Introduction

To put is simply: you cannot achieve performance improvement without a constant pipeline of ideas dedicated to improvement. Ideas are what germinate improvement projects or new product innovations.

No ideas = no improvements.

Many companies do not take advantage of the creative resources that already exist within their reach. Many idea generation methods are done sporadically, with little guidance or guidelines for those ideas to be reviewed and put into action. Many ideas come up and subsequently disappear off the radar.

Overview

Innovation does not happen in a vacuum. Thus, companies need to set up a process of ideation creation that involves everyone at every level, employeess, vendors and even customers. These idea creation groups should have a thorough understanding of company objectives, strategic awareness of those objectives and be prepared to implement.

 

"< The benefits we've realized > is adoption of organization-wide application of performance improvement. This system allows scalability to grow and expand with the knowledge-base. Universal value add by all users deployed thus far in the system."
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Your Solutions-Driven Management

So how does a company go about nurturing their ideation pipeline in order to get results?

The company's dedication to this action starts from the top. If leadership is not on board, then ideation will take a back seat and good ideas will fall through the cracks. Leadership MUST be behind this initiative 100% in order for this process to succeed.

Leadership is on board, now what?

Establish what your company's strategic goals are. The better thought out these goals, the more accurately you can assess ideas as they come in. While it's tempting to take the low-hanging fruit ideas and implement, it is important to keep the overall company strategy in mind.

One way to discover better ideas is to have employees rank them (Via tumbs up or stars, just like your favorite social platform). An idea's popularity may be an indicator of relevancy and priorities. Using an employee ranking system can help a company nuture the GOOD ideas.

We've got the plan, now how do we incorporate these ideas?

Develop a process on how the company will receive these ideas and how project management and leadership will evaluate each idea. Ideally, these ideas will be evaluated and given priority based on how well they align with the strategic goals of the company. Involving everyone from management to finance, marketing, regulatory, etc to help analyze ideas early on can help bring forth any issues that might appear. Developing a well thought-out strategy will help ensure you are not only doing things right, but doing the right thing! A PPM software, like the COMPASS QMS, can help analyze all ideas based on company requirements - quickly ranking an idea based on other ideas already cataloged.

How do i keep this process going? How do i keep it focused?

This is where leadership training and improvement methods training can really help. Understanding what your priorities are and how to stick to them is vital to steering a successful idea to fruition. If your company does not have someone trained to keep your ideation on track, you can hire consultants to do it for you or train you to do it yourself. Ultimately, if your company culture encourages collaboration, challenges and improvement projects, your company is far more likely to succeed.

Process is in place. Where do we start?

The best ideas can come from the most unexpected places. Serendipity plays a role in some of the 20th centuries best ideas - think velcro and teflon. A company should not limit itself to just those hired to help with improvement process - it should include every employee in their business from the CEO and VPs to c-level execs to admin assistants to janitors. All ideas need to be logged and then vetted according to company guidelines and potential improvement results. A PPM software can help with tracking all ideas in your pipeline so that none of them get lost or disappear. A PPM software can "democratize" these ideas - remove them from the source, so to speak, so that they can be evaluated in relation to other ideas already presented.

Encourage all employees to explore options, consider how they do their jobs and what could make their jobs more efficient, more streamlined, save money and reduce waste. Get the entire company involved, get them excited and start seeing those ideas flow.

How do i keep employees motivated and engaged?

Most of these employees will have full time jobs they are already working hard to complete. Asking for their ideas and follow-through on top of an already busy schedule can be a challenge. It's important, though, to impress upon employees that ideation reinforces the health of the overall company. Leadership encouragement and support for ideation and balancing a regular work schedule to include new improvement projects must be addressed.

Where can I get more ideas?

Don't forget your customers! Customer ideas often drive new product development as well as offer great suggestions on what they would like to see in a product or service that could subsequently lead to an innovative or efficiency breakthrough. This makes perfect sense as the customer is most likely using the product/service routinely - requiring customer support, returning defective items, getting frustrated when their needs are not being met.

Use a PPM software to log in customer specific requests for tracking and future analysis. The PPM software will ensure viable ideas are not lost.

Should i approach my suppliers/vendors for ideas?

Vendors are doing what they can to keep your business. They are also looking for new opportunities, just like your company. Why not involve them in your ideation process? Challenge them to solve a problem you have and see what they come up with.

Summary

Ideation must be nurtured from the top down in any successful company. Ideas come from many sources, not just those who are hired to handle improvement projects. Making sure that this process has been democratized, so that all projects are considered fairly, that projects are evaluated based on overall strategic goals, and that employees are continuously encouraged to participate and engage in the improvement process, will help the company keep a competitive advantage. Tracking all ideas in a ppm software helps faciltate adaptation and integration with a company's overall strategic goals.