Category Archives: Idea Management

Managing the Creative Process

Managing the creative process is daunting.  When enveloped by an organization, the organization knowingly and unknowingly forces constraints upon the process.  They look at the financial, market and manufacturing feasibility of ideas and ignore the ones that don’t fit into the model.  On one hand this is necessary.  Management is tasked with building wealth and creating profits.  Ideas that don’t match those strategic goals have to be eliminated.

The problem arises because creativity and profitability are not related.  It’s impossible to design a business process that yields a high percentage of quality innovations because high quality innovation is a lower percentage reality.  Psychologist Dean Simonton said it best when he wrote, “Quality is a probabilistic function of quantity.”

You get a few high quality innovations because you create many, many innovations.  An example of this is highlighted by Keith Richards (I hope everyone knows he was in the Rolling Stones) in his memoir,  about the origins of the song “Brown Sugar”:

I watched Mick write the lyrics. . . . He wrote it down as fast as he could move his hand. I’d never seen anything like it. He had one of those yellow legal pads, and he’d write a verse a page, just write a verse and then turn the page, and when he had three pages filled, they started to cut it. It was amazing. It’s unbelievable how prolific he was.

Eventually, Richards came to understand that one of the hardest and most crucial parts of his job was to “turn the f**king tap off,” to rein in Mick Jagger’s incredible creative energy.
This same creative energy was witnessed before in the likes of Einstein, Bach, Edison and others.  From purely a percentage viewpoint, they all created more “junk” than they did “good ideas”, but compared to others, they created more higher quality innovations.  What this causes for the organization is lots of spurious stuff to look through.  Processes need to be designed to allow creativity to be unfettered.

One way of getting unfettered creativity and meeting the goals of the organization is to use Challenges.  Challenges focus innovation in the areas that are most interesting to the organization while allowing for creativity.  The Challenge is simply to address the issue with a solution, there is no constraint on the solution.  This is a midpoint in the creative process with each side getting a little of what they want and need.

Deliver Innovation Overnight

Learn how the Dutch company, PAT Learning Systems, uses short, timed events to achieve innovation, a concept completely embodied in our Flagpole software system. This methodology, illustrated in my book, helps eliminate some of the human aspects of innovation, namely procrastination, while enhancing competition and socialization.

Link: Click here for article

7 Rules for Improving Innovation: #3 Better Planning

Better Planning.

Many great ideas will cost money to implement, but not as much as you would think. Spend your money and resources in the right ways. Provide your employees with a meaningful, exciting environment and innovation will explode.

Better yet, hire innovative people and give them the power andfinancial backingto make things happen. For instance, an executive we spoke with told us about his company’s failings when it came to planning for and implementing new innovations. All across the organization, there was never ashortage of ideas being offered, and employees interacted and collaborated freely to come up withsolutions to major issues. A team was even put together to review and vet the best ideas.

But when it came to implementing thechosensuggestions for new projects, that’s where the company completely dropped the ball. Itquickly became apparent that some of these new programs were going to take resources, time, people, and cost actual money. Some required the hiring or redirecting of staff, earmarking time to do research and testing, purchasing or upgrading of new equipment, investing in new partners, and so on. The company was ill-prepared and most of their new programs fell short, or never even got off the ground.

Maybe your organization could learn from this mistake and plan out not only the process of innovation, but what you’ll do with the projects and programs you decide to launch out of yourinnovationprocess. Youalready allocate a certain amount of money for marketing, capital purchases, hiring new employees,and R&D, to name a few. Innovation cuts across all these areas. Take a small portion of these budgets and earmark them to only beused for innovativenewprograms in these areas each year.

7 Rules for Improving Innovation: #2 Sharing Information

Sharing Information.

In order to innovate, information must flow freely and be readily accessible to employees and, in some cases, outside participants. First off, create a space, whether virtual or physical, where people can “get together” and share what they’re working on, project info, notes,etc.

While giving utmost respect tosecurity and intellectual property procedures, there are still lots of waysthatyour company can improve opennessbymakingknowledge bases anddocument directories open to everyonefor whom sharing is appropriate. (Note: We understandthere arecertainly groups for whom sharing sensitive details and data arenot areasonable request, and that’s perfectly understandable.)

The general population of yourcompany should know whattheir counterparts in other departments areworking on. More often than not,people are siloed and don’t know how to find info about projects that are going on elsewhere in thecompany. What you end up withis a lot of wasted research, duplicated effort, and disparate groups pursuingprojectsthat have alreadybeen implemented, or worse yet, have been proven to fail.

In addition to creatingthat “shared space”, there are innovation and idea tools that can track and archive ideas, suggestions, and projects. These are not only useful in real time to help you select the right initiatives, but you can also go back andmine themprior to launching projects to see if something similar has been suggested orattempted in the past.

Encourage collaboration by scheduling set times during the year when workers present their work to their coworkers. Better yet, integrate the use of collaboration and project tools into the culture of your company so people canaccess that informationas part of every day life,not just justmonthly or quarterly.

Customer-Centric Innovation: Challenge Yourself!

There’s no lack of opportunitiesfor businesses to “create” – creating new products or service offerings,creating new marketsto pursue, creating new advertising,and so on. But “creation” doesn’t always mean you’re innovating. The difference between creating and true business innovation is that the latterinvolves taking a serious, hard look at the needs of your customers and doing only that which you know will change the game for them and for your business.

For this reason, you only wantthe innovations that aregoing tobe meaningful to your customers andprofitable to you -two things that are not typically mutually exclusive.Creative endeavors are a crucial piece of this model,butif it doesn’t make a measurable impact on some aspect of your business and drive you to get more customers, then why do it?

Customer-centric innovation begins withexamining every point at which you interact with customers (current, repeat,and prospective) and asking yourself this set of questions:What are the barriers that stand in the way of how this person or businessbecomes our customer,obtains our product, etc.? What can I do to eliminate that barrier and make it easier for them? How can I do this in such a way as to remain true to my business’ core values, and stayfocused on our critical essentials? How can I do this with thefewestcomplications (a.k.a.keep it simple)? How can Ido itbetter thanany of my competitors? When you can answer all of these questions, you’re firing on all 8 innovation cylinders.

These things goMUCHdeeper than “let’s create ournext big product because our customer is asking for it.”Take the time to look at things like: pricing, delivery methods, your suppliers, materials costs, systems in use, inventorization, materials, your investors, your accounting,your sales methods, your marketing team,and everything else you can possibly think of. If it seems like too muchwork, just remember:this iswhat your competitors are already doing. You’ll quicklyfind ways to improve quality in all of theseareas, and these improvementswill aggregate to impact how your customer becomes yourcustomer, and how you keep them as your customer.

Assign people in all of these areasto create “challenges” for their teams on how to improve something in their department. These can be as simple as “How can we improve ourpurchasing practices?”, “Has anyone seen a better system that we can use for billing?” or “How can we save money on shipping?”, “How can we fill orders faster”,and so on.

Allow their teams to answer the challenges with ideas and suggestions. Take time to encourage these folks to vote and comment onideas received. Make sure to follow throughimplementing the best ones, andreward folks for sharingthem. After all, the best solutions and improvements will invariably come from thepeople who deal with the issues you’re trying to solve on a daily basis.

The key is asking the right group with the right expertise to answer your challenge. The possibilities for “challenges” are limitless, just likethe areas for improvement ina company.

Some of the innovations that you find and implement using challenges may impact your customers or improve their experience in ways they will never even know about,and that’s just fine! Let them just be thrilled to be your customer andwonder how you do what you do so well!

Flagpole is an inexpensive, easy-to-deploy application built around the above-described challenge model. You can use it to query your employees, partners, even customers out in the marketplace to find focused, impactful ideas and innovations to implement.

The cost of NOT innovating

Recently, a medium-sized company shared a story in which they neglected to patent their flagship new technology. Within a year of its release, two (much larger) competitors introduced similar products which now dominate what’s become a $300 Million market.

When contemplating a new strategy for Innovation and IP Management, the first question many executives ask is “what is the cost?” But visionary decision makers at highly successful organizations know that’s simply the wrong question.

The correct question is “how much does NOT capturing and safeguarding innovative ideas and products cost our company each year?”

Without the proper Innovation and IP strategy in place, you’re operating at a competitive disadvantage.  That disadvantage rears its ugly head as competitors commercialize your ideas, improve upon your concepts, and even hire away your employees, along with valuable knowledge and trade secrets.

For over a decade, MindMatters and Flagpole have helped companies like Sony, 3M, and Johnson & Johnson to capitalize on their own brilliance with a proven end-to-end strategy for Innovation and Intellectual Property Management.  We are the Enterprise Innovation experts and we’d like to make your organization more competitive.  For a limited time, we are offering a free survey to help you assess your level of Innovation effectiveness.  You can access the survey at: or visit our links to learn more about Innovation Management solutions.

“Green” is Just Another Color of Innovation!

We posted a blog and press release last week abouta great new initiative for Earth Day. Flagpole wants tohelp companies become more “green” and “sustainable” by offering ourinnovation software. Theprogram was designed to assist companies that are not currently collecting ideas for Greeninitiatives and projects toquickly implement a solution forgathering suggestions in this area. Weknew that by applying the principles of Open Innovation, companies would find a lot of great ideas for improvement.

The reponse has been great and Flagpole has now implemented such “GreenIdea Challenge” sites for some of our existing customers, as well as some brand new organizations that we’ve never worked with before. We’ll be running our contests and “Green Idea Drives” through Earth Day, and somehave even chosen to extend the program indefinitely.We couldn’t be more thrilled to be helping companies honor Earth Day by becomingmore sustainable.

We look ahead and see another great opportunity for a similar event in the very near future -World Environment Day on June 5. Sanctioned by the United Nations’ Environment Programme, WED is a Global Effort to raise awareness,jumpstart local programs, and motivate folks towards a commonGreen goal. As Pittsburghers ourselves, MindMatters isproudthatourcity has been chosen as 2010’s North American Host City and we’ll beputting a lot of effort into special eventstohonor thisimportant day. More on all that later!

In the mean time, we would like to congratulate the companies that are taking part in our Earth Day initiative. We’re seeing some great Green ideas come in from all over the World and we honestly hope that success continues way beyond Earth Day!

Ben Franklin: Father of Collaborative Problem Solving?

In some of the most successful companies today, Innovation is constantly being pushed forwardby collaborative groups. Whether formally organized or not,teamslike thisuse a variety of tools available to share knowledge in a non-hierachical fashion.

You mightcall them ‘Communities of Practice’ or even’Innovation Committees’ at your company, but their function is to meet regularly toopenly discuss topics and information germane to their business. The goal is to solve problems through communication andto promote new ideas among the members.

Long before companies recognized and formalized any modern approach to innovation, one American forefather created what is recognized as thevery first collaborative group.Benjamin Franklin organized a group called Junto in Philadelphia which consisted of selected people fromdiverse backgrounds and varying occupations. Theymet regularly, usually in a tavern, tohave discussions and try to solve the political issues of the day. Franklinfelt that a braintrust of people with different perspectives would solve moreproblems fasterthan any lone individualever could. The small,dynamic clubdiscussed anything from philosophical questionsto community problems, political issues, and business affairs.

Franklin’sJunto obviously didn’t have coolweb 2.0tools oremailto faciliate the sharing of knowledge. They did their thinginan open forum that met weekly and listened to eachother speakabout mutually agreed-upontopics. The key to theirproductivity was strong organizationand a feeling of equity among its participants. Theyfollowed a formal order at meetings in which everyone hadthefloorto sharethoughts in a respectful environment. Does your company do this for it’s employees?

Imagine what you could do with a similar model using the tools available today.That’s what Flagpole’s ( about!

You can easily implement a simple, standardized process forsharingideas and knowledgewithin your organization. Your “Discussion Topics” will become the”Challenges” that you share outwardly. Your”JuntoMembers” areyour employeesorcoworkers, whowill share their unique perspectives to help you build on ideas and solve problems.

Build Your Own Innovation Factory

When it comes to keeping innnovation and creativity moving in your organization, we can all learn athing or two fromhistory’sgreatest inventor, Thomas Edison. While everyday corporate innovation usually doesn’t entail coming up with new inventions on a regular basis, one can easily draw a few parallels between the prolific inventor’s companyand your own business.

Arguably, Edison’s greatest innovation was perhaps not any single invention, but his own laboratory in Menlo Park, NJ. Edison set up an “Innovation Factory” of sorts , which demonstrated that anyone could produce a promising stream of innovations and ideas, if organized and executed correctly.

First he built a process for keeping himself and his workers on track. He created goals that stated that his shopwould produce “a minor innvention every 10 days and a major breakthrough every 6 months.”

You could do the same with your business innovations by setting realistic goalsfor the number and quality of ideas you want to find . Then,implementa tool to help you deliver onit: Issuechallenges to your “workers”to drive a constant, but focused flow of ideas through your “factory.”

Another hallmark of Edison’s constant innovation cycle was the fact that he reused (and sometimes re-purposed) good ideas and proven smaller inventions over and over. His phonograph used wiring that he created for telegraphs and an electric motor design that his shophad usedin several previous inventions.Good old Thomas wasn’t afraidto blend a few small,already tested elements to create a larger breakthrough concept.

Your organization could do exactly the same thing. By “warehousing” and regularlyrevisiting “not-ready-for-primetime” ideas that you capture along the way, you’ll begin to identify opportunitiesfor combining two, or maybe several, ideasinto larger projects like a breakthrough product or huge time saver.

You don’t need to build a laboratory in New Jersey,though. You can create your very own “Innovation Factory” right now withFlagpole ( Just set it up,publish your own business challenges, and let your innovators get busy solving problems, submittingideas, and collaborating rightaway.

Soon you’llbe meeting your goals of constant innovation. Thomas would be so proud!

Invite Others to Solve Your Problems

Up until recently, the standard formula for most companies to innovate probably consisted of a closed-loop, if not clandestine, team of individuals to brainstorm and develop ideas. While some great projects will undoubtedly come out ofthis approach, the ‘innovation group’ can only do so much. That fact alone could become abarrier for a very large organization trying to solve a host of internal problems.

In the software arena, of course, there exists the movement of Open Source development. It’s powerful because it invites users themselves to get involved and to essentially become “co-producers” of the products they are consuming. The pride of ownership that comes from seeing the project as “your baby”, and watching it grow and develop, is fulfilling and inspires a sense of loyalty among participants. What if you could do that, in some respect, for your company and its products?

Although Open Source has never becomethe industry coup some may have predicted, the concept is a strong one that can beapplied tootherindustries: By letting outsiders get involved, youre able to pool the talents and unique experience of the best people you can reach, in addition to the specialists inyour ownInnovation Team or R&D group.

When companies open up the innovation process, great things start to happen. You increase the likelihood of finding the “good” ideas: the ones that are viable, core to your business, and will produce ROI. Now youre gathering input from folks that offer unique perspectives on your business maybe an approach to a problem that your usual suspects would never even think of. Finally, and no less importantly, youre spreading goodwill and increasing loyalty among the participants. Customers continue to buy from companies that understand their wants and needs, and employees need to know that their input is valuable.

Invite others to help solve your problems and contribute to yourproducts with Flagpole ( Flagpole is an easy-to-implement web tool for gathering ideas and feedback from your audience: employees, product users, partners, and suppliers. Flagpole guarantees that our product willprovide you a return on your investment (ROI), or we’ll refund your costs, 100%. We also offer a free versionso companies can get started immediately with absolutely no risk.