Creative business ideas can come from anywhere, at any time. Perhaps you receive an invitation to a brainstorming session where you’re asked to think how to solve a specific challenge — or genius strikes when you and a coworker are out at lunch together. Each person has a unique vantage point in a situation that equips them to bring something new to the table. This is why the process of conceptualizing, shaping, and sharing our creative ideas is an essential part of doing good business. Yet because of the organic and unstructured nature of idea generation, it’s incredibly difficult to manage, measure, and magnify.
According to Forrester, investing in great CX enables organizations to reduce operational costs and risk and attract customers that are more than twice as likely to stay loyal to them. The key to this though is action, fueled by ideas. Ask yourself: what value are these insights without ideas that lead to change?
It’s time that business leaders turn up the volume on creative ideation tapping into the nuanced perspective of their workforce, operationalizing approaches to solve human challenges with human solutions.
Foster an Idea-Driven Culture
Before we can put structure and processes around creative ideation, leaders need to ensure that it’s a core tenet of their corporate culture. That is to say, employees must feel safe and supported in sharing their feedback and ideas with leadership.
Leaders can create this culture of ideas by ensuring that everyone feels reassured and comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions. By giving employees a platform to not only share their successes but also their challenges, companies can break the barrier of communication and be more transparent across their workplace. If employees feel like they’re unable to share their thoughts or concerns, they’re less likely to speak up. This weakens the culture of ideas we’re striving for.
It’s necessary for leaders to actively integrate processes and platforms that encourage the sharing of ideas alongside existing ones to drive adoption. The less friction they cause, the more quickly they will become a core part of everyday life at the company.
Identify the Right Tools & Processes
With workplace culture primed for a productive conversation about ideas to improve CX and the business at large, the next step is to identify how to effectively collect and evaluate the potential of ideas from frontline employees. The larger the organization the more challenging this could be, not only to capture ideas but to assess which are the best to advance. By integrating the right tools and processes, brands can gather, analyze, and integrate resulting insights and suggestions into data-backed decisions.
- Brainstorming and Focus Group sessions: If the organization is looking to ignite ideas and drive change, brainstorming sessions may be a good choice. Holding focus groups also helps organizations understand what groups of individuals are thinking, allowing organizations to gather insight from a diverse sample. Voting on ideas during these sessions can help identify the most impactful takeaways. However, leaders may need to limit attendees to ensure that everybody involved has the chance to speak.
- Share ideas during 1:1s: Managers can solicit and document feedback from their direct reports during 1:1s. This can be easier than a group setting for some, especially if there is strong trust between a manager and their direct report. Culling through disjointed input in a meaningful way could prove challenging depending on the volume of the input, so leaders should also consider implementing technology like artificial intelligence (AI) natural language processing (NLP) to identify trends in written reports of feedback.
- Adopt crowdsourcing technology: Crowdsourcing tools allow you to engage your employees to collect their ideas, evaluate them and execute the best ones to drive impactful change. As an example, Forsta worked with a major CPG company that wanted ideas for new, exciting cereals. It tapped its 3000+ employee brains and leveraged Forsta’s Frontline Innovation tool to gather, filter, and rank the best ideas generated in response to its cereal challenge. Having generated over 350 ideas, the tool’s proprietary voting capabilities made it easy to identify the top 50. Within a short 6 months of the challenge starting, the company launched 5 new cereals — powered by crowdsourcing employee ideas.
Turn Ideas into Innovation
The benefits of structured creative ideation can only be truly reaped through a comprehensive frontline innovation strategy that includes intentional measurement, intuitive follow-through, visibility across the organization, and executive follow-up. After all, even with ideas free flowing in your organization, they are just that until they’re put to work.
Once the process has generated ideas, implementing a platform to rank and prioritize ideas helps to easily identify the best ones and push them directly from concept to project management. Of course, this means assessing feasibility, sourcing the funding, clear prioritization, and ultimately change management.
From there, teams can continue to build the business case for an idea and see it through to reality. This also helps enrich a pipeline of innovation rather than one-off successes by ensuring good ideas don’t go by the wayside and keeping the conversation and ideation process moving forward.
The criticality of this step is two-fold. First, employees need to see that their contributions of insights and ideas convert into action. Implementing an employee-recommended process can have a material impact on corporate culture, streamlining future problem-solving efforts and cultivating the pride of the workforce who know that they have a voice in corporate innovation. Second, the sooner you can implement ideas that address challenges, the bigger the impact these changes will have on your CX. Or in other words, the better your return on investment will be for the time and resources spent on creative ideation.
The ultimate goal is to continuously develop a more nuanced and layered approach to CX informed by an understanding of customers as fellow humans. Formalizing the capture, analysis, and implementation of creative ideation gives leaders the best chance at success by operationalizing the most valuable insights they have — those of their people. With those insights, we can evolve and grow our businesses in ways that delight customers and keep them coming back for more.