What is Idea Management?
Idea management is a structured approach to generating and evaluating ideas that could help improve an organization’s bottom line. In a product management context, idea management refers to a systematic framework for collecting, analyzing, and prioritizing ideas to improve existing products or create new ones.
Why is Idea Management Important?
Every product ever released to the market, every innovative new service, and every business ever launched began as an idea.
Coming up with an idea is only a first step, of course, in the larger process of bringing a product to market. The team will need to conduct market-validation research to determine if the idea is viable. They will need to secure executive or investor approval, build detailed plans for development and market release, and execute those plans successfully.
You cannot skip over the idea-generation stage if you want to develop a successful product—or anything else of value, for that matter.
Ideas are by nature, creative. They can come at any time, from anyone across your organization, from customers, or members of the general public. You can create a development schedule to build a new product whose idea you’ve vetted and validated. But you can’t create a schedule to come up with an idea for a new product—because you can’t predict when or from whom a viable product idea will emerge.
If your team does not have a system in place to encourage new ideas and to capture and evaluate them, your organization could miss out on opportunities to solve problems for your user base and develop market-worthy solutions.
What is the Product Manager’s Role in Idea Management?
Because product managers are largely responsible for the success or failure of their products, and because all products begin as ideas, product managers should take responsibility for their companies’ idea management.
This means developing a well-thought-out idea management system, and letting your organization know the system exists, and how they can contribute to it.
Idea Management Tips and Strategies
The following are some ideas on how to create a successful idea management system at your company.
1. Build a Centralized, Transparent System for Idea Collection
If you want a consistent pipeline of ideas about new products, features, and markets that could be worth pursuing for your company, you’ll want to create a centralized system where anyone across the organization can easily submit ideas, for instance
- Develop a shared online folder or network drive
- Use a project management app, where your coworkers can easily submit insights and ideas for improvements
You’ll want this system to be transparent; that way your coworkers can see what ideas others have contributed, as well as the status of those ideas.
2. Offer Guidance on the Ideas You’re Looking for
A good idea management program should welcome all types of thoughts and insights about the business. If the system is too rigid and the types of ideas it allows are too narrow, the organization might miss a flash of genius or an unconventional yet viable business idea.
But as a product manager, you need to be selective about the ideas you decide to pursue. At any given time, you’ll be more familiar than most people in your company about the current realities of your product and market. For instance, what features or products you are beginning to sunset, what is your user base asking for, etc.
If you can regularly include updates reflecting these new realities to your idea management system, you can help guide your coworkers’ innovative thinking, and help minimize the number of ideas that would miss the mark.
3. Encourage Your Team to Look for Small Wins
Idea management does not mean focusing only on revolutionary ideas. Sometimes the most viable product innovations come from making slight adjustments to your user persona’s current process, which can create enormous benefits to those users.
When you encourage your organization to submit ideas for new features, new products, or new markets, ask them to consider even small product innovations that solve real problems.
4. Meet with Your Cross-Functional Team to Brainstorm and Evaluate Ideas
Idea management works only to the extent that whoever collects the ideas also reviews and analyzes them and then takes action on those ideas that the team decides are worth pursuing.
With this in mind, an important part of any idea management system is to set up regular review sessions to discuss the ideas that have been submitted, and to weigh the items on that list—using a system such as weighted scoring—to determine which items (if any) are viable to move forward with.
5. Strengthen Your Team’s Idea Muscles
James Altucher, the author of numerous bestselling entrepreneur books, suggests entrepreneurs and creatives should come up with 10 ideas every morning. He describes this as “exercising your idea muscles.”
Given that all products begin as ideas, an organization’s ability to develop successful products is only as good as its ability to first generate successful product ideas.
To build an idea culture at your organization, encourage your coworkers to voice their ideas. Welcome all types of ideas, acknowledge and thank those who contribute, and show your organization that your product team actively reviews and evaluates all ideas submitted.
You could also invest in books on innovation for your organization. Perhaps offer to buy a book for any employee interested in learning how to generate great ideas. We’re thinking of innovation books like The Lean Startup and Winning at New Products.
Idea Management Can Give You a Competitive Advantage
With the needs, behaviors, and tastes of consumers and business changing so quickly in the modern era, a product organization needs a constant stream of new ideas to develop viable products and to stay competitive.
When you implement an effective idea management system it will help your business accomplish this objective in at least two ways.
- It allows your team to more easily collect, review, and analyze ideas from all sources.
- It can help you encourage more ideas from across your organization—and you never know which of these ideas, or from which person, could lead to your next successful product.