Managing Ideas and Innovation with Workflow Automation
By Mike Raia Posted September 4, 2019
Whether you're a manufacturer trying to innovate with new products or a marketing department trying to come up with the next killer campaign, managing innovative ideas without a consistent, reliable system can be frustrating at best.
Innovating with Automation
Personally, I have a variety of methods for managing ideas from Google Keep to Trello to AquaNotes, a waterproof shower note pad. However, an organization managing a constant flow of ideas from hundreds or thousands of dispersed employees need something more complex and scalable to ensure no good idea goes to waste.
- Idea forms can be developed to ensure the capture of all an idea's critical elements (description, budget, Expected ROI, resources needed, etc.).
- Submitted ideas can be easily routed to the appropriate gatekeeper or reviewer based on relevance.
- Documents, images, comments, and discussions can be added to the idea as it moves through the review process.
- The idea submitter can watch (and receive alerts) with confidence as their idea moves through the process, knowing they're being heard.
- A complete record is kept of all the twists and turns an idea takes as it works its way toward approval or rejection.
Example of Idea Management Processes
For instance, when an employee has a suggestion for a new product, they complete a suggestion form. Other staff can then offer feedback and move the suggestion forward to development if it turns out to be a novel solution. Each step, from product marketing to research is then choreographed by Integrify to get the idea to the final step, development, and testing. At that point, the idea enters into another process for Product Development.
Without a consistent system in place, like at Exacto, great ideas can be lost and employees can feel much less inclined to put the effort into coming up with new ideas.
Tips for Building an Idea Management Workflow
Depending on the nature of the ideas being submitted, the workflow should scale appropriately. For instance, another customer of ours in the nutritional product space has a workflow for new products that spans many months, multiple departments, external regulators, large research teams, and manufacturing. The workflow interacts with multiple external systems like SAP and PlanView and took months to build and deploy.
In other use cases, a company may simply need to build a three-step process for submitting employee ideas for internal improvements.
Either way, here are some tips to consider when planning and building an idea management workflow:
Use Group Approvers
By using group approvals you can build a consensus for an idea. You can require a certain number of a pool of reviewers to sign off before the idea can move to the next phase. This can ensure there is a majority opinion.
Keep the Idea Submitter in the Loop
Send the submitter automated alerts that their idea has moved forward or been rejected. This keeps the process transparent and helps the submitter feel like they're being heard.
Include "why" an idea was not used. Don't simply send a message that an idea has been rejected. Include the actual reasons (put kindly) why, which could be based on cost, potential risks, mismatch with corporate goals, duplicative efforts, etc. These can be put in a dropdown list for the reviewer but still include a personal message and explanation.
Get More Information
Allow an option for the reviewer to send back the idea for further work by the submitter. An idea might be close, but not quite there. Give the submitter a chance to rethink or clarify their idea. The reviewer may simply need more detail or information.
Catch, Don't Release
Consider a "Holding" status for ideas that have merit but are not feasible currently. This could be due to market conditions, pending resources, future plans, etc. However, don't use it as an alternative to rejecting ideas that are simply not going to work.
Use a Gatekeeper
You may consider a "gatekeeper" role that evaluates each idea before it continues beyond the initial submission. This can reduce the impact on resources who have limited time to devote to idea review and ensure valid ideas get proper attention.
In our knowledge economy, ideas are the most valuable product we produce. With workflow automation, you can ensure your company is making the most of this valuable resource.