10 Epic Idea Management #Fails


  1. You install a tool and imagine your work is done. Actually, the work is just starting, because getting a working community built is actually really hard. Noone, but noone, shows up because you have a cool tool. On the other hand, they’ll come if their colleagues are already participating. Hard, hard work is the only way to solve this particular chicken and egg problem
  2. You declare success because you’ve got lots of ideas. Getting the ideas is one thing, but doing something with them is something else. Doing something usually has nothing to do with a tool, no matter what the features of the tool are. Turning ideas into action is a sales activity, an influencing activity, and a leadership activity. Nothing there can be delegated to technology, no matter how smart.
  3. You implement a suggestion box on steroids. Nice that you have some staff engagement, but if the end point is still decisions made in hierarchical fashion, you’ll never scale to any degree that will make ideas management material to the overall organization. Also, your staff will give up because they can never get any decisions made in a timely fashion.
  4. You manage by tool-centric metrics. How many ideas got submitted? How many people are using the tool? How many times did they log in? All very nice if what you want to report is how good your implementation of the tool is. There are other, better, metrics that work if you want to demonstrate the difference you’re making.
  5. You set yourself up as supreme executive authority on what will and won’t happen. Or you let someone else have that role. Either way, at best you’re going to miss insights that may not be “appropriate” according to your particular world view (but which are probably useful anyway). At worst, you’ll kill your community. Noone likes to be told what to do.

Clearworks - Customers, Connections, Clarity

  1. You imagine you’ll get results with some kind of rewards program. You then start paying for ideas rather than outcomes. Instead, ask people to work if they want a reward: tossing an idea over the fence for someone else to implement is not work. Oh, by the way, money is less an incentive than you’d expect, especially if you don’t have much of it to give out.
  2. You think that altruism or intrinsic motivation, or whatever other behavioral dynamic you have in your organization is enough to drive the outcomes you want. Unfortunately, most people’s day jobs aren’t innovation. They’re going the extra mile. Make it fun to do so if you want them to keep coming back. You need to implement a spoonful of sugar effect.
  3. To deal with political realities, you have “experts” or “budget holders” or other decision makers involved early.  You then reason that any resulting log-jam is an unavoidable consequence of having too many ideas. A better approach is to delay any evaluation-by-expert thing in your tool for as long as possible. Experts and decision makers are valuable commodities, and you’re asking them for a favor. So use other mechanisms to weed out as many ideas as possible before you wear out your invitation with them. Don’t bother them until you have something almost certain to go ahead. Especially don’t bother them to tell you that an idea you already know is dumb, is actually dumb.
  4. You get executive support and think success is assured. Executive support is all very nice, and I know that everyone always says having it is a critical success factor. No matter what executives say, however, their time is limited. Don’t rely on them. Instead configure your operation to work without executive support. Then, anything you get from executives is a bonus.
  5. You’ve set yourself up as the guy that’s going to bring forth the “next big idea”, or the “next golden nugget” or the “next billion dollar business”. Stop, because most such ideas, genius or not, aren’t all that realistic. Settle for stuff that can actually get done. There’s no shame in doing stuff that doesn’t change the world.

James Gardner




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