What is Idea Management? The Ultimate Guide

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Table of Contents

The What, Why, and How to unleash the power of ideas in your organization.

In most organizations, ideas flow organically. Some ideas are heard, some are discussed, yet many fall into the idea black hole. Leaders and managers continually fail to grasp the potential to transform their businesses and obtain tangible benefits from employee ideas.

Idea management is both synonymous and quintessential to unleashing the power of ideas in your organization.

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Strategically gathering ideas from your entire organization will drive results beyond annual planning sessions with an elite group of company leaders. Collecting ideas is not easy; we know this firsthand.

So do many of our clients who, like you, might have fallen short of developing a sustainable, continuous, business-impacting idea management strategy.

When we first started doing market research for Murmuratto, I asked myself the following question: Are ideas a joke?

My partner Yolanda is a life sciences manufacturing industry veteran with over 30 years of experience. Her work as a business leader and later as a consultant made her unyielding about the importance of ideas and, specifically, ideas generated by any and all employees.

We want to be emphatic. When we say all employees, we mean every person from the frontline to the C-Suite.

Yolanda knew that when you open a communication channel focused on improving your business, you build a runway for unrivaled improvements, innovations, and jaw-dropping business results.

Yolanda Lasalle

We put together this definite idea management guide to share what we know and inspire you to tap into the abundance of knowledge that exists within your organization today.

To answer my question: ideas are not a joke. However, managing them is not a walk in the park. Idea management is a top-down decision to pursue a bottom-up approach to build a better business and workplace.

What is Idea Management?

Idea management is a structured process to systematically collect, develop, implement, and recognize ideas that help businesses achieve and outperform their goals and address their challenges.

The complexity of idea management is almost directly proportional to the number of people and ideas going through your management process.

Idea Management Highlight

Identifying one great idea from 100 ideas submitted a year is not that hard.

Managing 100 ideas every month becomes more complex. And finally, identifying great ideas from a pool of thousands of ideas submitted by your entire organization requires a process, leadership, and proven frameworks and technology.

Brilliant ideas fall into idea black holes because they lack clear frameworks, systems, and tools. How do you manage your organization’s ideas?

One of the first questions we ask all our clients is: Do you collect and implement employee ideas? We typically get a “yes” or equivalent form of affirmation. We tend to do a follow-up question: How many ideas have your employees suggested and implemented in the past year?

Whenever we do not get a blank stare, the listing of ideas and successes does not exceed a handful of examples.

In today’s competitive and challenging world, we must focus on driving business results and quantifying how we invest our resources. That is why we ask these two questions.

Ideas have the potential to give you the competitive advantages you need and more. Furthermore, employee ideas solve challenges you have identified and help spot problems you have yet to discover.

Unlike data and third-party analysis, ideas carry stories, perspectives, and experiences from your team members and employees. You create a more equitable workplace by strategically tapping into their collective knowledge.

Employees have ideas, and it’s what you do with them matters. Tracking ideas is not only important, but it’s also foundational to your business’ success.

The long-term output of your idea strategy will exponentially increase when you take the time to put the right processes, systems, and tools in place.

The Benefits of Idea Management Processes

Did you know that up to 80% of business-changing ideas come from frontline workers? The secret is out: all employees can have disruptive ideas.

Idea Management-Ideas come from frontline workers.

For a company to thrive, it needs to be creative and innovative. It’s not enough to simply create a product or service that people need; you must go above and beyond by thinking about ways it can improve over time.

Despite any leader’s best intentions, it is impossible to know every detail of every process every hour of the day. That is why enabling all employees to contribute ideas and insights is important.

Ideas are quintessential to developing and sustaining a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

Beyond providing incredible ROIs, employee-led ideation strengthens the intrapreneurship mindset and fosters a meritocracy system within your organization.

Idea management processes are vital to transforming business opportunities into revenue and challenges into solutions.

Effectively managing your team’s ideas and insights will help you to create workflows and standards that empower employees, generate problem-solving strategies, boost innovation, increase employee engagement, and strengthen a continuous improvement culture.

To be an idea-driven organization, you need to have processes in place to enable and manage employee contributions. Even the greatest ideator will struggle to turn all his ideas into business benefits.

Besides helping to build a better business and getting results, we have identified five benefits of having a great idea management process.

1. Empowering employee

Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform at their best.

Forbes

Empowering your team makes them more likely to work together efficiently and effectively. And when people feel responsible for improving things at work, they’re more motivated and productive. The result? A boost in overall productivity.

To be successful, leaders throughout the organization must support idea and insight-gathering initiatives. Furthermore, they must provide the time and resources for those ideas to be heard and implemented.

