Progressive Filtering and Graduating Innovation

This week I wanted to share some common insights we’ve acquired as we have more and more companies use tools like IdeaScale to crowdsource innovation. We’ll focus on the administrative aspect of bubbling ideas to the top and then going through a secondary layer of filtering and re-prioritization of ideas.

The Challenge:
Customers have a lot of ideas on what you should and should not do. Most companies have finite resources and typically a strategy direction. Many times they will not align – Where your customers want you to go and where you can go might be off. Crowdsourcing tools like IdeaScale allow you to capture this differential but the larger issue then becomes — how do you prevent distortion in your strategy if you keep chasing the tactical benefits of what users want today? Typically in these solutions, the “Voice of Customer” is represented, but what about the “Voice of the Company/Employees?”

The (Proposed) Solution:
As with most things we do here, we like to keep things simple. We’ve batted around many ideas and thoughts about how to refocus and re-filter ideas coming from customers so that they are aligned with the direction of the company. They include ideas like giving the moderator/employees more “weight” to allowing moderators/employees to veto ideas etc.  Most of these solutions increase a level of complexity that almost makes the solution useless.
The solution we’ve been proposing to our clients now is what we are calling the “Graduate Idea” functionality.
Idea Graduation allows admins to move ideas, or rather graduate ideas from one site to the other. Typically, the graduating (target) ideascale site is an internal (employee, review group, strategy group) only system. This filtered idea portal can be defined as ideas that have passed the sniff test manually. At this point, we think it’s smart to keep this manual – by the reviewer/moderator to take a look at the top rated ideas and graduate them to an internal system for further discussion.

Internally, Customer Support Reps, Sales Agents, Decision Makers, can engage in a productive and open discussion – they do not need to be concerned that the comments and thoughts will be out the in the open – this graduated portal typically will be an invite-only internal site that external customers will not have access to. We’ve had a lot of success with having a few “high profile” or “power users” be a part of the secondary review/filter site. This way, internal team members can communicate effectively with the influencers.
Internal team members can be automatically notified when new ideas are graduated into the site. They can then come and vote/comment on them and also review existing comments that others have put. In theory, you could have multiple layers here if you really wanted to get uber-bureaucratic and have infinite layers of filtering!

Where we are headed:
As we rolled out the Idea Graduation model, we received some great feedback about a few enhancements to the process that we can make – I’ll share that here and definitely open to more suggestions on how this can be improved without complicating the process too much:

  • Automatic Graduation when an Idea reaches “X” Votes
  • There are some outstanding issues here – Since this is automated it might actually be counterproductive. The internal idea portal by definition is a “vetted” and human endorsed idea portal. 
  • Once ideas are graduated by this model, they are no longer available in the external site for people to comment on. In some cases there might be an active comment discussion thread going on – and this would stifle the brainstorming activity.
  • Graduating Ideas to multiple internal sites. In some cases, depending upon the volume and size of the business, it actually may make sense to create multiple internal sites demarcated along product lines or some other categorization model. In such cases, the Idea Graduation process needs to be able to account for this kind of a setup.

A couple of other minor enhancements also came up that we would be addressing very soon:

  • Ability to mark the Source Idea as “Under Review” instead of “Closed” when graduating an idea.
  • Ability to manually set the status of the new Idea as well as choose the category it goes under.
  • Ability to manually notify and invite internal team members specifically to comment and brainstorm on an idea while graduating it. This is helpful if you need a domain expert internally to comment on the idea to give his opinion.

As we develop and refine the Idea Graduation process we, as usual, welcome your input. If you have other use-cases and ideas on how to manage this process please feel free to post it on our IdeaScale portal –

http://questionpro.ideascale.com (Under the IdeaScale category.)

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