Whether or not your organization has a formal innovation program in place, it's very likely you've already implemented some form of idea management. This could be as simple as an online suggestion box or as sophisticated as an ideas module that's part of a corporate innovation management suite tied to a global initiative.
Recently, the "ideas" topic has been getting renewed attention for a number of reasons. One of them is the number of software vendors adding ideas functionality to their various social and collaboration platforms, thus competing with the more traditional pure-play idea management vendors.
I read an interesting article about the role of the IT organization in enterprise innovation, written by a former colleague of mine, Charles Babcock. The story, "IT Must Play a Central Role in Enterprise Innovation," spoke to many of the key challenges that both CIOs and their IT teams face in their efforts to help drive (not just support) innovation within their companies.
The story, which was based on reactions to the issue from a panel of CIOs and other industry experts at Interop 2011 in Las Vegas this week, included a quote from Nationwide Financial Services CIO Emeritus Bruce Barnes which to me captured the essence of the biggest challenge facing the potential innovative-ness of CIOs themselves: time and bandwidth.
Many IT and business leaders are keen on driving innovations that can help their organizations generate new revenue streams, increase market share or improve organizational efficiencies. But being able to do so on a continuous basis requires companies to create an environment that encourages and cultivates innovation across different levels.
Of course, this is easier said than done. According to a 2010 study conducted by Ernst & Young, while 82 percent of the 263 entrepreneurs who were surveyed believe that the ability to innovate is vital to the future growth of their organizations, nearly half of those polled say that creating innovative ideas becomes harder to achieve as their companies grow in size and complexity.
A CIO for a large energy company in the Midwest was telling me about a series of outsourced services the company receives from a handful of major IT services providers. The energy company outsources nearly all of its IT infrastructure support and services, with the rationale being that the company's business is to provide power to consumers and commercial customers, not IT services.
What interested me most about the agreements the energy company has in place with the IT services firms is that the providers are incented to identify areas of opportunity to drive innovation - not only in terms of how IT operations can be run more effectively but also how IT can be applied to business innovation, such as opportunities with smart grid technologies that can be applied.
A growing number of companies are tapping into social media channels, including online communities and forums and through use of tools such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter to engage with customers and business partners and create a conduit for new product, service, and customer experience ideas.
Given the rising interest that CIOs have in improving customer experience, driving innovation, and, of course, fulfilling their commitment to delivering genuine business value to the organization, I thought it might be useful to share a few examples of companies in different industries that are exploiting social media interactions with customers to generate fresh ideas.
I recently read a blog where the author contends that innovation in social media has leveled off and the most significant innovations that could possibly be introduced already have been. In the author's opinion, all noteworthy innovations that have occurred since 2005 have stemmed from microblogging, including Twitter, Foursquare, GetGlue, and Instagram.
So, have we reached the final frontier on social media advancements? It's an issue worth exploring.