The importance of empowering employees to generate ideas about how their work and workplace can improve is a given. However, companies must acknowledge that this is a two-way approach and requires a two-way commitment.

Leaders must communicate the strategy and processes designed to empower employees. You also need to incorporate the tools and frameworks so that your team can contribute to building a better organization.

Whether the ideas are small or large, empowering employees could be the most agile and cost-efficient strategy to create a continuous improvement, problem-solving, and innovation idea funnel.

2. Increasing employee engagement levels

Giving employees a voice and acknowledging their contributions will boost how employees at all organizational levels can engage with their jobs.

It’s precisely this opportunity to participate, to contribute toward something bigger, that excites employees and gets them engaged in their organization.

Events in the last decade have made employee engagement more complex. Using idea management software will allow you to provide transparency on how ideas are collected, evaluated, and implemented.

An idea management process will guarantee that employee ideas get evaluated. It will give employees closure once a decision on how to proceed with their contribution is made.

The beauty of well-made software is that it is easy to use and adopt. This allows every employee, regardless of their demographic group, interests, or performance and hierarchical rankings, to contribute and get recognized equitably.

Idea Management Highlight

69% of employees said they’d work harder if they were better appreciated. – HubSpot

3. Amplifies problem-solving and problem-identification

When employees are empowered to identify a problem, they can also be part of the solution.

Even though leaders are an important and key element of the equation, frontline workers have a unique perspective on everyday processes and tasks.

Why, then, do most idea management efforts and tools fall short of creating inclusive tools that provide accessibility and easily understood experiences?

Adjusting your idea and insight efforts to give all employees a voice will provide broader visibility to identify the areas of your organization that are not working or could be better.

A good idea management process allows leaders and employees to collaborate to find the root cause of any given problem.

A good management process does not necessarily replace data and analytics. It can coexist with your data and analytics to create synergies. Using data and insights, you can identify variability and trends linked to the idea or problem your team has helped to identify.

Using digital tools, you can complement that data to identify new problems. The benefit of digital solutions is that you can provide additional support to leaders.

Digital tools help to amplify the need for solutions on specific topics immediately. Instead of having a core team of leaders and problem solvers, you can engage everyone to participate.

Idea management systems can help you discover that another team within your organization has a similar problem. Better yet, idea management software might save you time and money by allowing them to share their solution with you!

4. Boosting innovation

Your next idea might be the next big idea. What if the next idea from your team is part of the next big idea? Opening specific channels to generate, collect, implement, and recognize brilliant ideas will revolutionize the way ideas exist in your organization.

One way the idea management process helps to innovate is by creating a workflow and continuous stream of ideas. The probability of disruptive innovation will increase as the number of ideas coming into the system increases.

Idea Management Highlight

Creating a process for managing ideas provides the structure to make ideation a habit.

The popular American comedian Jerry Seinfeld revealed his productivity secret for being a great comedian.

To be a great comedian, you need to write great jokes, and to write great jokes, you need to write every day.

If you apply the same discipline and principle to innovation-focused ideas, it is only a matter of time before you start to see a boost of innovation in your team, workplace, and organization.

With the right systems in place, ideas will boost innovation within your organization. An idea management system should be flexible and aimed at turning amazing ideas into business-impacting results.

5. Continuous improvement

Ideas build a bridge between where we are now and where we could be.

The future does not always have to be disruptive. For example, a chef who notices that if he cuts apples in a square manner, he can reduce waste and increase the number of pies he can bake. A simple improvement, right?

Multiply the cost of 10 apples a day- that’s the reduction in the number of apples he needs to buy every day with the new cutting method- and multiply it by 260 days. At $1 per apple, he is saving $2,600 a year through continuous improvement.

According to the global consulting firm McKinsey, continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve all elements of an organization. It rests on the belief that a steady stream of improvements, diligently executed, will have transformational results.

Ideas are the core of any innovation and continuous improvement process.

Setting up systems that allow for ideation has been key for companies such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Tesla, Google, and many more. One great example of both continuous improvement and innovation is the Swedish icon: IKEA.

IKEA is a Swedish company that sells furniture and household items. It has grown from just a few furniture stores in the 1950s to more than 427 locations today. Unbelievably, they did not open their first store in the United States until 2010.

Ingvar Kamprad and his grandfather founded the company in 1943 when they began selling matches to customers from their small farm in Sweden.

It was not until 1956 that they started selling furniture out of a truck, and they later opened their first store in Almhult, Sweden.

