There is no mistaking that there is wisdom in crowds. Few organizations do a good job at giving their employees opportunities to share that wisdom, much less demonstrate their expertise and passions beyond their current job descriptions. According to a recent study by MarketWatch, the average employee tenure in the US is around 4.6 years. What this means is that your most experienced employees likely joined your team with a wealth of prior experience — and you may not be leveraging that knowledge. Effective collaboration is powered, in large part, by ideation — the creative process of generating, formulating, and sharing new ideas. If your tools and processes and culture do not provide mechanisms for people to generate and surface ideas, collaboration in your organization can be stunted.
While there are many established methodologies for enterprise ideation programs, having a formal process is not essential to benefit from the concepts. It’s not about process, or even having “an idea” to begin with, but in creating a culture where people openly share their experiences and informed observations. For example, participants of a project team might be discussing the state of a customer project and some of the nuanced requirements, and a fellow employee from the finance team might see that conversation and mention a tool or technique that helped speed up delivery in a similar customer scenario from a prior job. That observation or idea may not have ever been surfaced had the project team not been openly discussing the state of their project in a way that allowed the extended team to participate.
The biggest barrier to ideation is the self-editing process. That’s why so many “brainstorming” efforts fail: the team limits input by editing comments as people begin to share, calling them out as good or bad, which can then limit the sharing of ideas. And when people see ideas being shot down, they begin to self-edit — which means they stop speaking up, thinking their ideas may not be good enough to mention.
“Distilling ideas down is a course requiring not only filtering out less feasible concepts but also combining themes that can play off of one another, to build more intricate prospective plans of action.” www.MakeIt.com
Ideation should begin with a wide scope, so that you don’t limit discussion. You also need to understand the problem before you can refine the ideas into specific solutions. This may seem backwards — starting with ideas and then defining the problem….which is another reason why so many organizations fail to support successful ideation.
Different ideas, experiences, and observations may be related to known problems, but they may also identify previously unknown or unrecognized issues or inefficiencies in business operations. Through various collaboration activities, you’ll be able to identify and discuss themes within the flow of ideas. As you come together to discuss and clarify those themes, you’ll then begin to formulate clear problem statements. Once you have a clear scope and a shared understanding of the problem, you can then begin to refine the ideas — and possible solutions.
The goal of having a formal ideation strategy is not to solve every small problem, even though small problems might point to larger issues , but to help your organization come up with big ideas. The difference between ideation and brainstorming is that the volume of ideas is not as important as the process by which you identify the ideas. Ideation is a much more organic, cultural process through which ideas naturally flow — rather than a sometimes forced exercise where people throw out suggestions to fill a whiteboard.
Ideation works best when ideas are shared in context to real projects, in open conversations. When participants understand the customer or company needs and are allowed to express themselves and relate prior work experiences, their contextual inputs provide greater value than any brainstorming session might provide. Likewise, enterprise collaboration works best when employees have the ability to openly generate, formulate, and share new ideas.
At Beezy, we believe in the power of ideas. Our solution — built on SharePoint, for SharePoint — helps customers better tap into the collective wisdom of their employees by offering advanced collaboration capabilities that enhance and extend SharePoint out-of-the-box, helping teams to be more productive and leverage the untapped wisdom of their employees.
If you have not yet seen a demo of the award-winning Beezy solution for SharePoint and Office 365, schedule a demo today.