Even during the recession, the interest in innovation remained steady. I was somewhat surprised at this since so often an economic downturn makes companies risk averse. Instead, what we saw was a continuous stream of organizations that want to amplify their R&D efforts using insight from their own employees as well as business partners, customers and prospects. The entrepreneurial spirit was spurred on by the many organizations such as Nokia and Aflac that joined the ranks of leaders like Starbucks and Dell, whose crowdsourcing campaigns are well-known.
So why shouldn’t every organization create an ‘always on’ open suggestion box so employees can submit their ideas any time they come to mind?
Well let’s see why not.
During a recent conversation with a CIO who had been bitten by the innovation bug, it was clear that the desire to have a positive impact on business performance was there. The CIO was looking for clever ways technology could make the company more efficient and sourcing innovation sounded like a worthy place to start.
Unfortunately, when I asked key questions such as:
- What specific problems are you trying to solve?
- What kind of ideas do you want to source (product, service, business model, other)?
- Who will champion the campaigns?
- How will the ideas be evaluated and selected?
- Who will be responsible for taking the selected ideas to the next level and reporting on the results?
It was clear that no thought had been given to these important dimensions of a successful innovation program.
Okay, so this organization is better off saving its money and doing nothing. It doesn’t matter which innovation management tool it selects, or develops from scratch. The interest in innovation will be short-lived because the management and governance issues of innovation have not been addressed.
So resist the allure of the always on, open suggestion box until you have a plan.