Socialising the innovation process

By Angela Ashenden posted 01-25-2016 11:00


When organisations are considering investing in social collaboration tools, one of the use cases that often appeals most to senior executives is idea management, and the prospect of crowd-sourcing new and exciting business opportunities simply by making the process of capturing and developing ideas more effective. I published a great case study on this a few years back, looking at global engineering and construction firm Mota-Engil's implementation of a customised version of Telligent's social collaboration platform to create a more accessible channel for surfacing ideas, and a more structured way of taking these ideas through to realisation.


When you think about it, idea management - or "innovation management", or "ideation", as it is also known - is almost a perfect activity for social collaboration. The goal is to create an open, democratic environment where anyone can suggest ideas, perhaps for a more efficient way of doing something, or for a new product or service, for example, and everyone else has the opportunity to see these ideas, to comment on them, to rate or vote on them, allowing the most popular/successful/viable to bubble to the top.


Of course, it's rarely as easy as that; the reality is that, like any social community, it takes a lot of community management effort to drive adoption, promote involvement and encourage participation throughout the process. But equally, if the organisation is committed to the process, it can be a great way to show employees, customers or partners how important their opinion, knowledge and experiences are to the organisation.


Because this is very much a two-way street: not only is the organisation benefiting from the ideas that are created here (and let's be clear, there is potentially a LOT in this for the organisation), but it's an opportunity to strengthen the relationships between the organisation and its employees, and/or its customers and partners, depending who the community is for. From an employee's perspective, such a programme enables them to contribute to the organisation's strategy and direction, but it also gives them an opportunity to contribute in areas where they might have skills and expertise outside the scope of their day-to-day role. As well as enabling them to feel more engaged, it could open up new opportunities for them, elsewhere in the business. For customers and partners, being able to influence the organisation's direction can help to cement that relationship, which is beneficial to both parties.


In Mota-Engil's case, the project went far beyond simply taking advantage of social collaboration technologies, implementing formal processes for managing the projects that were created from the innovation community, and after just seven months saw the number of formal innovation projects double. An interesting takeaway from their experience was how valuable new employees can be in identifying potential opportunities; we tend to assume that the most knowledgeable and experienced can contribute the most, but this fresh perspective is often an invaluable injection of life into the most established and unchallenged of processes.


Do you use an idea management platform in your organisation, and if so what has your experience been? I'm keen to hear from anyone with an interest in this area, so please get in touch or leave a comment.