Innovation Management's Dirty Little Secret

by Jake Shriar

Innovation Management's Dirty Little SecretI recently met a sales executive that has been in the innovation management industry for some time – in fact, for over nine years.

During that time, he has worked for six different vendors who have implemented their solutions at a variety of organizations. He told me that “the industry has a dirty little secret – not one of the solutions implemented by the various vendors (including the more recent vendors to the scene) he had worked with had activity beyond a two-year time horizon”; and more than half were moribund within a year from launch.

This kind of revelation would shock most people, but knowing what I know, it wasn’t really a surprise.

It is easy for any management team inexperienced in the process of Idea & Innovation Management to be seduced by the excitement of capturing ideas and voting them up – some mechanisms appear sexier than others, but in the end, they amount to elaborate popularity contests for ideas. They also tend to create a lot of activity, but little in the way of value, as they clutter traditional channels with under-developed ideas all needing attention at the same time; usually from sparse and rapidly overwhelmed resources.

The noise winds-up drowning-out the signal.

However, for those who take the trouble to peel away the second layer of process and beyond, begin to understand the down-line activities, actions and tasks essential for robust idea development in their organization; as well as the necessity for purposeful workflows (intended to be plural) that enable meaningful collaboration to engage the right resources (facilitators, experts, knowledge, date and capital to name a few), in the right measure and at the right time.

In the absence of process rigor and the proper supporting technology, the buzz doesn’t last and the engagement wanes. The organizational loses in more ways than just the costs associated with launching the ill-fated program; it also suffers opportunity costs for those ideas that never actualize/monetize, and it also loses the credibility of the communities it wanted to engage – make the next attempt at getting an innovation process right that much harder; people have memories – especially when things go sour.

Some companies never learn from this mistake and will go on to repeat the pain of an incomplete exercise by implementing a cookie-cutter solution developed for someone else’s need-set; those losses compound, making for outcomes that are incongruous with innovation goals.

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Jake ShriarJake Shriar is the VP of Marketing for BrainBank Inc. Prior to joining BrainBank, Jake was the Founder and CEO of Smart Guy Media, a social media marketing company.

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  1. I’m also not surprised. The innovation is part and parcel with continual improvement, change etc (see http://www.managing-creativity.com ) and there are real obstacles to their sustainability.

  2. Jake –

    You and I work for competing companies, but I will concur with you here:

    “begin to understand the down-line activities, actions and tasks essential for robust idea development in their organization; as well as the necessity for purposeful workflows (intended to be plural) that enable meaningful collaboration to engage the right resources (facilitators, experts, knowledge, date and capital to name a few), in the right measure and at the right time.”

    It’s one thing to source and identify promising ideas. But I liken the challenges of the next phase after that to be:
    > How do we decide which ideas to implement?
    > How do we get ideas in front of the right people?
    > How do we keep the innovation process moving forward?

    The recently released Spigit product, SpigitFusion (http://bit.ly/hyMpcI), was built to answer these issues. It provides structure without process rigidity, configurable evaluation methods, task management and evaluation tracking.

    We did this because ideas are unlike other types of social content. They change things. They answer pain points. The involve multiple departments. They need resources. There exist ways inside organizations, these complex ecosystems, to accomplish these needs. What was needed was a way for organizations to integrate their downstream processes into the evaluation phase for ideas.

    Hutch Carpenter
    VP of Product
    Spigit, Inc.

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