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How The Nielsen Company Uses Idea Management Software to Drive Innovation

We’ve heard a lot about how idea management works in theory – but how does it work in practice? Ann Marie Dumais, Senior Vice President of New Product Introductions at The Nielsen Company, was kind enough to walk us through Nielsen’s use of BrightIdea for enterprise idea management. Here are the lessons we came away with.

When Selecting Your Platform, Know What You’re Looking For

Dumais said Nielsen decided to adopt idea management software because it wanted to put process around thoughts. That may seem a bit corporate. OK, that sounds ridiculously corporate. But considering the company had found that it had no shortage of ideas coming from staff and no good means to do anything with them, it makes sense. The company wanted to drive ideation faster, and didn’t want to chase ideas that had already been considered.

Dumais said they needed something flexible – something that would enable them to make changes on the fly by themselves, without calling IT or an external vendor. She also needed something that would be easy for all staff, including those dealing with the backend. “It had to be like eBay,” she said “No one had to teach us how to use eBay – it just works.” Dumais also knew the system would have to support single sign-on.

After vetting several possibilities, Dumais and her team settled on BrightIdea because of its flexibility and usability.

Start with a specific problem or challenge

Kindling product manager Tim Meaney told us about how some idea management customers are overwhelmed by the number of ideas submitted. Kindling is trying to solve the problem by introducing a recommendation engine, and Spigit is trying to solve with a range of sophisticated metrics.

But there’s a low-tech solution: focus on collecting ideas that solve particular problems or changes – for example, naming a new product or determining the best way to automate a particular business process. “We didn’t want to reinvent the open suggestion box,” said Dumais. Nielsen runs highly focused, time limited idea generation campaign to avoid ending up with an unwieldy mess of ideas. This approach might not work for all organizations 0 some of you might want to run with the “open idea box” idea and use filtering and recommendations to sift through everything. That approach may bring to light problems that hadn’t even been identified by management. But focus is definitely worth considering, especially if you have particular challenges that need to be met.

Dumais has found that the more specific a challenge is, the better the repsonse is and that two weeks tends to be the tipping point for collecting good ideas. Although BrightIdea is deployed enterprise wide, not every employee gets access to every campaign.

Focus on Killing Bad Ideas

When asked about results, Dumais said she couldn’t disclose the best ideas to come out of the program, but says that the greatest value is in filtering out bad ideas. Focus in the begin on killing bad ideas and documenting it so you can focus the good ideas. “The evaluation process is what really drives it,” Dumais says about BrightIdea. “The front end is great, but the backend is what really drives it.”

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