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Questions to get you started

28 08 2008

I was asked today by a client to help them by identifying the questions they’d need to ask internally in order to start identifying the workflows and processes that they would need to use to achieve success – and I figured I’d share what I wrote here: 

For either internal or open innovation processes you need to ask yourself/your sponsor the following questions: 

1) What is it we’re trying to achieve? – why are we bothering to look for ideas? What impact is it going to have on the business? How big of an impact does that need to be? What kind of ideas are we looking for (incremental process improvements? tangential product ideas? blue sky concepts?) ?  – With all of these, make sure you’re identifying them in as measurable a terms as possible – ideally focusing on those that impact bottom line revenue – or the company’s ability to impact that revenue figure. The more you tie your program to direct value generation, the more the company will value your efforts, and ultimately deem your program successful and fund future efforts/program expansions. 

2) Where are these ideas coming from? – bearing in mind what we’re trying to achieve – what knowledge pool does it make sense for us to tap into? What are the implications of tapping into that knowledge source? Think of things like – can these people “play” well together in a collaborative environment? How will we incentivize them to take part? How much can we ask them to contribute? What kind of ideas will they be able to contribute? What security/legal/IP considerations are there to take into account for this group of people?  What do these ideas look like? And how do we want to receive and acknowledge them? 

3) What are we going to do with the ideas when we get them? – Do we need to further build/test them? If so – then to what level? Can collaborative input improve them – and if so, then who should be involved and in what way? Once the ideas are built, how are we going to bring them to fruition / realization? Is there a path to implementation identified? 

When working with all of these questions – you’ll find it easy to build a rather exhaustive list of things you could ask and end up with an idea form 20 pages long and a review process that would take a team of 20 people a year to complete – but remember KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid! The more complex you make a form, the more you put off people (especially externals!) from giving you their ideas (especially the more blue sky ones that have the largest potential for impact.  The more complex you make a review process, the more of a chore it becomes for the reviewers, and the less likely they are to do it. Simplicity is the key to Usability. 

Throughout the process consider whether you a) have all the information you MUST HAVE in order to consider an idea worthy of implementation and b) how much of this is just “nice to have” – A lot of the information you’ll be tempted to add in, you’ll want to primarily because it was already there beforehand and so you might as well add it again. One way around this temptation is to try and design your form without looking at the old one – start from scratch and see what you think NEEDS to be asked. Then use the existing form as a check up to make sure you haven’t missed anything vital – rather than a template from which to build on. 

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