Collecting ideas is a fundamental part of any innovation program, and how you do it makes a big difference to the results you will see. Here are 5 things you should think about and ensure you have a well-defined ideation process:
1. Set a deadline
I know we want to collect ideas all the time, however, an open-ended ideation process will get forgotten about very quickly and is more of a suggestion box than a focused way to get input. Therefore set a deadline for ideas to be submitted, allow people to change their ideas before the date and be strict about stopping collecting ideas after the deadline. You will most likely get all the ideas in the final weeks of the process, don’t panic keep to your deadline (see my previous post).
2. Collect on a regular basis
If you are going to have a deadline the worst thing for people is not knowing when you are going to ask again for ideas. The best thing is set a regular cadence of idea collection, that can be once a year or every quarter but make sure you can process all the ideas you are getting based on your schedule.
3. Provide a topic or problem statement
I have run ideation challenges where there was an open topic and where it is very specific, every time I got better results when I defined a clear topic that was is linked to our business. The trick is getting the balance between focus and inclusion. Too much definition of the topic and you will lose good ideas, too wide a topic and select one idea over another will be very hard. Some of the best ideation sessions have a specific problem statement. When writing a problem statement think more about what you want to achieve and not how you will achieve it when writing a problem statement.
4. Keep the form filling to a minimum
I know forms can help you in filtering grouping and selecting entries but in many cases, the person providing the idea does not know how to classify their idea. As much as possible allow them to describe the idea in their own words, and if you can use video or audio to capture the idea even better.
5. Provide feedback while you collect
Don’t wait until the end date to provide feedback, it is likely you will have further rounds of refinement for the selected few but it is very easy to miss a great idea just because you did not fully understand it. So ask questions, suggest ways to clarify the idea and push for examples. Depending on the nature of the ideation process open it up for everybody else to ask questions as well so you don’t feel too overwhelmed.
No matter what tools you use to collect idea’s try to keep it fun and interactive and apply the rules above and you will increase the number of good ideas you get and reduce the number of dead ends later in the innovation process. Good luck idea hunting!