Conceptually, brainstorming can be a quick and effective way to get a group of people working together to solve a problem. When utilized, it can help bring people together to share and refine ideas, with each suggestion building upon each other, until at the end there may be many paths considered, and action is taken. The benefits are that everyone feels involved, all members have an opportunity to participate in the discussion, and at the end of the process there is a shared agreement (or at least a shared understanding) of how to move forward. Of course, this outcome may be overly optimistic — as most efforts to employ the use of brainstorming are typically not this formal or intentional. In an increasingly competitive world, the innovation disconnect with idea management has a direct impact on your competitive edge.
There are many methodologies used for helping to draw out ideas from the collective, but as a repeatable and practical process for capturing institutional knowledge, most organizations fail at leveraging brainstorming techniques. As a result, valuable insights and employee interactions are not captured. Innovative ideas fall by the wayside, lost and forgotten.
Key benefits of enterprise collaboration
One of the core benefits of an enterprise collaboration platform such as SharePoint is your ability to draw from the collective wisdom of the crowd. However, despite years of Microsoft marketing telling us otherwise, building an enterprise-class knowledge management solution is not out-of-the-box. It can take quite a bit of effort to make it fit our cultural and business requirements. It requires an end-to-end perspective on what you are trying to achieve to shape SharePoint in a way that satisfies these requirements.
Think about how the typical organization runs a project and utilizes SharePoint: you build out a single team site for the project, with lists and libraries full of content, and countless conversations through Skype for Business, Yammer, Groups, and various third-party communication tools. At the end of your effort, you have the deliverables — but much of the information around the activity, created by the activity, is lost. You have your content, possibly (but not likely) linked to some of the conversations, but the learning — the brainstorming and idea sharing that was so critical in helping you get there — that data is likely lost. Some of that supporting activity is captured within your social tools, but if those tools sit outside of your primary system (SharePoint) then their value is already degraded, because it is a separate, secondary silo of information.
Ideas that may have been valuable — that were identified through your brainstorming activity, but were not used to solve the core problem, are lost. They may have value in and of themselves, but you’ll never know, because they’re gone.
Unlike traditional knowledge management or collaboration systems, which capture documents, rich media, and sometimes conversations in context to SharePoint sites and content, idea management is not typically a planned, intentional focus of these systems. But it should be. Corporate innovation rarely happens through individual efforts, but through cross-team collaboration.
Creating a true digital workplace
There is much talk about creating a more intelligent “digital workplace” using SharePoint and a variety of other tools and solutions, but what is needed is much more than a beautiful UI skin on top of the platform. It means better incorporating the tools employees use to communicate in ways that also benefit the business. It also means finding a more natural fit for the way teams work together, allowing them to identify and capture tacit knowledge, as opposed to formal knowledge typically captured in documentation, that is otherwise lost by most systems.
Matching technology to the culture of an organization is as important to knowledge management and collaboration as taxonomy and classification are to successful search: without a cultural match, you will only scratch the surface of what you can accomplish with the technology. Simply put, users will not adopt, and those who do use the system will not be as engaged.
Your solutions need to continually evolve to ensure that you are providing the tools and capabilities that your end users need, and that your corporate knowledge is being adequately captured.
In a digital workplace, ideas are allowed to continually evolve. What may not be the right idea at this time may be a great fit a year from now — but without a system in place to track and manage those ideas, and the context surrounding the idea (discussions, content, and actions), these ideas will likely be lost. According to a Pepperdine University study, data loss can cost US businesses alone more than $20 billion per year — but there is no way to accurately estimate the lost opportunity or lost innovation due to inadequate idea management.
Formalizing idea management
There are a number of idea management solutions on the market, however one problem with these solutions is that they are disconnected from the rest of the collaboration platform. Reviewing some of these solutions and vendors, it is treated as a standalone activity. The disconnect between idea management and your core business systems creates yet another information silo, as we have seen with social tools. By using a standalone tool, you will lose out on a lot of the natural discussion and flow that happens when it is part of one system. Your formal idea management solution should be an integrated part of your enterprise collaboration platform, where ideas can be shared in context to historical projects and information.
There are other benefits to an integrated solution, such as productivity. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), switching between two distinct tools or processes (what they refer to as “goal shifting”) directly impacts workplace productivity. But the real impact comes from disassociated data across systems, which has a direct impact to discovery, search results, and the ability to leverage this business intelligence in the future.
When linked to social tools within the enterprise, formalizing idea management becomes a natural fit for employee dialog and can be better linked to knowledge management activities and collected knowledge. Organizations that pursue an integrated idea management strategy are able to better surface ideas from employees that may otherwise be lost within the daily tasks, and take action on those ideas. When used successfully, idea management becomes part of the new product introduction (NPI) process, and strengthens innovation.
Supporting advanced use cases in SharePoint
At Beezy, we believe in the transforming power of collaboration, and that organizations need more than document management and instant messaging to be successful. To learn more about how Beezy can improve the value of your collaboration efforts and help you to leverage the hidden ideas and innovation within your organization, schedule your demo today.