What is my management role in the ideation process?

The ideation process requires the manpower and brainpower of a team.

Assembling your team so they reach maximum capability is a separate challenge.

Ideation is a crucial part of the innovation process of any product. It’s known as the finding phase and incorporates the insourcing of opportunities and ideas from a defined funnel and converting them into reality. Ideation can be achieved using various techniques which include but are not limited to research, brainwriting, TRIZ, six thinking hats, imagination and mind mapping among others.

Tech is becoming increasingly smart which means competition is fully equipped and on their best game also. In this regard, the traditional ideation process does not fit in today’s world, and business owners are looking for other advanced ways to make it work i.e. through the use of collaboration and social tools. To some extent, some firms are using ideation management tools just to get it right. Thomas Edison once said that idea generation is 99% perspiration and only 1% inspiration.


Nevertheless, top management in an organization should be vigilant throughout the whole process and lead by example in order for the process to be successful.



Three main stages of the ideation process


The ideation process is one that can be divided into three main categories;

Innovation stage, development stage and the actualization stage. As mentioned earlier, the ideation process ensures that an idea is turned into a reality and this can’t happen without these three crucial steps. The innovation stage is where the idea is born, then nurtured in the development stage before it’s made a reality in the actualization stage. It’s easy to get lost between these steps: many people are involved, but top management or the project management team plays an important role in setting the tone from start to finish.


Role of management in the Innovation stage


During this stage, community members come together and brainstorm ideas. Naturally, community members will moderate themselves and naturally, there will be some more vocal than others. It is management’s task to direct the conversation making sure that it is going in the right direction. Furthermore, management ensures that all the ideas brought up are refined until getting to the finish line, a conclusion that is useful to the company according to the agreed goals and objectives.

Before this, senior management should determine a suitable location and ensure the community members are comfortable enough to produce quality ideas. As manager, you can give community members or your team assignments before the actual brainstorming session- this keeps them ahead and triggers creative juices.

As project manager, at the innovation stage, you would want to consider a few techniques to get it right from the start. The key word here is smart preparation. You will want to have the right team, a solution based approach to the process and patience. You will need to start the ideation process from a customer needs perspective, i.e., unmet needs and objectives to be carried out. The project manager needs to understand client needs and ensure his or her team does the same from the start. This is to develop the team’s attitude and direction through the process.


Role of management in the Development stage


Here, senior management should commit to providing the best resources to facilitate the development of an idea. This will mean that management will have enough funds to hire a professional facilitator and quality human resources. Management will also ensure that community members are not derailed and therefore focused. They help the community scrutinize and analyze each and every idea. Management could make this easy by grouping the ideas and using tags to label them, and advise on the selection process where the best ideas are handed over to internal teams for further filtration. After a thorough assessment, management decides on the ideas that should move forward through a process called prioritization. These ideas move onto the actualization stage.

As team manager, you want quality, not quantity. In this regard, your team selection process should be thorough and include fresh ideas in the ideation process and a wide variety of demographics. It’s also a good idea to include customers and major stakeholders in the process. Remember to use the appropriate channels/apps to avoid listening only to the ‘loudest.’ It is a good idea to reward community members with the most fruitful ideas as a way of motivating the team. It is also recommended to space out the ideation sessions so that you don’t end up with a long tedious and an unproductive process.


Role of management in the Actualization stage


This is the stage where a lot of time and resources are spent by top management as they try to make the project a success. Since most project managers have already exhausted their efforts in the first two stages, top management needs to find suitable HR personnel to work on the project. Management should also invest in the most important aspects of the idea to make it a reality.
Here top management needs to include experts in the field who know more about the specific product or service in question.

Management should remember to communicate to community members on the ideas to be implemented. Communication and time are imperative although often overlooked. It is rare that an organization will have enough resources for every single detail. Hence, decisions need to be made quickly. By doing so there can be risks involved at times where you’re forced to really dive in- perhaps get thrown in the deep end- and learn, improve and iterate through the implementation process.