How IT Leaders Can Grow Good Ideas

by drjim on April 30, 2009

IT Leaders Need Practical Ways To Grow Innovative Ideas Within Their Departments

IT Leaders Need Practical Ways To Grow Innovative Ideas Within Their Departments

Innovation, innovation, innovation. Everyone seems to be talking about it, but nobody seems to have any clear guidance for IT Leaders when it comes to telling them HOW to grow good ideas within their IT departments. Well we’re going to change that starting right now.

Dr. Jan van den-Ende and Bob Kijuit have spent some time thinking about this problem and they’ve got some suggestions for us. The problem that they’ve been doing research on is just how to come up with systems that will allow IT departments to nurture GOOD ideas while at the same time getting rid of BAD ideas.

In a nutshell, what they have found is that if you can come up with a way to tap into the input of many people early on in the idea process, then you can make sure that the good ideas make it all the way to the top.

In most companies, new ideas are often collected via some form of  the old fashion “suggestion box”. Using this method, literally thousands of ideas can be submitted in a company of medium size if you have an enthusiastic work force. The problem that this causes is that then someone has to review all of those suggestions and identify the worthy ones. Good luck with that!

What the research has found is that if people take the time to discuss their ideas with colleagues then this helps out a lot. These discussions can help further refine the idea in terms of technical issues or market feasibility. If the idea is really a stinker, then it will cause it to be quickly discarded.

The researchers have also discovered two additional things:

  • if ideas are discussed with colleagues who work outside of the submitter’s department instead of colleagues inside his department, then there was a better chance of the idea eventually being accepted.
  • if ideas were discussed with friends and trusted colleagues then once again the idea had a better chance of eventually being accepted.

The reason for these higher acceptance rates is probably because both close friends and outsiders can give the most frank feedback.

IT Leaders can help their departments to generate innovative ideas. They just need to introduce this additional review and discussion step into the process in order to improve the quality of the ideas being submitted.

Does your IT department have a program to collect ideas from department members? Does anyone currently review and take action on these ideas? Do you get too many or too few ideas submitted? Do you think that adding a peer discussion step in the process would help in your department? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lal Chandran May 1, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Yes! This is being practised also in many global MNCs lately. Many have good tool set where ideas can be logged and commented, aiding heavily in the ideation process. This relies on the fact that quantity gives rise to quality and good ideas get bulb lights on its on.

The critics, however, points out some issues:
1. It’s not necessary that good ideas are commented and spotted out. The idea authors network has a great influence in getting the ideation process on and carrying it further. So, its about networking within the organisation!
2. Too many good ideas lead to the same situation that realising them is never easy. There should be process to recognise people.
3. One way to motivate staff towards idea generation and ideation is to have theme based idea competition (Ref: Innovation to the core).

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Dr. Jim Anderson May 5, 2009 at 9:02 am

Lal: I agree with all of your point. One more issue that IT Leaders need to solve is that if someone submits a good idea, they need to be rewarded for having that idea. This is critical in order to motivate others to submit their ideas!

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