Managing Ideas with Stage Gate Processes
In the business space so many organizations struggle with how to take new ideas from their teams and turn them into actionable plans to benefit the organizations and their customers. Vendors are happy to claim to have the next great solution to the process of idea management, but I suggest these tools are not necessary if you take a simple series of steps to implement a stage gate process to handle receiving new ideas as well as evaluating them prior to developing an implementation plan.
Ideas happen anywhere. The best ones often happen at the least expected moments...and unfortunately are often lost just as quickly. If you're looking to gather those diamonds of wisdom and insight, the first stage gate in your process needs to be a way to capture those ideas.
This is a point where determining a good idea from a bad idea is irrelevant. Capture and move on. The question arises though, "don't I need some sort of ideation solution for this to be efficient?" Nope. If you've defined your stage gates properly, all that tool will do is restrict rather than encourage new ideas.
This is when the stage gates come into their own. Each idea needs to be evaluated on it's own merits, in comparison to other ideas, and to the greater strategic goals driving the organization. Some SGP (stage gate processes) count on voting, scoring, and gamification. All these methods have their value, but personally I have never seen one rise head and shoulders above the others.
Spending time with a good business process consultant or with your team as a whole can help you define the criteria ideas need to be evaluated upon in your organization. Whatever the process you define, test, test, and then test again. Nothing can kill an idea creation process faster than the people contributing to it losing faith.
This is the part most SGP fail to take into consideration. Once a person has submitted an idea, so often it disappears into the "black box" of ideas and they never hear anything back on their submission. What may be an extended evaluation process can come across as apathy towards new ideas without feedback on status and evaluation. Defining how you keep your idea creators as part of the idea process can make or break the life span of your solution.
There are a number of additional factors needing consideration in an idea processing solution, but take one thing as a rule right now: new ideas are the lifeblood of any successful organization. Whether innovative or evolutionary, without new ideas organizations will stagnate and fail. Find ways to make your organization a fertile place for new ideas.