The 4 Dynamic Stages of Collaborative Innovation – Number 1: Idea Collection

You’ll collect a lot of ideas. How do you find the best?

Before you find gold, you find ore. Seemingly dull rocks are pulled from the ground and carefully refined until the gold inside them is brought out. And so it is with ideas, as well. In this series, we’ll explore how raw ideas are distilled into innovation. And, like any refining process, it all begins with the raw material.

Why Collect Ideas?

If you look closely at any innovation, it didn’t just drop, fully formed, from the mind of a brilliant innovator. It was a team process, involving anywhere from a handful of friends pitching into a vast scientific infrastructure cranking out prototypes and arguing over design. Innovation, throughout human history, has been a team process, and wise innovators bake that into their process.

Innovation often stems from different perspectives applied to the same approach, and some are surprised to learn those praised as innovators argue they’re nothing of the kind. Benoit Mandelbrot was one of the pioneers of complexity theory, the science and art of summing up complicated things with simple equations. We use it every day, and it’s opened up vast frontiers in almost every scientific discipline. Mandelbrot, though, told Arthur C. Clarke: “I never had the feeling that my imagination was rich enough to invent all those extraordinary things on discovering them. They were there, even though nobody had seen them before.”

So, in innovation, it’s not about being original as it is about seeing what’s there differently, and collecting perspectives is how you do it. But what are best practices for idea collection?

Best Practices In Idea Collection

Gather many perspectives for the best innovation.

First, you have to remember that this is collecting ore, not finding gold. So you should both encourage ideas to be submitted, no matter how wild or over-the-top, and remember that the ideas, as they arrive, may not be as practical as you’d hoped. Have an open mind and dismiss nothing out of hand.

Use tools like gamification, which rewards participants with points and badges, and auto-fill, which helps keep ideas from being duplicated, on your innovation platform for better efficiency. But don’t hesitate to offer comments on ideas so people can offer constructive criticism and modifications.

While this is happening, set some goals. What do you want to achieve with these ideas? Where do you want your innovation strategy to go? What will be your standards for evaluating ideas?

Don’t forget to promote your idea collecting. If somebody idly suggests something in a meeting, have them develop it and submit it to the platform. Ask your team to take a little time and consider what they’d most like to see. Ask team members closest to your users what suggestions they hear or features they’re requesting.

Finally, hold yourself to a high standard. Before you dismiss any idea, ask yourself why you’re doing so. Are there practical roadblocks? Financial ones? Have you really considered the idea fully? Is it just not right for your company, or is it just not right for your company at the moment?

Remember, this is just the first step in innovation strategy. Ready to start? Get the Innovation Starter Kit.

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