Idea boards are an essential visual management technique. They help keep improvement work front and center and make it easy for everyone to recognize progress.
However, there are some pretty significant limits to the helpfulness of physical idea boards hanging on a wall.
That’s why we’ve seen a widespread digital transformation that has idea boards transitioning from the wall to the cloud. Idea board software has many advantages over the bulletin board and sticky notes approach.
Here are a few of the most significant benefits.
1 – Digital idea boards support distributed and remote workers
Physical idea boards are great if you happen to be in the room where they are located, but they are not so useful when you have teams working from different locations or employees who work some or all of the time from home. With the use of software, your idea board becomes a virtual artifact that is visible and actionable from anywhere.
The beauty of this is that you can STILL have the boards hanging on the wall - you just have them displayed on screens rather than cork boards. This allows for the preservation of the benefits of visual management, like gathering in a common space and facilitating conversation - but also supports the inclusion of people in other locations who can all see the same thing at the same time.
2 – Leaders have access to multiple boards
Ideally, the process of continuous improvement is baked into the culture of an organization and is spread widely enough that each functional area has one or more idea boards in play at all times. Idea management software makes it easy for leaders to have real-time and profound insight into the state of change across any number of departments or teams. They can click between locations and teams to see their individual idea boards and drill down into the areas that need support and coaching.
3 – Every improvement project is preserved and becomes part of the collective wisdom
Perhaps the biggest drawback of analog idea boards is the fact that they only provide a snapshot view of improvement work. That’s useful but misses the opportunity to capture all of the lessons learned and best practices revealed as each project is complete. With software, you can digitize and store all of the documents, images, conversations, and revelations about each improvement for future reference and training. Your digital idea boards include all completed initiatives, which you can click on to drill down into the details of the process and results. These initiatives show up in database searches, too, making sure that people know when they're working on duplicate efforts and enabling them to benefit from past lessons learned.
4 – Knowledge is shared and improvement spreads
Process improvements that get positive results in one department may apply to others. Electronic idea boards make it easy for folks from different functional areas and teams to see what is working and replicate success where it makes sense.
5 – Goals are easily aligned
The hope of continuous improvement is that small changes will set the stage for reaching breakthrough, game-changing strategic objectives. This is most likely when the goals of the organization and each individual are closely aligned. When an opportunity for improved is added to an idea board, it should be viewed in context with the bigger picture. Idea management software includes functionality that helps goals cascade down to departments, teams, and individual employees for maximum alignment and synchronized progress.
6 – Notifications and alerts ensure forward motion
One significant disadvantage of a physical idea board is that it is passive. It doesn’t incite action, but rather, waits for folks to pay attention to it. Software adds an element of interruption to remind people when action is required and alert managers when tasks are missed or challenges arise. We all get busy and pulled in a bunch of different directions, so it is helpful to have a solution that pulls people’s attention back to improvement work when necessary.
7 – Success broadcasting generates engagement
When we ask people about how they use idea boards, most people focus on how they gather and implement ideas for improvement. That’s obviously critical, but too often the importance of celebrating success is overlooked. Our clients have found that when they broadly share the results of successful improvement projects, they see a spike in engagement and ideas from other employees. People like to be recognized and will gladly participate in work that earns positive attention.
8 – Results can be quantified over the long run
Some improvements are pass/fail affairs that either show immediate payback or not. However, many ideas for positive change produce quantifiable results over the long term. For example, a cost reduction project may pay dividends over months, or even years. Calculating the long-term effects of improvement work is vital because it makes it a no-brainer for leaders to continue investing in improvement activities and enacting employee ideas. For employees, it demonstrates the power of bottom-up innovation and helps keep people excited about finding the next great idea.
Idea boards are an important tool for modern managers and leaders. Deploying a cloud-based software solution makes the more impactful and helps get a bigger crowd engaged. You can’t go wrong if you look for a solution with a mobile application, robust reporting, top-down and bottom-up management, and built-in success broadcasting. One last note, if you like the thought of having your idea board visible in the workspace, the best software solutions include wallboards that can display information updated in real-time wherever you like.