IDEA MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR
Postdoctoral researcher in Innovation Management at Aarhus University
● Innovation can be defined as “the generation and implementation of new ideas” (Van de
● Ideas as the starting point of any innovative effort (Bjork and Magnusson, 2010)
● Organizations need to generate a sustainable flow of ideas to feed the innovation process
WHERE DO GOOD IDEAS COME FROM?
● Open innovation: access to sources of innovation outside the traditional R&D
› Customers, suppliers, universities..
● Knowledge is unequally and widely distributed among individuals and firms
(Hayek 1945; Von Hippel 2005)
● The diffusion of IT and Internet has led to the emergence of various online
platforms and tools to access knowledge and ideas of widely distributed
● These online platforms enable access to the collective intelligence of distributed individuals:
› Share ideas with everyone
› Provide solutions to innovation challenges
› Collaborate with other people (create communities)
› Vote ideas
● Among these platforms, idea management systems have gained increasing importance
● Idea management systems as online platforms utilized by companies internally to collect and mature
ideas coming from distributed employees
› Exploit the creativity of all employees
WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
● Employees as a crucial source of innovation: most innovations still come from
● Organizations as knowledge-distributed systems (Tsoukas, 1996): a lot of diversity in
terms of knowledge and competences can be accessed internally
● Medium-large organizations: widely distributed employees working in different geographic
locations, functions and at different hierarchical levels.
● Idea management systems respond to the need to fully access this broad diversity,
which is still not fully exploited in many organizations
IDEA MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS (IMS)
● An idea management system can be defined as “a formalized system that
captures, examines, nurtures and develops ideas proposed within the
organization” (Nilson, 2002).
● They work as catalysts for the innovative spirit of employees within
organizations, inviting virtually all employees to be involved (Fairbank et al.
● Enable to support and provide structure to the early phases of the innovation
process (the fuzzy front-end)
● How idea management systems can support the early stages of the innovation process
HISTORY OF IMS
Source: (Gorski 2004, Bjork and Sandstrom 2010)
BENEFITS OF IMS
● Empowerment → opportunities for employees to contribute in new ways to their
● All ideas are collected in one place (centralized)
● Enables to store ideas until they are ready for further development
● Enables collaboration and communication among widely distributed employees to
mature ideas → build a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing
..BUT MOST IMS TEND TO FAIL
IDEATION WITHOUT FOCUS
● Provide freedom and autonomy to employees
● Lead to higher quantity
● Quality → may lead to many irrelevant or not implementable ideas
● Managers often do not consider consequences on the evaluation process (more
costly and time-consuming)
STRATEGIC DIRECTION AND FOCUS
→ It seems to have a positive effect on the implementation of ideas
› Lower quantity but, overall, higher quality of ideas → more valuable and
strategically relevant ideas
● A more open strategy → larger crowd and higher diversity of inputs
› …But complexity increases → needs to be coupled with a formalized
process for handling ideas
● In some circumstances a closer approach may be better
› When firms know the knowledge domain in which to look for the
solution and the right people in that field (i.e. best experts) (Pisano
and Verganti, 2008)
PROVIDING SUPPORTING TOOLS
● Typical communication approach ”Submit an idea to our ideation system”
● Supporting tools are needed to educate employees
› What is an idea
› Degree of elaboration
› How to frame an idea
› Next stages (idea evolution)
● Roles such as mentors/coaches?
● How to motivate employees to participate to idea management
systems? How to sustain their participation over time?
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR..
● Monetary rewards are not sufficient alone
● Social and personal factors as more important (Birkinshaw et al. 2011, Boeddrich 2010)
› i.e. appreciation by peers and superiors, learning, collaboration, helping..
● Importance of providing recognition to employees
● Allow time for ideation
● Provide feedback to employee for their contributions
● Feedback should be provided in a constructive, informational way, and in a timely
› Explain how to improve an idea
› Explain why it is accepted or rejected
› Negative feedback can have negative consequences on employees’
● Increases the likelihood that employees will participate in ideation again
RECENT TRENDS: GAMIFICATION
● Make participation fun and attractive for employees
● Gamification consists on applying game elements and game
design techniques to nongame activities to change people’s
behavior (Deterding et al. 2011)
● Most common game mechanic → Points-based system and badges
EVALUATION AND SELECTION
● Selection and evaluation of ideas represent a critical challenge for
organizations: how do you handle the large amount of ideas submitted into
an idea management system?
Possible evaluation mechanisms:
● Expert assessment: experts selected for their expertise and competences in
● Peer-assessment: evaluation by individuals who do not participate but have
similar knowledge as the participants.
● Voting system: community
Single or multiple stages of evaluation?
INVOLVING THE CROWD
● It can be used as an initial stage to filter ideas and make the screening process
● Use of the voting system to understand which ideas are considered more
relevant/are more popular in the community
● Empower employees by allocating decision-making authority
› A way to further engage them
● Problematic if the crowd does not possess the right expertise
● Voting might not reflect the real quality/business value of an idea
● May reflect the efforts of employees in marketing their ideas rather than quality
● Impact on people who did not get a lot of votes?
→ Rating rather than voting?
→ Design the voting system to force choices between ideas?