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Making Ideas Pay: How to avoid the pitfalls of a disconnected innovation process

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The organizations that will thrive even in times of global disruption are those that drive maximum return from their innovations. All too often, however, great ideas are prevented from turning into great business. So why does this happen and what can we do about it so that every organization has the opportunity to make every idea pay?

We turned to three of our key customers to establish where they had achieved success in deriving business value from their ideas.

Don’t let ideas get lost in the wider organization

One of the biggest problems in innovation is that good ideas are overlooked, and this is predominately because they’re not visible to the wider organization. With teams working remotely, the need for transparency and robust management practices within your innovation process must be thoroughly considered.

Haley & Aldrich, an innovative environmental and engineering consultancy, has over 750 field and office-based employees spread across the United States. They found that innovative ideas were often lost due to lack of processes needed to progress them. Melissa Dixon, Knowledge Manager at Haley 7 Aldrich explains that employees “were sharing ideas in pockets or trying innovative things on project-specific challenges, but without a system or platform, their ideas were lost to the wider organization”.

Their solution to this was H&A Ideas, their innovation management platform powered by edion365ideas. This tool gave them sight of all ideas within their organization and kept them aligned to their corporate strategy. Only five months after rolling out H&A Ideas, they identified and awarded an idea that could capture more than $1M of lost revenue each year.

Don’t ignore the importance of innovation culture

A culture of innovation is built when experimentation and creativity are encouraged and actively rewarded. Employees are empowered to contribute their ideas and drive change. Innovation culture thrives off clear communication and opportunities for development.

Haley & Aldrich already had a culture focused on innovation and investing in their people, but their existing process didn’t provide employees enough feedback regarding the progression of ideas. They identified the need to leverage technology to further embed their culture of innovation within the organization.

When using edison365ideas, employees felt like their ideas were being considered and had greater visibility of their progress. Through gamification, they could also reap the benefits of their actions, making innovation core to their workplace culture.

Don’t complicate the process

To gain return for your organization, the innovation process should be structured and repeatable. If the process is too complex or unwieldy, employees may feel discouraged to contribute. An unengaging and complicated innovation process can cause:

  • Good ideas to be overlooked
  • Ideas to remain undeveloped
  • Benefits to not be fully realized

Mechanical Engineering firm and leading supplier of Brazed Plate Heat Exchangers, SWEP, had previously used multiple tools for ideation and evaluation. Tomas Dahlberg, the organisation’s Innovation Manager, explained: “We previously evaluated and managed ideas with a wide array of tools that included Excel, SharePoint lists and SQL database solutions. But we really needed to consolidate and simplify the processes with a unified collaboration tool, which also had to be integrated with Office 365.”

They chose to use edison365ideas and edison365businesscase to simplify their innovation process. With these tools, they condensed their ways of working into structured, transparent and repeatable processes which could realize benefits for their organization.

Don’t forget to evaluate

Ideas by themselves only have a limited amount of value. It is the cost of implementing a project without examining its benefits that is often far greater. Without a structured and documented evaluation and justification process, resources can be wasted on projects that don’t offer the greatest return.

SWEP found that by combining edison365ideas and edison365businesscase, they could carry out the in-depth evaluation and justification process that they needed to make ideas pay. Tomas Dhalberg explained to us that SWEP use edison365ideas to ideate and for initial evaluation and development. Once an idea has been thoroughly investigated and approved for further evaluation, a business case is then created in edison365businesscase, in which its value to the external marketplace will be assessed. “The process flow in edison365ideas and edison365businesscase is very methodically and symmetrically structured, making it easy for us to efficiently manage both technological and product developments. Integration with Power BI also paves the way to produce status analyses and forecasts. These new solutions save us lots of time and money, since we can now eliminate bad ideas before they consume too much of our time and effort while getting great ideas out onto the market faster”.

Don’t launch and leave your solution

Many organizations start out with a brilliant launch plan for a new innovation tool, communicating the process, the how’s and the why’s, getting their employees engaged and excited. Once launch is over, they start to take a back seat, hoping that the process can sustain itself. This doesn't work. The platform needs to evolve, otherwise you’ll get this curve that starts with lots of engagement then gradually disappears.

Using edison365ideas to power their Innovation Lab, Kwintes, a leading Mental Health provider in the Netherlands, managed to keep employees engaged even after their lab was paused due to COVID-19. “We put the information onto the idea about what was going to happen with it, so that it still stays alive,” explained Sonja Brouwer, the organisation’s I&A/ICT Manager. Through its deliberate transparency, they kept employees engaged and excited about the progress of ideas, enabling the Innovation Lab to open back up for voting after its hiatus.

Don’t restrict creativity

While innovation is typically viewed by organizations as a top-down process with management setting the challenges and employees responding with their suggestions, giving employees the freedom to contribute ideas, democratizes the whole innovation process and enables good ideas to come from anywhere.

Kwintes made a deliberate choice to adopt bottom-up innovation in their lab. They recognised that their employees are the experts on what their clients need, interacting with them daily and might be aware of other challenges the organization is facing. Bottom-up innovation gives employees the opportunity to express these thoughts. They were initially worried about the results but found that employees really enjoyed having the ability to discuss other challenges they were facing.

Making ideas pay can take many forms from hard dollar incomes to the soft experience driven side of things. edison365 ensures that innovation is tracked and recorded end-to-end, so that however you measure the value of ideas you can realise their full potential.

TedAbout the Author: Tad Haas is Executive Vice President at edison365. As a passionate innovation and technology evangelist, experienced change agent and business builder, Tad works with some of the most innovative companies in the world, every day. Sharing how innovators are making a difference in manufacturing, engineering, financial services plus health and life sciences are some of the transformation stories he loves to tell. A long tenure at Microsoft, at the front end of innovation and project management software delivery, helped him see what it means to transform and deliver at scale.

He often speaks on topics ranging from “Art of the Possible…”, “Uncovering Your Innovators” or broad topics like Employee Engagement and IT Demand Management. As a 20+ year member of Project Management Institute (PMI) he always strives towards the full picture of Strategy > Ideation > Justification > Delivery and Outcomes. For fun he can be found on two wheels: motorcycle or bicycle and is constantly trying to improve his art and science around home roasting coffee.

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