Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Long-Tail of Idea Generation

TeamTrack is used by companies around the world in a myriad of different ways. In fact Serena knows of over 600 different applications that have been created using TeamTrack and they estimate that there are hundreds if not thousands more that they do not know about.
In this series of articles we will look in detail at some of the applications that Client Solutions has delivered to customers in Ireland using Serena TeamTrack.

The Idea Forum Application
An article entitled ‘Big Results from Small Ideas’ by Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder looks at the impact of idea generation schemes in companies. They examined over 150 companies in 17 countries and surprisingly found, that the companies that did best were those that implemented lots of small ideas rather than a few big ones. They said,

“We compared the best idea systems in the world--those implementing 20, 50 and even 100 ideas per employee per year--with medium- and low-performing systems. The purpose was to document what works to promote idea generation, what doesn't, and why. One of the most surprising findings of the ‘Ideas Are Free’ study was how high-performing companies focused on small ideas while low-performing companies tended to go after big ones.”

What we are talking about here is the long-tail of idea generation. It is better to focus on lots of small ideas than a couple of big ones. The value of all those small ideas combined together far exceeds the value of a few big ones. In the graph below, we can see that the combined value of the ‘big’ (green) ideas is less than the combined value of the ‘small’ (blue) ideas.

The difficulty with any long tail however, is that the amount of effort expended in gathering and evaluating each idea in the long-tail can outweigh the benefit to be derived from implementing them. That is why you need to automate the process.

Client Solution’s Idea Forum application allows employees throughout an organisation to submit innovative ideas that are then peer reviewed. The top ideas each month or quarter are escalated to management who will consider them for implementation.

The main advantage of this application is that it captures valuable innovative and creative suggestions throughout the organisation. By exposing them to other employees for consideration, the organisation ensures that the best ideas bubble to the top and are improved upon by a forum type discussion. The result is that creative energy is generated by all the ideas and comments on ideas, bouncing off each other.

One good idea can be more than enough to pay for the application and by giving those who are closest to your products or services a voice; who knows what other innovative opportunities can be harvested.

How does it work?

1. An idea is submitted into TeamTrack through a website on the company intranet
2. The author of the idea may take a few days to fine tune the details of the idea and attach images and various bits of documentation to it
3. When the author is ready to have it peer reviewed, she clicks the ‘Send for Peer Review’ button.
4. Users who have ‘peer review’ privileges, can browse the list of ideas that are available for review. They can click into an idea, read the associated documentation, add their own comments and then give the idea a rating.
5. The ideas with the highest average rating or number of reviews bubble to the top.
6. A manager moves all ideas out of the peer review state every quarter and the top ideas are put before management for consideration. The authors of the top rated ideas are rewarded in some way, usually by giving them a percentage of the savings or profit resulting from the idea being implemented.

If you would like to discuss implementing the Idea Forum application in your organisation then please get in touch.

In future articles I will be looking at some other Client Solutions applications developed in TeamTrack that Irish companies are capitalising on.

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