Thursday, November 03, 2005

Idea Killing System

Speaking with a large corporate customer early last week, we met with the innovation champion and the CIO. As with any large organization, the innovation champion is excited by the number, breadth and depth of ideas floating around in his organization. He's trying to harness those ideas and convert them into new products, new services, new business models.

The CIO on the other hand is skeptical. He thinks all the ideas floating around are bothersome. What does he want? Not a system to improve idea management - he wants an "idea killing system". And in some respects I think he's right.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that a sales pipeline can be a rough model for an idea pipeline. In most businesses, 100 contacts are made for 10 meetings to close one deal. Of course it's not nearly that "clean" and precise, but you get the point - a lot of conversations and contacts have to be made to close a deal. In the same manner, lots of ideas have to be generated and evaluated to create one new product or service. This is because we don't have perfect information at the start, and as we work with ideas new information comes to light to discredit many of those ideas.

What the CIO wants is a way to move from 100 ideas generating one new product or service to a situation where it takes only 10 ideas to generate one new product or service. The other 90 ideas are not necessarily wrong or invalid, but there are limiting factors and those need to be identified quickly so more time is spent on the ideas which can have a near term impact.

What's needed is a method to capture all the ideas and work them in a framework so the best ideas can "bubble up" and receive more attention and funding. The remaining ideas will be retained and consistently evaluated, since the limiting factors may be issues like market conditions or technology hurdles which will change in time.

Hopefully, we'll give him an idea killing system, just one dressed in the clothes of a system intended to capture, manage and evaluate ideas more effectively.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 7:23 AM

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