To stay competitive in today’s market companies must harness and leverage the creative talents of all of their employees. To meet this need, a new breed of Web-based idea management tools has emerged that will help companies collect, evaluate and share their employees’ ideas and best practices.
IdeaCentral from Imaginatik and General Ideas’ NextNet make it easy for all employees of a company to post new ideas to a central idea repository using only a Web browser. Management can also post “challenge questions” to stimulate ideas from employees to direct their creative energies towards key business goals. Employees can also read and add comments to existing ideas, which can lead to additional valuable improvements. Customizable workflow and evaluation criteria help companies to quickly evaluate ideas, identify the best ones, develop them further and highlight them for possible implementation. MindCruiser from Akiva offers a similar product, but with less of an emphasis on workflow capabilities for idea review and implementation and more of an emphasis on collaboration. Pricing for all of these products depends greatly on configuration and number of users.
Tools like these can be used in a variety of business applications, including new product development, marketing and branding, process improvements and cost reduction initiatives. Companies with multiple locations can especially benefit from Web-based idea-processing tools, because they enable firms to share successful ideas implemented at one location with all of their other locations – multiplying the ROI (“return on ideas”) many times. I expect continuing growth in this field of enterprise software, as companies look for new ways to uncover profitable new product ideas, cost-saving ideas and customer insights.