A lot has been written up recently on idea management and innovation. “DON’T Ask the Users What They Want!” says Tom Evslin – arguing that “the very best ideas come from smart people realizing that a new use of a new technology can create a compelling new capability” (here and here). Only get your lead users involved says MIT Prof. Eric Von Hippel (see here). Get your ideas by using new technology (rss, search, etc.) to set up continuous environmental scans (and don’t forget internal sources) – says Dave Pollard (here)
The solution to ideation and innovation is much broader than that:
- Why limit yourself to getting ideas from a small subset of people? It is true that you may not get your category busting ideas from your customers, but considering that 80% of new products are new versions of existing products – why not listen to all of them for good product enhancement? It doesn’t cost much anymore, and who knows, maybe the next “iPod-class” idea will come from one of those people you least expected it from.
- And don’t forget to include all your employees! A.G. Lafley, CEO of P&G had it right when he was quoted in Fortune last year for saying: “…P&G of five or six years ago depended on 8,000 scientists and engineers for a vast majority of innovation. The P&G we’re trying to unleash today asks all 100,000-plus of us to be innovators. We actively solicit good (product) ideas…”
- Environmental scans, especially continuous ones, for getting ideas are indeed the right thing to do. But unless you can increase your marketing staff by a factor x, you will need to leverage the people within your organization as well as those outside of your organization to make that work. Those communities need to help you make the best content (re)bubble to the top.
Today’s technology can help you achieve this in a very cost effective way – both from a technology deployment point of view as well as from a human resource point of view. And it can create huge side benefits – both on the innovation side of things as well as on the social side of things!