businesses that are idea factories are rarely effective, large-scale businesses. Ideas are just too much fun. Real businesses focus on ideas that can be scaled and make a a great impact on financial and strategic objectives. And that, sadly for the 'idea generators' out there, means a deliberate narrowing down of ideas that are in scope.

Mark Turrell
CEO, Imaginatik plc

Pertti Ollila

August 13, 2009 3:14 AM

Dear Lisa and Mark! I fully agree with your notes. In addition I especially would like to remind us that in order to make it happen; no matter how advanced collecting systems you have, there must lie at least a collective enthusiasm, open and honest working environment and culture with skilful and supportive management. Then idea management may prove to be fruitfull and start to produce the additional value to the company.

Pertti Ollila
Project Manager

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