Time and time again, I speak to colleagues who are keen to contribute ideas but are just not sure whether their suggestions are good enough or don’t quite believe that what they have to say will be taken on board. They don’t want to be seen to be on the wrong track or make a fool of themselves. To this I say that there is no such thing as a bad idea – we need all the ideas we can get, even if they just give us food for thought and spark further ideas. Speaking from experience, true innovation requires hundreds of ideas.

With this in mind, here are a few handy hints for you, using the example of an idea for a new product…

Fitting with the product strategy

It goes without saying that an idea for a new product has to fit with your company’s product strategy. Even the best of suggestions are doomed to failure if this rule isn’t followed. Product strategies are generally implemented across different business units, making them applicable to a range of organisational units, and one person or team is usually put in charge. At MANN+HUMMEL, this role is taken on by our product champions, who are experienced senior managers with excellent connections within the company and extensive knowledge of our product portfolio. If you ever want to find out more about product strategies or want to ask which areas actually need some input, the product champions are the people to contact. They need strategic projects in their innovation pipeline, so they are always on the lookout for good ideas that fit in with their strategy. If a product champion is excited by a suggestion, they will work hard to push it forward.

70:20:10 innovation portfolio

In some cases, good ideas for new products have more of a chance of succeeding if they relate to the core business activities of the company, as there are usually more resources available for study and innovation projects in these areas. This comes down to the structure of the company’s innovation portfolio: Ideally, 70% of innovation projects will fall within the scope of the core business. It is only the remaining 30% of innovation projects that will actually involve the development of completely new products and technologies (10%) and the evolution of existing business segments (20%). If companies follow this 70:20:10 structure for their innovation portfolio, they are in a position to develop new products whilst also protecting themselves against risks that cannot be predicted.

Targeted brainstorming

A company’s ideas management system provides an effective platform from which information can be gleaned about the areas in which ideas and suggestions are needed. MANN+HUMMEL employees are able to submit their suggestions on the HYPE! platform, where they can also rate and comment on all of their colleagues’ ideas. The HYPE! community takes ideas and develops them further. The final stage involves a decision being made on the ideas by the HYPE! Review Board, of which the product champions are a firm fixture.

Campaigns calling for the submission of specific ideas are also run at regular intervals via such idea management platforms, with the question that needs to be answered appearing as a banner ad on the platform, for instance. This will be accompanied by advertising in the form of posters, flyers and a call for entries on the Intranet.

In other words, keep your eyes and ears open!