Thursday, January 09, 2003

ORIGINAL RESEARCH: Event-based Idea Management

There are two basic approaches to Idea Management: the always-open suggestion box, and the time-limited event. Our research, backed up by several independent studies, has shown that the always-open programs tend to disintegrate over time. They are often launched with a lot of hype, but after the initial hundred-or-so ideas, the idea flow soon becomes a trickle of just a couple of ideas per week.

Research conducted by Imaginatik in 1998 found that time-based events yield a much higher volume of ideas, in terms of absolute numbers and quality. In comparison to ongoing programs, the yield is four- to ten-fold greater, even though events last typically for just four weeks. This created an apparent paradox: participants had less time to contribute but they submitted a greater number of high quality ideas. In-depth analysis revealed that the artificial time restrictions generate significant user demand to make contributions, and provides an incentive for people not to procrastinate. We also found that business sponsors are more likely to commit to a short event or project, and follow through with the results.

Statistics from our clients demonstrate the power of the event approach. A consumer goods company produces an average of 200 ideas per month-long event, compared with just 310 ideas over eight months collected with the always-on suggestion box. Every event produces at least five excellent ideas - as rated by the project-specific review teams - resulting in over 50 new product concepts since 2002.

The event-based approach is highly suited to short term projects that require input from a broad audience. Typical events include strategic planning, early stage product development, 'emergency' cost reductions, and crisis management. The event-based approach has also proved useful as a means for companies to test the overall approach of Idea Management in their business prior to full-scale investment.

In some cases, organizations have attempted to run time-limited campaigns without a specialized tool, and instead make use of existing software such as e-mail, Word documents and the occasional Excel spreadsheet for evaluations. This method can be sufficient when few people are involved in the process, but the manual process is quickly overwhelmed when faced with a volume of ideas. Just 100 ideas can produce 500 e-mails to reviewers, over 2,000 e-mailed comments, and so on, and so on.

So, is it really worth the hassle of involving people? Yes. Studies have shown that a diversity of ideas and opinions are needed to generate high quality solutions, and that only comes through the involvement of many people in the process. The point is that companies need to have some form of process support to handle the volume and quickly focus on the desired end result: a small number of high impact ideas that can be readily implemented.

The event-based approach can be run in parallel to the ongoing approach, and many companies do in fact use both methods with positive results. The same consumer goods company mentioned earlier has run 17 campaigns in 2002, in addition to their always-on system, "What's On Your Mind". The combination of the two approaches can be an extremely powerful way to harness people's brainpower on the most important business problems of the day, and to still give them a channel to share their creative insight as and when it occurs.

To learn more about the best practice to running events

No comments: