Idea Management

It is well accepted that a continuous flow of ideas provides the antecedents for innovation within an organization (Majoro 1988), and in particular the development of new products (Kotler 1991). However, generating ideas

Npd Idea Funnelling

Implementation

Idea generation

Feasibility (idea evaluation)

Figure 12.4 Idea funneling process

Implementation

Idea generation

Feasibility (idea evaluation)

Figure 12.4 Idea funneling process alone will not lead to innovation. Once ideas are generated they must be captured, screened, evaluated and finally implemented (Wheelwright and Clark 1995). Figure 12.4 outlines a typical idea funnelling process within an organization.

Ideas emanate both from internal sources (departmental/functional areas) and external sources such as competitors, customers, industry associations, research institutes, universities, the Internet, etc. Many organizations do not usually appreciate the wealth of ideas that surround them. Many new product/service ideas usually come from customers. By trapping the 'voice of the customer', organizations can tap into a readily available source of new product/service ideas.

The ability to encourage and exploit internal and external ideas without initial judgement is a key driver of innovation (Majoro, 1988). An organization must have a mechanism to capture (bank) these ideas before they dissipate and disappear.

In Chapter 5, we described the knowledge and idea management process in a unique way using the semi-permeable membrane. An idea management process encourages the active generation and collection of ideas. These ideas are then shared within the organization, usually by electronic means, and developed further using creativity tools and techniques. The ideas are then evaluated using an appropriate tool. This may involve conducting a technical or market feasibility study. The idea is finally harvested and implemented as a new product, new process or organizational innovation. Progress is monitored using measures to determine the effectiveness of the idea.

The idea management process begins with individual inspiration and the tacit knowledge of the individual. Tacit knowledge has been defined as non-codified, intangible know-how that is acquired through the informal adoption of learned behaviour and procedures (Howells 1996). Polanyi (1961) describes tacit knowing as involving two kinds of awareness: the focal and subsidiary. While individuals may be focused on a particular object or process, they also possess a subsidiary awareness that is subliminal and marginal (Howells 1996). A discovery that involves focused awareness is usually termed synchronicity since the individual is actively seeking an idea or a solution to a problem (Ayan 1997). Tacit knowing also involves subsception, that is, learning without awareness and this is associated with serendipity. According to Jordan Ayan (1997) serendipity is defined as a random coincidence or accident that triggers an idea or concept when the individual is not actively seeking an idea i.e. without awareness of a problem or need.

Once the idea is generated, usually through a dynamic moment or illumination and is recorded, it becomes explicit or codified knowledge (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1994). The firm assimilates this knowledge through absorptive capacity (Cohen and Levinthal 1990).

Much of the essence of the innovation process is geared towards the economic benefit of product innovation. The internal process of bringing new ideas to fruition in product innovation is through new product development (NPD).

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