Indeed, it has reached some rather unexpected sources, with, for instance, supermarket chain Waitrose using ideation software to power its Partner Ideas program. This provides a platform for partners to submit ideas for improving any aspect of the company’s operations.
“The success of our Partner Ideas scheme goes to show that sometimes the truly great innovations can be as simple as making small changes to the tasks you do daily, rather than the big ideas which transform everything,” Waitrose say.
The need for fresh ideas around ideation?
There are undoubtedly a growing number of organizations looking to recruit employees and bolster the initial part of their innovation funnel.
I spoke recently with the team at TemboSocial, who are typical of many in this space. They offer employees the platform to post up their ideas, and for those ideas to then be voted on by their peers.
Another project along similar lines is the soon to be launched Champio, which on the surface looks very similar to what has been before in that they allow ideas to be solicited from across the workforce, they do at least attempt to improve matters post-ideation.
The platform tracks the kind of ideas submitted by each person, and through the votes they receive builds up a profile of that person and their particular areas of expertise.
The aim is that this information will be used to help craft the career of that employee, but it could equally be used to help HR gain a much more nuanced perspective on where a persons talents are.
“There are plenty of innovation management and employee engagement tools but through our private beta testing, we realized that the best solution will use innovation management to drive employee engagement,” company founder Jolijt Tamanaha says. “So we’re building to tie ideas and progress at the company back into each individual’s happiness, passions, and career.”
Putting the focus on post-ideation
Which is all rather promising to hear. I’ve grumbled before about the apparent obsession with ideation, with there being a sense that ideas in themselves are a worthwhile output.
In reality, ideas are useless unless they are translated into real and tangible new products or improvements to services. Doing that implementation is often considerably harder than the generation of ideas themselves, yet much more attention is given to ideation than the creation of an environment where ideas can be tested and experimented with.
It’s well known that organizations struggle with the need to ambidexterity, being capable both of exploring new horizons whilst simultaneously exploiting what is familiar.
A study by Manuel Hensmans found that just 28 of 215 of the biggest companies in the UK retained their status over a two decade period. What’s more, of those 28, just three were able of undergoing a major strategic change and still maintain their lofty status.
Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez suggests that to create the organizational ambidexterity requires a focus on six core pillars:
- Leadership and culture
- People and skills
- Structure and governance
- Processes and methods
- Systems and tools
- Enterprise performance management
Whilst there are various tools on the market that do bits and pieces of this puzzle, there are none that have managed to encapsulate the whole picture. None that have supported organizations in overcoming the various challenges inherent in creating such ambidexterity.
There remains a sense that ideation is something that enables organizations to tick off the box marked ‘innovation’, without any real desire to see things change, and the lack of any real technical support perhaps underlines this.
If we are to create truly adaptive and innovative organizations however, we must do better to do all aspects of innovation well, and not just the idea generation part.