Why is Obsessing About Ideas not a Good Idea?

The first thing that organizations interested in innovation, do is to implement an idea management system. These systems aim to gather numerous solution ideas from all stakeholders, but mostly from employees, and then reach attractive ideas through a step-by-step evaluation and elimination approach. When a solution idea that appears attractive is found, a feasibility analysis is conducted. If the analysis, which is fed by many predictions, presents a promising picture, the solution is designed in detail. Subsequently, several prototypes are built and pilot implementations are carried out. Once positive feedback is received regarding the solution, the solution is serviced to the target customer. The number of ideas that pass through all stages and become realized is almost always very low compared to the number of ideas that come in, but this is considered as normal. Just like searching for gold in a riverbed, it is believed that evaluating and working on hundreds of solution ideas is necessary to capture one good innovation opportunity. So, what does this approach yield at the end?

In most cases, these idea management platforms gradually fill up with ideas that are not very attractive to the organization. Only a few out of thousands of proposals are implemented. And the ones that are implemented mostly turn out to be incremental solution innovations or process innovations. This creates frustration in both management and participants. However, there is one more particularly important consequence of this. The companies whose innovation portfolios consist of only incremental innovation initiatives fail to produce new products and services and become trapped in their industry.

In fact, when you think about the nature of innovation, this result is not surprising at all. Because for organizations to go beyond incremental innovations, they first need to be aware of valuable but unmet needs of a group of people with meaningful size and within their reach. Then, they need to have the competence to develop an attractive, feasible, and reasonable solution for that need. In most cases, no one among employees, customers or suppliers can have all the required knowledge and qualification to achieve this alone. That’s why it becomes quite difficult for someone from these groups to come up with an attractive solution idea. Sometimes the proposed solutions are very nice, but the problems that they are targeting are invalid or of low value. Sometimes the problems to be solved are highly valid and valuable, but the proposed solutions are not very desirable or feasible.

Even if a solution idea that is considered attractive is found with this approach, one needs to be very lucky to implement that idea. Why, you may ask? Any solution idea is a claim that says, “This problem or need can reasonably be addressed by this solution!” This claim carries many crucial assumptions about both the targeted need and the solution. Is there really such a need? How valuable is this need? For whom is it valuable? Is the solution technically feasible? Does the solution really solve the targeted need in the way the need owner desires? Is it possible to implement the solution with a financial structure that can be considered reasonable for both the customer and the solution provider? Those who follow the approach that I described earlier can only see the validity of their assumptions about the answers to these questions in the final stages. Most initiatives consume their resources and motivation considerably when they ask themselves the question, “It didn’t turn out as we imagined; maybe we should try something else instead?”

In summary, it is necessary to put an end to this innovation theater that does not produce very bright results in organizations. So, what can we do to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of innovation efforts and the chances of success of the innovations produced? There have been many studies on this subject so far, and when you bring them together, a beautiful recipe emerges. Let’s check the HCI System.

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