Today, the company has a global presence with stores spread across 49 countries worldwide. Like the other innovators we previously mentioned, IKEA has an idea culture with a strategic approach to ideation and idea implementation.

Idea-Driven Organizations

Ideas are the core of any innovation and continuous improvement process.

Setting up systems that allow for ideation has been key for companies such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Tesla, Google, and many more. One great example of both continuous improvement and innovation is the Swedish icon: IKEA.

IKEA is a Swedish company that sells furniture and household items. It has grown from just a few furniture stores in the 1950s to more than 427 locations today. It is incomprehensible to think they did not open their first store in the United States until 2010.

Ingvar Kamprad and his grandfather founded the company in 1943 when they began selling matches to customers from their small farm in Sweden.

It was not until 1956 that they started selling furniture out of a truck, and they later opened their first store in Almhult, Sweden.

Today, the company has a global presence with stores spread across 49 countries worldwide.

Like the other innovators we previously mentioned, IKEA has an idea culture with a strategic approach to ideation and idea implementation.

Ikea_idea_management_process_rules Murmuratto

The results have been phenomenal. With a process in place, the company proceeded to set up the pillars for its strategy.

Quick, continuous innovations that were implemented by their employees and ideators.

Just like IKEA, you could be an idea-driven organization. Ideas help create better products and experiences.

A strategic approach to ideation can increase your organization’s revenue, profitability, and product portfolio!

Idea Management Strategy

Don’t just focus on the next big idea.

If you do, you might lose out on hundreds of small competitive advantages that could result in greater gains than one big, disruptive idea.

In large organizations, you’re unlikely to find any idea that will completely transform the company overnight. It’s more likely that the best ideas are small, simple, and can be implemented quickly by a single person.

Idea Management Highlight

The “start small” strategy will allow you to score quick wins and build momentum for your ideation efforts.

I’m not saying that big ideas aren’t great! At Corning, for example, one employee figured out a way of galvanizing three glass sheets simultaneously rather than individually, reducing costs and increasing production capacity tenfold.

This was an amazing idea, but it didn’t stop there. The company then took that idea and applied it across a range of products. In short: Look for many great ideas instead of one amazing one.

By democratizing the company improvement process to give everyone, from frontline workers to executive management, visibility and immediate feedback on their proposals, you create a more engaging, innovative environment where every voice can be heard.

1. Start with the end in mind

Your idea strategy should yield results. If it does not, you might as well scrap it because it is not adding value to the business or employees. To achieve results, you need to set goals.

You will know if your goals are clear if your team members and employees can provide a clear response to at least one of these two questions:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What does your business need?

Your idea management strategy is a good occasion to merge idea-generation efforts with the opportunity to reinforce company values, strategy, and goals.

2. Don’t use a one-size fits all

Your idea management strategy must be compatible with your industry, geography, and organizational culture.

What worked for Google and Microsoft might not work for your fashion retailer. What works for ZARA might not work for your hospitality business.

Work with your leadership team to understand what continuous improvement and innovation efforts are in place.

Look to understand your industry and country of operation’s regulations and benchmarks. Understand cultural diversity and the pillars of your company’s culture.

With that in mind, you can tailor your idea management strategy and processes to achieve your desired needs and outcome.

3. Define your target contributors

We believe that all employees can and should be part of the idea-generation process, but maybe you are not convinced yet, and that’s ok.

Start with a pilot group of employees. Maybe your warehouse team or your customer service team.

Once you achieve results, we encourage you to keep expanding your pool of ideators.

Idea-centric organizations provide equal opportunity to all employees to engage in a fundamental aspect of the business: submitting ideas.

Idea Management Process

Ted Levitt depicts the importance of idea implementation in an article for the an article for the Harvard Business Review.

“Suppose you know two artists. One tells you an idea for a great painting, but he does not paint it. The other has the same idea and paints it. You could easily say the second man is a great creative artist. But could you say the same thing of the first man? Obviously not. He is a talker, not a painter.””

Ted Levitt

Sourcing and identifying great ideas will not transform your organization.

If you are not ready for innovation or to implement big ideas, start small. But when you start, begin with a clear strategy and a structured process.

A flexible yet tailored framework and software for managing ideas will give you consistency and scalability.

Capturing and implementing ideas only works when employees are engaged and committed to idea generation.

The truth is that most companies struggle with employee engagement when it comes down to internal ideation strategies.

Top executives are often plagued by questions such as: “How do we get our team involved?” or “How do we make sure our employees aren’t just throwing out random ideas without any real purpose?”

The solution isn’t as simple as saying, “Just let them do it!” because how do you know which ones will be effective?

