Bill Ives

Creative Brainstorming Through Innovation Management

Bill Ives   October 29th, 2009

Okay, I know what you might be thinking, but innovation management is not actually an oxymoron. There is much more to bringing innovation to the realization of business value than the light bulb going off within an individual. In reality, as Tad Milbourn, Product Manager for Intuit Brainstorm and I discussed, most creativity is a group process. This is true for most, if not all, forms of creativity, not simply that in business as I remember form my academic experience. Tad told me that Intuit offers unstructured time to many employees to work on their own ideas independent of the tasks they are currently assigned.

Intuit Brainstorm actually the result of a project that started during unstructured time. It is designed to better manage innovation efforts begun within organizations of 500 or more employees to properly leverage its crowd sourcing capabilities. Intuit has supported employee innovation for some time. Until Intuit Brainstorm, they used a structured database to track the efforts. This tool was not fully used and, when used, it was updated only about a third of time.

Intuit Brainstorm was designed by employees operating as innovators, rather than as a tool for senior management to track the status of efforts. It was designed to meet the needs of these innovators. It enables innovators to build a team, get help, grow ideas, and collaborate. As a byproduct, it also tracks the status of efforts, but in a more accurate manner than its predecessor because of the increased participation. Here is a screen shot of the home page.

Intuit Brainstorm - Home Page

Currently, there are over 200 ideas preparing for release, representing a wide variety of innovations for both internal use and the marketplace. There are over 4,000 comments on these ideas. One of the new products is ViewMyPaycCheck which allows the employees of small businesses to view the details behind their pay check in the same detailed manner often offered by large organizations with comprehensive HR systems. This new product was developed in three months through Brainstorm.

Within Brainstorm there is an auto-generated activity stream where anyone can see comments on ideas in the pipeline in a real time manner. You start the process by adding you idea by adding your idea through a lightweight submission form. Brainstorm will instantly show related ideas to your idea upon submission. So you can connect with those team members.

Team members can edit the details of a registered idea and others can provide comments. These comments can start a threaded conversation. Contributors take these comments seriously and Brainstorm added the ability to edit comments at the request of users. You can recruit people and people can also request to join a team. The system also makes recommendations on who might be a best fit for the team based on their activity and tags within the system. You can place help wanted ads asking for help. You can also get updates on the tags you follow.

They added Outlook integration to allow you to reach out to other employees and bring them into the Intuit Brainstorm network. The system also indentifies top contributors to provide recognition. You can see the most active, top commentors, and top taggers over the last week, last month or all time. Adding this “leaderboard” increased comments by thirty percent. Brainstorm increased participation in innovation by 500% and increased ideation by 1,000% at Intuit. Here is a sample leaderboard.

Intuit Brainstorm - Leaderboard

Senior executives are able to track the thousands of ideas by such factors as: area, most active, and other statistics. There is also a comprehensive search. You can find both ideas and people who might be able to help with them. I think this is a great tool and I look forward to its arrival on the marketplace. Innovation needs more than creativity to grow. This tool was built from the innovator’s perspective by innovators so it has the right focus and approach.

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About The Author

Dr. Bill Ives is an independent consultant and writer who has worked with Fortune 100 companies in business uses of emerging technologies for over 20 years. For several years he led the Knowledge Management Practice for a large consulting firm.. Now he primarily helps companies with their business blogs. He is also the VP of Social Media and blogger for TVissimo, a new TV schedule search engine. Prior to consulting, Dr. Ives was a Research Associate at Harvard University exploring the effects of media on cognition. He obtained his Ph. D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Toronto. Bill can be reached at his blog: Portals and KM. He also writes for the FastForward blog and the AppGap blog.