Over the years, we have consulted with many clients who have implemented idea programs as an integral part of their overall Innovation Agenda. The design and implementation of such programs must be well thought out, in order to build innovative thinking skills, participation, and trust among all employees. Here are just some of the idea program design principles to consider:
- Leader support--Are the leaders willing and able to support the idea program? Are they ready to “walk the talk” and authentically communicate that ideas are important to the organization?
- Objectives--What are the “real” objectives of your idea program: (a) to find quick “cost savings”; (b) to encourage idea-sharing between departments in an effort to break down silos; (c) to capture valuable insights as a means of managing the organization’s knowledge; and/or (d) to identify ideas that can be quickly developed, funded, and implemented? Are these objectives commonly understood across the organization?
- Participants--Is the idea program open to everyone in the organization? Is participation included as a requirement in each employee’s annual performance objectives? Should the idea program be expanded beyond the walls of your organization to include partners, suppliers, and customers?
- Process--Is the process of submitting ideas, receiving feedback, funding ideas, and implementing ideas easy to use and quick? Does the process include a “rewards and recognition” component? How is the “integrity” (i.e., authenticity and transparency) and accountability of the program ensured?
- Coordinators--Who are the coordinators of the idea program and what is their scope of decision-making authority?
Dr. Alex Pattakos is the author of Prisoners of Our Thoughts  (www.prisonersofourthoughts.com ) and Elaine Dundon is author of The Seeds of Innovation  (www.seedsofinnovation.com ). They are co-authors of an article, "Innovating with Meaning," in Leadership Excellence Magazine (November 2008) and the book, Innovating with Meaning (forthcoming).