Does your organization provide a psychologically safe space?

One of the most important cultural elements for a successful idea management process is having a psychologically safe space.

Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmonson describes psychological safety as a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

When I am engaged, I am a natural ideator – I can’t really help it. Even though it is in my nature, I have worked with people who caused me to restrain myself from sharing thoughts or ideas.

I am 100% certain you know folks like these.

I have even heard this type of businessperson say the cliché phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” out loud. These workplace bullies are typically experts at poking holes in everyone’s ideas but their own.

In my personal experience, I eventually accepted the sad truth that staying quiet was easier than trying to contribute to the company’s success.

Idea Management Highlight

Whatever your idea management process is, you need to create a psychologically safe environment where employees will not be punished for coming up with ideas- regardless of their quality.

That’s where culture comes into play—and what makes culture such an essential component for continuous improvement and innovation at work today

It’s important to understand that there is no such thing as a perfect idea. Having a psychologically safe space will allow you to gather more ideas. It will increase the probability of finding the idea you need for your company.

Steps to an Effective Idea Management Process

Ideas are not sacred—they are disposable and replaceable.

If an idea doesn’t work, no one should care because if they have a good strategy, they have more great ones waiting in the idea funnel!

This means that when people bring you their ideas, it shouldn’t be stressful for either party involved. You can’t expect every idea to be amazing, and you certainly can’t expect every idea to work out.

Our team of expert consultants has defined the steps to keep ideas flowing into, within, and from your organization.

Steps_to_an_Effective_Idea_Management_Process_Murmuratto

Recognizing and celebrating employees for their work and insights increases employees’ willingness to take on new initiatives, suggest ideas, provide feedback, and demonstrate accountability for their work.

How to Measure Idea Management Activities

Idea management can be a complex practice to measure.

Measuring idea-related activities and their impact is essential to ensure your company doesn’t waste time or money on a process that does not work or needs adjustments.

Hiring experienced consultants to help you craft your idea management process is a smart investment if it is your first time leading this transformational venture.

Although it is possible to start getting results immediately, you should know that, like most good things in life, your idea generation and implementation efforts can take time and will probably require fine-tuning.

Challenges to measuring idea management efforts

The challenge of measuring idea management efforts is that there is no single metric to measure it.

The metrics you use will depend on the type of ideas you are collecting, and the evaluation and implementation process you are following.

For example, if an organization is trying to ensure the best possible ideas are accepted by senior leadership, they should measure multiple KPIs that will lead them to their goal. Their KPIs should include:

  • Quantity of ideas submitted by employees
  • Quantity of ideas reviewed by Senior Leadership
  • Quantity of ideas approved by Senior Leadership

On the other hand, if a company wants its employees to feel engaged in their jobs and wants them to think about solving problems every day, it may be more critical to show employees the result of their contributions.

Sharing how many new solutions were created per employee per month and how many were approved at the end of each quarter or year might be better KPIs.

Regardless of your focus, there are three metrics we suggest you track:

  • Time spent gathering and evaluating ideas
  • Number of improvements implemented or innovations launched thanks to ideas
  • Number of problems solved thanks to ideas

At Murmuratto, we have had the opportunity to work with many engineers and numbers-focused leaders. One question we often get is, “How do we calculate the impact of idea management?”

We use multiple formulas, but one stands out from the rest: ROI.

What is your return on investment?

The return on investment (ROI) is the most common strategy to measure the success and impact of your idea management efforts. It is calculated by dividing the financial benefit or return by the cost.

The formula for calculating ROI is:

  • (Current Value of Investment-Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment] x 100 = ROI

Let’s use your local bakery as an example. Assume that the oven they use to make blueberry muffins can bake 30 muffins at once.

Each batch takes about 90 minutes to bake, and the shop is open from 8 AM to 1:30 PM. The bakery makes and sells every one of their 120 blueberry muffins at $2.50/piece.

Batch #Baking TimeQty. of Muffins Baked
1st Batch6:00 – 7:30 AM30 muffins
2nd Batch7:30 – 9:00 AM30 muffins
3rd Batch9:00 – 10:30 AM30 muffins
4th Batch10:30 – 12:00 PM30 muffins

Hannah, who works at the bakery, knows that many clients come to the bakery and are disappointed to find out that there are no muffins available. They are delicious and famous in their local community.

The muffins are so great people will wait 15-20 minutes if she tells them a new batch is about to come out. Hannah suggested that the bakery double its production.

After all, they have the materials and the personnel to do it. She suggested they buy a double oven.

The cost of the double oven is $1,500 USD. The cost of labor is fixed because increasing output capacity would not require additional employees.

