Mining For Innovation Ideas Within Your Wider Business

A potential rich source of innovation ideas and thinking that often gets over looked is the wider business. When we talk wider business we mean the people that do not work in marketing and innovation. Many of us don’t realise that we are suffering from tunnel vision as we are so close to our plans and brand. Often your colleagues in Finance, Technical or Supply etc. can give you a fresh perspective and totally different thinking. We have uncovered some superb innovation ideas this way. 

On a day-to-day basis these potential ideas are not taken seriously or brought up as innovation is not considered their discipline and or they lack seniority. So how do you go mining for innovation ideas in a productive way? Here are a few things to think about if you decide to use all the brains at your disposal and engage with the whole of your business.

1. Who’s brains are you going to plunder?

  • Who from each discipline should be invited? Often it is those that can be difficult or obstructive in normal circumstances that really shine through so definitely include them. Another rich stream is those that are considered bright sparks or having sharp minds. Also ensure that you ask different levels of seniority to that you get small and big picture ideas
  • Another tip is to include senior stakeholders. They will always get their say in the end so it’s better to invite their ideas early rather than have them derail your process further down the line when they find their ideas haven’t been considered

2. Running the actual sessions

Will it be group discussion or a one-to-one? We would recommend a series of one-to-one interviews as they allow much more open, candid discussions. This is due to people tending to be more inhibited in front of colleagues and senior leadership.

The session will need to be carefully prepped and structured to avoid it becoming a free for all and ending up as a brain dump of random thoughts and ideas:

  • Ensure the session is focused, identify the 2 or 3 specific areas/ innovation questions you want ideas to address
  • Do you need to send out a short pre-read to make sure everyone is in the same place when they arrive?
  • How will you collect the ideas to make sure they are understandable and comparable? Make sure you are clear about the key pieces of information you need and decide on a clear, easy to use format for people to describe their ideas

3. How will you filter and merge the collected ideas?

  • Who will do this? It can be a big task as this exercise often generates a large number of innovation ideas. They will need to be de-duped and grouped
  • How will you ensure selection remains objective and pet project free? It’s a good idea to agree your selection criteria before filtering begins to help ensure objectivity

This whole process can be done in as little as a week, if planned into diaries way in advance, and especially if you use external support. Apart from saving you time, external partners can add value by being more provocative throughout the idea collection phase to really push thinking and challenge the participants. They also add objectivity and can help non-marketeers to be more open when feeding in their ideas as it is a more neutral process. This is particularly important if their ideas challenge the marketing teams’ ideas.

If you do decide to mine your wider business for innovation ideas, there are some big benefits:

  • The wider business will feel they have been listened to and have co-created the innovation plans. This will lead to higher engagement and a feeling of ownership as the new ideas work their way through the business to launch
  • You can feel confident that you haven’t missed any big ideas within the business that could unlock growth and really push your brand forward
  • It often helps to put a lid on peoples’ ‘pet projects’ once and for all!

Ultimately, you find that you will have generated stronger and a more varied bucket of innovation ideas. Obviously this puts you in a much better position to start engaging with consumers on the next step of your innovation journey.

Published 29th April 2015 by Shelly Greenway @ the Strategy Distillery