In case you haven’t read my previous blogs, here is a summary of the key thoughts so far: ideas are the life blood of innovation; good ideas are discovered within hundreds of other collected ideas; employees are the best source of ideas; well thought out challenges to staff generate targeted ideas and an Idea Management solution is essential to properly generate, track and manage ideas within a company.
The question for this week’s blog is:
What structure, or structures, should be used to create the best environment for ideas to be generated?
To answer this question, let’s look at a company as a number of communities:
The entire company as a community.
A division within a company as a community.
Cross functional groups within a company as a community.
1.The company as a community
Above is a general structure of a company with administration functions, sales and marketing, partner management, R&D etc.
The first idea community is a community created across the entire company.
The idea challenges that are set for the company community will be, by their nature, broad but it is still very important to set idea challenges. While the community will be large we still want to try and channel the idea creation in areas of interest and improvement for the company. If no challenges are set, then employees will either not contribute at all or will contribute things of interest to them, for example, a table tennis for the break room, canteen menu and other ideas that are mostly not of benefit to the company as a whole.
Here are some examples of challenges that could be set for the company community:
Company culture: What elements of our company culture are working for us and what could be changed?
We are re-assessing our companies mission and values. Are they still valid for today and what would you change or include?
Health and safety challenges.
Volunteer day is coming up. Can you give suggestions on how the company can contribute this year?
Because the company community idea challenges are broad; and the community covers the entire company, it is likely that the quantity and quality of ideas generated are likely to be less than the next two idea communities.
2.Divisional idea communities
The second “layer” of idea communities is the divisional community. The idea challenges will now be more focused on the role of the division. The idea challenges for the sales and marketing division will probably be very different from those given to the customer service division.
The type of idea challenges though will probably still be quite broad and will probably not be innovation related (see the third community following shortly). Depending on the size of the company each division might have a number of idea communities, for example, the Sales and Marketing idea community might have a number of different communities established for different products, services or perhaps countries/territories.
3.Across division innovation communities.
The third idea community is arguably the most important and is formed by selecting individuals from different divisions within a company to work as a cross-functional team/community on innovation projects and ideation. This is the green circle in the diagram above.
A cross-functional team is vital as the members will be able to give diverse inputs into the ideation process and will much more likely come up with sound solutions to problems faster and at a lower cost.
Heterogeneity is also important and if possible the people selected from the divisions need to a mix of type of people from race through to backgrounds and world view. Contrasting viewpoints from the team will give individuals involved a “bigger picture” of the situation. “Creative abrasion” as a result of possible conflicting viewpoints will open up new discussions, which can lead to the generation of ideas. In other words, diversity will heighten the performance of the community and will preserve the necessary tension and challenge in the team.
This cross division and cross-functional will focus almost entirely on innovation. Examples of idea challenges for this community could be:
A new product or service for a new market or industry.
The refreshing, or restructuring, of an existing product or service.
A go-to-market strategy for a particular product or service.
A visionary cross functional team focusing on the future.
Using an Idea Management solution to create these communities
The suggestion within this article therefore, is to create a number of idea communities within a company ranging from a very broad company-wide community to much more focused cross-functional idea communities.
For these communities to function effectively an Idea Management solution needs to be selected and used that allows the creation of multiple groups of people – or communities. Within Crowdicity (www.crowdicity.com) for example – the solution for which Idea Storm is a reseller – groups of people within a company can be created and idea challenges created and issued for each group.
Do you think this community approach to Idea Management makes sense? How would you, or how do you, structure your Idea Management process? Feel free to use the Forum tab on www.ideastorm.co.za/forum to share your views.