For this example, we will only focus on the cost of the machine and the increase in sales.

Bakery example, adjusted formula:

  • Increase in revenue: $240/day * 365 days = $87,600
  • Cost of purchasing, installing, and operating the machine: $2,000 USD
  • ($87,600 – $2,000 / $2,000] = 4,280% Return on Investment in 1 year

Choosing the Best Idea Management Tool

Did you know that US companies collect 1/2 idea on average per person?

Said differently: you get one idea a year for every two people working in your organization. It gets grimmer: only a third of those ideas are implemented each year.

That is why we created Murmuratto. The software provides companies with a sustainable and effective way to create an idea-centric culture in their workplace.

Murmuratto was created for teams, businesses, and global organizations alike. Our workflow software allows you and your team to transform ideas into business-impacting results.

Murmuratto makes continuous improvement a company-wide effort every day.

Our idea management software could have been called innovation software because, technically, we are. We get scores of innovation-categorized ideas every month. However, we did not want companies to only focus on disruptive innovation.

Our experiences have taught us that when you empower employees to identify problems and solutions, they can help you achieve remarkable results.

Some of those results are big, some small, but collectively they produce results that make using Murmuratto a no-brainer.

Embracing diversity

It was important for our team to create software that embraced diversity of thought and was inclusive. We want every employee to contribute towards meeting an organization’s vision, mission, and goals.

The hardest worker-type to engage to submit ideas were frontline workers. We worked hard to create a user experience that was easy to understand and quick to implement.

That is why Murmuratto can be accessed from any web-enabled device and is available in Spanish and English.

As we implemented the software with our first clients, we realized that our inclusive software also functioned as an employee engagement strategy.

On one of our client’s campuses, a worker came up and told us: “I now know that my ideas will be heard.” This was very meaningful to us.

Idea Management Highlight

Inclusive means that employees like this frontline worker who has 15+ years of professional experience will be able to share their insights, observations, and ideas.

Sometimes great ideas are the simplest ones. Everyone can positively impact company performance.

With Murmuratto, you will be able to:

  • Align employee ideas with business strategy and needs. We focus employee creativity and knowledge on achieving company goals, solving problems, and innovating.
  • Submit ideas in just a few seconds. Our easy-to-use, idea, and innovation submittal process was designed for frontline workers and all types of employees. Submit ideas on the go.
  • Revise and approve ideas in one connected workflow. Put employees front and center by providing feedback for every submitted idea.
  • Track Idea Progress. Share status updates with employees, implementation leaders, and the managers overseeing the business unit or department the idea will benefit.
  • Document & Publish Results. Quantify results and implement successful ideas throughout your company. Acknowledge and reward employees for contributing to your company’s success.

Conclusion

Managers are responsible for leading, solving problems, and providing direction. To be successful, they need employee support and participation.

How much better could their work be if it incorporated employee knowledge and experiences?

What would it take for employees to submit at least one idea every month? How much better would your company be if ideas were continuously implemented? Improving operations is great, but new methodologies aren’t sustainable without enhancing company culture.

“Culture is created through consistent and authentic behaviors, not press releases or policy documents.” 23 Murmuratto helps you develop an idea-centric culture where employees have a voice and a channel to participate in innovation and continuous improvement.

Building a better business requires building a better workplace. Better workplaces are what people from all generations are now looking for.

Studies show that employees are looking at the benefits companies offer and considering the company’s values and development opportunities. During the pandemic, retaining top talent became a pressing issue.

20 Companies that only focused on compensation performed more poorly than those deploying a holistic approach to employee engagement and retention.

A Deloitte study shows that “Fifty-nine percent of employees said they would seriously consider taking a job with a company that offers better well-being benefits than their current employer. High employee well-being can make an organization more attractive to customers and investors”.

confirmed our hypothesis that a competitive employee salary is insufficient. One in five employees said they would be looking for new job opportunities in the following year.

People at all levels want to feel valued, included, and acknowledged. This means that our new workplaces will not only focus on becoming more agile to face new and existing challenges but will also put people first.

People are at the heart of ideas. Transforming ideas into business benefits wouldn’t be possible without creating a better workplace that promotes diversity and inclusion through participation and rewards and recognizes its members’ contributions.

Companies categorized as more inclusive perform up to 4x better than their counterparts.

Providing all employees with the same opportunity to contribute ideas will transform your organization. Implementing Murmuratto will revolutionize the way ideas exist in your organization.

Murmuratto transforms employee ideas into business benefits.

Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences on managing ideas in the workplace!

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