Ideas Flow Two Ways: The 21st Century flow debate

I just posted an article about Social Workstreams vs. Workflow.  While I am still in the “flow” mentally, let’s talk about the fact that ideas are generated and can flow in two different directions. The direction of flow makes a big difference in the application. This is reminiscent of the classic AC (alternating current) or DC (direct current) debate of the early 20th century on electricity.  In a hundred years we’ve ended up with AC for distributed electricity (our homes) and DC for local power (batteries).  Now, in idea management we also have two flows, that I’ll call CC and POV.  Most people are CC’ers, they are not even thinking POV and thus are missing out on a critical use of idea management to improve their organizations results.  Let’s examine these flows and some of the issues around them.

CC for Community Contributed

Almost universally when I discuss Idea Management people are thinking about the approach of tapping into the large, general population to generate ideas.  The community generates the ideas and they flow into a process that reviews them and moves them forward or not.  They want engagement, input, volume, and the wisdom of crowds.  Let’s call this standard flow CC for Community Contributed.



POV for Process Owner Vetting

Here is the new twist.  Without idea management solutions, ideation is really owned by the business process owners.  Most product managers take pride in their ideas.  Yes, they reach out for ideas.  But, usually they believe they know best. They are paid to be great at it. This is the same for almost all existing business processes – process improvement, best practices, RFP proposal creators, program managers, HR policies, marketing managers creating collateral and campaigns, etc.

Then, here we come with Idea Management and suggest that they open up the process to the crowd and let a big flow come rolling in.  Organizations are doing this and the business process owners are adjusting; sometimes, with resistance.

Now, we take the next step.  The process owners aren’t stopping their innovation.  They are still coming up with features, ideas of their own, decisions.  So, now we get to POV or Process Owner Vetting.  How about the process owners taking their ideas and exposing them to the crowd to get feedback – to vet their ideas.  This is the essence of the POV flow of ideas.



Examples of POV

So, let’s look at a few examples of POV:

- a Marketing manager posts their ideas for marketing campaigns for vetting with the sales population

- the Executive team posts its ideas for company objectives to their mid-level managers

- a Product Manager posts their top 10 product features for their next rev of a product for vetting and ranking by the big community

- a Sales director posts their sales projections by product line for the year for the big community to rate (predictive)

- the IT Department posts every application that they are developing for business groups for all to vet

- the HR department posts new policies to the big community before they go into place and ask for feedback, comments, and questions

- the Best Practices group posts Best Practice articles and then receives ratings, comments, and questions to make best practices that much better


Impact of POV

Ask a business process owner and they tend to be more comfortable with CC.  Why?  Because they can always say no or defer.  But, ask them to go POV and vet THEIR ideas with the community and you’ll get some hesitation.  What if the community doesn’t like their idea?  What if the ranking by the community differs greatly from what they think?  You can sense the refrain “It will take time and I already know what I want to do.”  Yet, organizations are learning that vetting with a general population or targeted segments is a great way to be more effective.  Obviously, this is the whole point of test marketing and user testing that we have done for a long time.  But now, we can also do it internally and at a much smaller incremental cost.

POV scenarios are at least 50% of the way that you can leverage Idea Management solutions such as Cim.  Yet, we are only starting to understand the power of going POV in addition to CC.  The reality is that social tools such as Cim are primarily providing organizations with the ability to tap into the power of people – the power of the crowd.  Learning to tap the power of people starts with looking at your internal business processes and simply asking “How can we tap into our internal people and/or external people to improve our business results?”  Sometimes, the answer is CC to get peoples ideas.  Other times, the answer is POV to be able to vet ideas, thoughts, policies, objectives that you are working on.  You can use Cim to address both flows.

In the 20th century the AC and DC debate about electricity eventually worked itself out and became the vehicle to power growth and improvement in the quality of life.  To follow the analogy you could claim that the power for the 21st century business is people.  Learning when and how to use CC and POV to become a people powered business will take some time and getting used to.  But, the value is there.  


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