What Are You Doing to Mine Innovative Ideas?

Internal resources are the greatest source of new ideas and insights about how to improve your company in many areas.

The Top 5 Sources of New Ideas

According to one survey (1), the top sources for improvements and great ideas come from resources within the organization. Below are the top 5 sources for new ideas:

  • Internal resources
  • Peer-to-peer networking
  • Members in industry organizations or affinity groups
  • Industry trade publications
  • Websites

*Not only are internal resources the number one greatest source for new ideas, but the remaining items (#2-5) on the list also represent networking, reading or researching performed by the same internal resources who are engaged to further their individual business professionalism, knowledge and curiosity.

Intentional Capture of Ideas or More Haphazard?

If your approach is more haphazard, then you are missing out on the many benefits of engaging employees and capturing their ideas.

  • Opening up communication and forming internal communities.
  • Creating a freer-flow of ideas that can then be mashed together or recombined to create something new or a new perspective.
  • Learning about inefficiencies at a faster rate and identifying areas for improvement to more deeply investigate.
  • Seeing internal trends or bigger issues at a faster rate.
  • Consolidating or grouping of related issues or ideas.
  • Consolidating ideas to roll into future initiatives.
  • Providing a broader view of cross-organizational challenges or disconnects between end-to-end processes.
  • Motivating employees through a reward system based on new ideas submitted.
  • Allowing employees to discuss ideas, ask questions and share information.
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion.

Approaches for Capturing Great Ideas Across Your Organization

Approaches for gathering great ideas can range from the more complex and costly (could involve the purchase of software) to the simple and inexpensive (leverage existing tools). But either way, you will need strong processes for collection, for feedback and for spinning those great ideas into gold!

Below are just a few approaches at both the enterprise and individual level for harnessing the great ideas of your internal resources.

At the Enterprise Level:

  • Purchase additional social networking software (Socialtext.com) for intra-company and/or external customer or vendor use.
  • Create an intra-company tool.

For example, Accenture, a global consulting and technology services firm, uses an internal Knowledge Exchange to increase the number of employees engaged in collaborative activities

  • Use existing company internal tools like Microsoft’s SharePoint for gathering critical ideas and supporting documentation.
  • Leverage existing external social networking tools (Facebook, Linked or Twitter).

Many companies use these external internet forums to connect internal employees for brainstorming on topics, posing questions, communicating laterally, performing collaborative editing, blogs for the CEO or VPs to communicate to the organization or departments.

At the Individual Level: 

Great ideas come at any time throughout the day, not just when we schedule “think/strategy time” on our calendars. Individual need either an easy electronic way or even a paper-based way to collect their great ideas that occur throughout the day.

People should use whatever works for them, but outside of any Microsoft tool of choice, below are two other simple collection methods:

  • Go completely digital and have employees submit ideas to a cloud location.
  • Use a simple software tool, for example, “Scrivener” ($40 on Amazon), to allow individual employees to capture their great thinking in an easy tool in order to print, share or email for use at future meetings or in discussions with appropriate leaders.

Even one of the most prolific masters of brilliant and ideas, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group and a serial entrepreneur, says:

“If you have a thought but don’t “write” it down, by the next morning it may be gone forever. I’ve always carried notebooks and make daily lists, scribble ideas and jot down thoughts.”

No matter the method for collection, some strong operating principles and processes are needed to harvest the ideas.

Spinning Ideas Into Gold

Depending on the size of the organization, solutions and processes for capturing internal ideas will vary, but below are some basic principles for getting started.

  • This collection process must be supported by the CEO and highest level executives.

Committees can’t successfully accomplish such a pervasive company initiative nor allocate any investment dollars for resources and/or software that may be needed to do this right.

  • Aside from creating solid processes for collection, vetting, summarizing, providing feedback, incorporating and consolidating great ideas for future strategic planning, it is critical to determine an engagement and reward system for those that provide great ideas.

Some people will easily understand and contribute to this process whereas others will need a little help in generating or sharing their observations for improvement.

The Bottom Line:

Don’t miss the opportunity to leverage the greatest source of new ideas and insights about how to improve your company and ultimately to execute more excellently.

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