CEOs, Chief Product Officers on a Collision Course with Idea Engines

By Jim Lundy

The art and science of developing new products is as challenging as it ever was, but today, in a digital era, it is getting harder to find that next big idea. Look at any great product and there were always a number of factors that went into how that product came to be. In the old days, it was usually a firm belief, a conviction from the Chief Engineer or Chief Product Officer, that catapulted their idea forward. Jump ahead to 2012 and there is more at stake and CEOs are under more pressure than ever to refresh their products and services.

Idea Engines, also referred to as Idea Management, are getting smarter. In fact, our belief is that given the new toolsets from firms such as Spigit, that most enterprises will have to invest in Idea Engines just to keep ahead of the competition. Spigit recently acquired Crowdcast, which gives it a powerful new set of capabilities that makes the quest for the next big idea a shorter journey. We’ll be publishing a separate First Cut that analyzes that acquisition, but the implications for enterprises are already unfolding.

Idea EnginesIn his pioneering book Being Digital, Nick Negropante in 1995 envisioned a digital world in which competitors would emerge that leveraged digital technology to disrupt industries that previously had large barriers to entry. Just six years later, in 2001, Apple launched the iPod and changed the way music was distributed. Sony, which sold the popular Sony Walkman, never saw it coming. Today, the risks to companies and their staffs of not innovating are great. Not having the next big idea and not taking steps to ensure that the idea is being vetted, can threaten the very survival of the firm.

That brings us back to the need for Idea Engines. Vetting ideas is often the hardest part. The best ideas often never see the light of day due to a variety of factors. Leveraging an Idea Engine as part of the product planning and development life cycle isn’t optional anymore. It is fast becoming as fundamental to that craft as CRM is to selling. Just as a CRM tool won’t do the selling, Idea Engines won’t design a product. They will however, ensure that that the idea for that next great product isn’t missed. That said, we do see an era emerging where Idea Pipelines in Product Teams will become as common as the Opportunity Pipeline in Sales.

Idea Management is still relatively new and it doesn’t have the coverage of Social Software or CRM. It does have a growing number of vendors (e.g. BrainBank, BrightIdea, Spigit, and numerous others). So, while the  race is on to innovate, by having Idea Management Software deployed, the probability of success in finding the next big idea just got better.


  1. Jim: Good comments and crafting of ‘Idea Engines’. We use Spigit and are quite pleased with the outcomes we have seen using the product.

  2. Thanks for this post Jim. Definitely agree with the CRM analogy, soon every company will treat managing ideas like thier sales pipeline, i.e. having actionable tracking for ideas, business proposals and funded projects similar to leads, opps, and contracts in CRM. There is a wealth of idea management examples and videos available here worth checking out for more information:

  3. Solid post Jim and thanks for the Brightidea mention.

    The one thing i would note is that I don’t think “idea” pipelines will be as common as “opportunity” pipelines however I do think “proposal” pipelines will be as common as “opportunity” pipelines.

    If you think about the CRM process, the progression is “leads”, “opportunities”, “contacts”..
    If you relate this to Innovation Management software, like Brightidea, the equivalent progression is “ideas”, “proposals”, “projects”.

    In CRM software, the VP of Sales is looking at the “opportunity” pipeline, not the “lead” pipeline.

    “Ideas” are more like “leads” then “opportunities”.

    If the “ideas” are qualified, they should converted into more formal “proposals”.
    This is the point at which the true value of the pipeline will be monitored.

    Having an Innovation Management system without the concept of “proposals” is like having a CRM system without the concept of “opportunities”. It just doesn’t work.
    Everyone CRM vendor has already released this.

    Just some thoughts..

    Thanks again for the mention.

    Vincent Carbone

  4. Some nice insights into idea management for enterprise

    We are one of the new wave of collaborative idea management systems for enterprise. We created a new idea management platform specifically to address the benefits and trends (some of which you have outlined) of idea management.

    It’s called Hexigo:

    But as your article notes (although it was 6 months ago) idea management systems are still relatively new as a mainstream way to innovated and collaborate on new ideas.

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