Most people tend to associate the word “Innovation” with bringing new things to market. We think of Apple products like the iPhone and iPad as innovative. We think of new business models like Uber and Airbnb as innovative. This may explain why so few companies spend much time managing innovation; they simply don’t see themselves that way, or, if they do, they believe that the responsibility for innovation lies with the development or executive teams.
But the dictionary defines innovation as simply “the act of making changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods or ideas.” Shouldn’t the practice of making changes in established processes and ways of working be something that happens in every business, every day? Some of the world’s most successful companies like Toyota, General Electric, and Amazon think so. They’ve adopted business methodologies and tools designed to support continuous improvement and innovation.
What is Innovation Management Software?
Innovation management software solutions are designed to support the process of gathering ideas for improvement, assessing their feasibility and value, acting on the ones that make sense and improving those that don't, documenting the improvement process, and recognizing the employees who contribute to making positive change happen. It provides the structure to get the entire organization aligned around making things a little bit better one small change at a time.
The Central Features of Innovation Management Software
Innovation management involves several activities that are supported by innovation management technology. The necessary features include:
- A knowledge repository to which employees can add opportunities for improvement. If innovation is everyone’s job, then it should be easy for each person to contribute ideas for making things better.
- Workflow to support the assessment and rollout of ideas for innovation. This is a feature that spreadsheets and email can’t offer. Managers should be notified when ideas are submitted and alerts and notifications should be in place to maintain momentum when an idea is selected for action.
- Reporting to measure the value of improvement. We don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. We innovate to obtain tangible results in concrete terms like cost savings and increased revenue. We also innovate to gain in other ways like improved productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee morale. Innovation management software should make it easy for organizations to report on these gains.
- Improvement broadcasting. When employees learn about a colleague’s creative new way to approach an established process, they are more likely to think of and express innovative ideas of their own.
Sure, once in a while, someone gets a thunderbolt idea that changes the nature of a business or brings a stunning new product to market. But that’s not the way most innovation happens. It’s usually a baby step here and a baby step there that moves the needle on an organization’s results. Innovation management software is a smart way to take more of those steps faster.