“Overfunding” your innovation program

Ideas are like currency ...

When it comes to idea management, finding the gold coin is never this easy.

Harvard University professor Clayton Christensen says in a recent Newsweek interview that startup companies’ first strategies are almost always wrong, and an overfunded startup can prolong those false assumptions because “the founders can assume that they’re right for quite a while before they start to need to depend on peoples’ willingness to pay.”

The same is true in idea management.

Look at ideas as currency, and an idea management platform as a bank. An in-house IT technician can build your bank, and guide everyone to it, and even show you exactly how to put your money into it. The trouble is, if you focus on generating lots of activity (a high number of deposits), rather than encouraging high value, you likely will end up with a huge mountain of nickels, when what you really want is quarters.

If a platform generates lots of content, it could fool itself into thinking it's a success (it's manufacturing more currency) without knowing if the ideas are pennies or gold coins (work smarter, not harder).

There’s also a metrics angle for the bank to consider. If the bank bases its value on the number of coins, rather than their value, it could claim an early victory … only to later realize (when challenged by leadership) that it's not generating value.  It’s only generating activity. Scooping up all the nickels can provide some value (top-line growth and bottom-line cost savings), but is the bank set up to repeat this?

You need a way to separate the coins. In idea management the right services and tools can help you focus on the right measurements, behaviors and outcomes: best practices refine the questions you ask and the type of ideas you generate, while review tools help separate the high-value ideas from the noise.

The idea management field has grown tremendously since Imaginatik started it in the 1990s. Many of today’s technology platforms provide one-size-fits-all approaches to pooling the brainpower of the enterprise to find innovative solutions to business problems. Like the startup with fresh venture capital in hand, these platforms can operate for a while on false assumptions of cultural behavior, adoption/engagement, and outcomes.

Innovation isn’t about filling a bank, reaching in and blindly pulling out a bunch of coins. It’s about opening your eyes and grasping the most valuable ones.

As I've been called out - The

As I've been called out - The topic has many parts but to keep it simple. You don't need a lot of content to be successful. I've seen initiatives where 6 ideas were collected from less than 0.1% of the community. Why so few? Simple - super hard innovation challenge. Only a few brains could answer it and only a few answers were possible to the challenge. That can and did equal success. I've seen it the other way too - thousands of ideas from over 80% of the community. That to is very successful. Very easy innovation challenge which requires lots of little ideas to make a big difference. Success isn't defined by these base metrics but the value behind what they generate. The best innovation initiatives, however, over time go after both ends of the spectrum.

And he's right too - as long

And he's right too - as long as you identify them as nickels and not just random coins - that's where the danger comes in. If a company values it's program based on how many coins (ideas) it collects, or even just its ability to collect coins(number of events run, collaboration rates, etc) - it's essentially doing itself a disservice as it bears no relation to what the point of an innovation program is: Driving new sources of value.

As such, to continue your analogy - you need to be more specific in the kind of coins that you're looking to collect in order to ensure you're picking up Euros/USD, and not Italian Lira (value=0).

Ultimately, you need to focus on what will add to your bank account, and direct your program to driving those kind of coins!



Ha - thanks, Boris. This post

Ha - thanks, Boris. This post stirred an internal debate as well, which is where the title came from - unfortunately, it was the other side of the debate, so I agree I could have done better upon further revision.

Matt Chapman says there's value in scooping up all the nickels - not leaving the gold coins behind necessarily, but when you add the small change together you get collaboration. At least, I think that was his point. Hopefully he'll reply and speak for himself. :-)

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