The Future Of Innovation … The Fundamental Human Nature Of Ideas

Ruth Thomson

We will always need new ideas and innovation. This is as true today as it ever was and will be true in the future. However, the way we choose to manage ideas has changed over time, influenced by studies and new schools of thought, as well as the increase in the use of software systems.

Computer systems help us streamline, simplify and organise many activities but I feel that there is a huge danger that, when setting up a new system, we increasingly set about developing a software solution without due consideration of the implications on the ‘people’ aspects.

This is particularly important for ideas systems. Our ability to create, evolve and develop ideas is a fundamental part of what makes us human, ideas are personal to us and it is critical that the ‘people’ aspects are central to how we approach ideas management going forward.

For example:

Minimise the barrier to entry

All ideas should be captured and shared (socialised). Don’t pre-judge! Initial weak ideas might spark another thought or could be combined with something else to become stronger and grow. People have new ideas all the time but often these are lost. If this loss is due to a high barrier to entry to an ideas submission system then it is failing. Is the database difficult to navigate to? Is the champion faced with a dry, complex ideas submission form? A successful ideas system should make it as easy as possible for people to participate. Consider…Does it really need to be on a computer system? Could you have a ‘post-box’? or an ideas board where cards are physically put on the wall for everyone to see and discuss?

Recognise the value of the contribution of an idea and the progress

People need feedback and recognition, it makes others want to join in and encourages you to participate again. Feedback on the progression of an idea feeds everyone’s interest and helps us learn for the future.If a submitted idea disappears into a ‘black hole–like’ software system, possibly sending you an automated ‘thank you’ note, then that is a huge missed opportunity.

3. The importance of a true champion

The ideas that will turn into successful innovations do not necessarily start from the best ideas, but you can guarantee that behind every really successful venture there is a true champion; someone who really believes in the idea, and is determined to make it work. Clearly decisions on resourcing of new projects must be taken in a rational and objective manner, but I believe that a key question to consider when assessing ideas is ‘is there a true champion?’ These examples demonstrate the importance of the consideration of the ‘human’ element that should be at the heart of any successful ideas management system. In the future I hope that we will be able to combine and balance the convenience of software whilst keeping true to the fundamental ‘human’ nature of ideas.

Article © 2009 Ruth Thomson. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Ruth Thomson

Ruth Thomson

affiliation:   Kodak European Research

position:  Innovations Leader

country:  United Kingdom

area of interest:  early stage ideas management

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