Idea Generation Methods

by Tomislav Buljubasic

Idea Generation MethodsIt’s always a challenge to bring the innovative culture of any organization to higher level. After promotion of innovation program and removing the barriers, one of tasks connected with that challenge is to be successful in Idea Generation. The focus can be on the quantity of ideas, but it is also always expected, that this ideas have a certain quality to be able to get realized at the end.

In order to get quality ideas aligned with company portfolio and the situation on the market, three different approaches can be combined: traditional brainstorming (sometimes connected with Idea Awareness Workshops), innovation task force meetings and internal open contest for ideas.

Traditional brainstorming is well known with its principles and rules. However, some principles can be used in many areas of business, but some must be put in front. In the case of software development, participants of idea generation workshops are highly skilled professionals with big knowledge of their product, but without detail information about the market or competition. Often, they know only some parts of their product and don’t have an overview on complete ecosystem in which their product or even company live.

As good preparation is essential for success, the topic for which ideas are needed should be as narrow as possible. It must be well explained at the start of brainstorming session, or at the request sent to participants. This explanation should contain current overview of customers and competitors in the selected topic, together with latest trends in this topic.

By observing the changes and reflections of different idea generation principles, it can be seen that only workshops, which are from beginning focused on selected topic, can give clear results. The numbers of incremental ideas that are generated in comparison with realized incremental ideas speak, that every department has the opportunity for improvements and savings. That affects every area of software development, project management or testing.

In contrary, radical of semi-radical ideas have fewer chances, even as the number of this ideas is sometimes big. To be successful with radical ideas, many connections must be established; most important is with sales strategy and portfolio development.

Brainstorming principle should be praised and upgraded with other methods to create needed results. This includes some kind of innovation contest that can last through the year, or just the request with short time frame for ideas from narrow topic like internal innovation contest.

In short, brainstorming method should be expanded with other initiatives in order to get best results.

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Barriers to Innovative CultureTomislav Buljubasic is an Innovation Manager and writer from Croatia, focusing on creativity, innovation culture and process. Author of Unleash Your Creativity App. He can be followed on twitter @buljubasict

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  1. The contests are a great way to get staff involved. We are a new team within AARP (our group was stood up June 1 2011) and the largest in our association (about 650 staff dispersed across the US. We have held two annual contests now with good participation. The first year was more of an open call for ideas – from cost savings to increasing engagement to how to improve on our dashboard numbers – we recieved nearly 500 in about a week. Perhaps that $5 Starbucks gift card was incentive, but… The second year was more focused on sharing innovations that a team incorporated in 2012 (the innovation could have been successful or not but had to show business need, how the idea was implemented, is it repeatable and sustainable, and lessons learned along the way). This was more of a competition in the true sense of the word in that only a select number of innovations won (a lunch for the team). But the key was follow up on every idea submitted. In the first year, we recieved a lot of great ideas that were actually implemented more immediately and began to collect those that might be workable but were longer term. The second year, we are just beginning the follow up in that we will have the team who submitted their innovation participate in a webinar to engage staff in how they might be able to do the same in their groups. One measure of how we know its working is our annual year end survey (specific to our group not the entire association). One question asked is SNG encourages innovation. Our year end 2012 results showed 100% of staff strongly agreed/agreed. In a similar question from the cross-assocation survey only 77% responded favorably. I think this can be attributed to our strong leadership of our team with the association and our commitment to innovation. I am working on a larger program for our team – any insights you might have would be great – all best – Susan

  2. Hi Susan, many thanks for your comment.
    Of course, the biggest step forward is to build innovation culture. Without it there is no chance for quantity of ideas. Next challenge is quality and it can be accomplished by focusing on single (narrow)topic with good preparation. You can find my insights here:

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