Emergent idea ecologies

The use of community oriented idea management systems has emerged as the primary means of managing useful ideas from customers, employees, competitors, and any other networked member. Where is this leading? Have a look at these attempts to deal with idea management by organizations:

Starbucks uses this: “We know you’ve got ideas – big ideas, little ideas, maybe even totally revolutionary ideas – and we want to hear them all.”

BMW’s Virtual Innovation Agency uses a context setting mechanism to attract ideas. “If you have innovative solutions for our complex challenges, then you are on the right road with us.”

Dell uses IdeaStorm to elicit ideas from the public. “Where your ideas reign.”

SalesForce.com has Idea Exchange and uses it to obtain ideas and allow customers to interact with other customers’ ideas.

Cisco has their Human Network initiative; “When technology meets humanity on the human network, the way we work changes. The way we live changes. Everything changes.” For me this is the move towards the Human Mash-up.

Coca Cola has a number of concepts to elicit ideas from the public by allowing people to design their own bottles and other seasonal events by using on-line tooling. Check the Bottle Mash-up concept.

Lego has “Creator” where members of the public can ask questions, design their own units and upload digital design ideas. It is a window into the design world of Lego.

3M’s “YourIdea” is one approach used to obtain ideas from the public. Command products has its own idea capturing environment.

Apple also has a number of approaches, but the Learning Interchange stands out as a great community based initiative. Ideas collected during teaching (well before and after is also needed) can result in great new products, business ideas and a number of other positive side effects.

Idea based Wiki’s are also emerging. IdeasGrande is a project to get creatives and practitioners from the advertising and marketing industry to share ideas through an unstructured wiki.

Internally oriented idea management systems (in contrast to the examples above) are challenged as they try to capture many different dimensions in getting new thoughts, concepts, proposed opportunities, etc into the every discourse of business execution. There are a number of companies selling these types of technologies; but most implementations are challenged. Some key issues with traditional Idea Management Systems:

1. It becomes an administration nightmare. The more enthusiastic the organization the bigger the problem. Hundreds of ideas and only a few people to check, review, approve and re-direct ideas.

2. Volumes of ideas that have nothing to do with the business or its current challenges.

3. Dependence on specifically skilled people and a review process that is overly controlling.

4. Little- or no- follow-through on ideas to the individuals that participated in capturing ideas; resulting in damaging any further idea generation campaigns.

So, if these are some of the problems experienced inside organizations, how successful are idea management systems that include a wider and more diverse community.