Practical Tools for New Ideas

Innovation is the wellspring of prosperity. This second part of a series looks at products that help spur new ideas - and prevent them from dying on the vine.

You'd use Idea Central to collect ideas, evaluate them, and develop their potential; to create an "idea-base" to be browsed and searched; and to manage the workflow aspects of moving an idea through a development pipeline. Idea Chain complements Idea Central by bringing customers, suppliers, and research partners into the loop and helping manage intellectual property rights.

Both products help to support Imaginatik's six-stage idea management process, which includes:

  • Challenging employees to generate ideas focused on specific business issues
  • Generating ideas based on a positive attitude to idea submission and feedback
  • Capturing ideas in a central place so they are easy to find, classify, and search
  • Sharing ideas to stimulate discussion and encourage peer review and feedback
  • Exploiting ideas by scoring them and facilitating a decision-making process
  • Measuring success by reporting and monitoring key performance indicators.

Other vendors see idea management slightly differently. For example, Akiva's spin on idea management is called Enterprise Innovation Management. As Akiva sees it, "Enterprise Innovation Management (EIM) is a system for organizing, tracking, and deploying ideas. With an EIM process, an organization can collect ideas from employees, customers, suppliers, and industry groups to dramatically improve business performance for rapid innovation and reduced expenses." And the way that you achieve this goal is by combining lightweight communications models such as message boards, instant messaging, and group chats with more established communication channels such as Web publishing, document management, and mailing lists. Here, idea management is viewed much more as a community-based paradigm that benefits from the input and feedback of a wide range of stakeholders in the idea generation and development process.

Idea management looks like one of those applications whose time has come. After all, many businesses have spent a fortune on call-center and customer service software that is designed to fix problems. Surely it's time to start spending more on technology designed to create innovative solutions?

Idea management applications can be used to develop any kind of idea, but for specific kinds of idea management — focused on delivering a new product or service — a vertical solution is required. In the third and final part of this innovation management series, I'll cover some applications specifically designed for managing product innovation, which claim to manage the complete innovation life cycle, end to end.

Stewart Mckie is an independent consultant and technology writer specializing in analytic, enterprise resource management, and Web services applications. Reach him via his Web site at


Part 1: "Let Innovation Thrive," Jan. 1, 2004

Aguilar, F. J., Scanning the Business Environment, Macmillan Co., 1967.




IdeaFisher Systems:


The Learning Trust:




ParaMind Software:

SimTech Systems:


Smart Technologies:

Stanford University iWork project:

Virtual Ink: