Thursday, March 25, 2004

ORIGINAL RESEARCH The Secret of Good Ideas

What is the secret to getting lots of high quality ideas with Idea Management? Is there any magic formula to guess in advance how many good ideas you will get, and what those ideas will look like?

Imaginatik Research has some good news, and some bad news. The bad news first: it is almost impossible to predict how many good ideas you will get, and what those ideas will be like. There is no way to know, for example, whether the brainstorm session you attend next week will yield no useful ideas at all... or the next Post-It Note.

The good news is that the odds are on the side of the angels. Research has shown that the Idea Management process, supported by appropriate software, yields 2.5 excellent ideas per 100 ideas collected to a 95% degree of confidence. This means that from a given sample of 100 ideas, 2.5 will prove themselves to be truly novel, unique, useful and implementable. Moreover, the event-based approach yields 10x more ideas overall compared to simple ongoing programs, and 30x more high impact ideas than ongoing programs.

To translate these figures into real life, Mott's Inc., a consumer goods company with 1,700 employees (and a client of Imaginatik), has used Idea Central since December 2001 to collect ideas and insight on a range of topics, from brand naming to process improvement. During this time they have run 30 time-limited events, typically lasting 4 weeks each, and one always-open event, "What's On Your Mind". The ongoing event has collected over 400 ideas, and the time-based events average 200 ideas each. With over 6,000 ideas in total, they estimate they have collected well over 100 excellent ideas that have been consumer tested or implemented in the business, including some product ideas that will be launched in 2003.

To understand the secret of the approach, we have uncovered the five key reasons for success:

1) Purpose - the yield of high quality ideas is significantly higher with a clear business purpose and a supportive business sponsor. The most successful Idea Management projects have a senior manager who is directly responsible for that particular idea gathering initiative, and for taking the best ideas forward to implementation or further development. Best practice is to state the goals as clearly as you can, without narrowing down the scope too much, and to try not to be too wordy as people skim read.

2) Timeliness - the difference between a great idea and a so-so idea is often time-based. There is often a narrow window of opportunity for an idea to be considered, which explains why many ongoing systems struggle with the random nature of suggestions.

3) Diversity - the pool of contributors needs to be broad, usually broader than you intuitively think. It is impossible to get great ideas by asking the same people the same questions over, and over again.

4) Perspective Change - the very best ideas come through individuals looking at things in a different way, such as visiting a supermarket and watching kids buy chocolate, instead of analyzing focus group reports and sales data.

5) Collaborative Development - the majority of ideas received in a formal Idea Management program tend to be seed ideas, containing a kernel of a good idea but requiring additional development. A collaborative environment, where people can comment and build on ideas, significantly increases the overall yield of high impact ideas. A new study by Imaginatik Research is comparing the difference between collaborative and non-collaborative systems, and the initial results show that the number of seed ideas goes down, but the overall number of excellent ideas goes up.

With these elements in place, companies can look forward to a high yield of top quality ideas that make a real difference in the business.

No comments: