atlas by clearpeople

Are Ideation Software Platforms a good idea?


In business, ideation means generating and developing new ideas to solve a problem or improve a product, process or service. Ideation is typically aimed at solving a problem or providing a more efficient means of doing or accomplishing something.

In this blog:

Companies such as Apple, 3M, BMW and Target are known for encouraging innovation by allowing employees to spend a percentage of their time working on personal ideas or projects for new products or services. In the early days, Google famously had a ‘20% policy’ that resulted in some of their best products, such as Gmail and AdSense.

Hackathons, think tanks and innovation centres are some of the other ways businesses encourage innovation. After all, helping people do work that gets them excited and personally invested in, boost morale and engagement. And innovation can come from anywhere or anything, so creating a culture that ignites and assesses the potential of new ideas makes business sense.

More reasons for encouraging ideation:

  • Sustainable innovation is the key to staying competitive – see this article on Why Is Innovation So Hard To Repeat? 
  • Ideation gives employees a voice, helping increase employee engagement and retention.
  • Could present answers to pressing issues such as sustainability and DEI.
  • Improves your customer experience by solving customer challenges.
  • Produces new products or services.
  • An ideation process allows organisations to consider ideas against company strategy.
  • Creates a culture of innovation so that an organisation goes beyond simply talking about it and instead empowers employees to actively contribute and have their ideas heard.

Ideation typically leads to companies being able to:

  • Develop new products or services
  • Explore opportunities for new revenue streams
  • Review or create new business strategies
  • Find solutions to customer challenges

What forms does ideation take?

There are several different forms ideation may take. Douglas Graham and Thomas Bachmann in their book, Ideation: The Birth and Death of Ideas, list these as:

  • Solving problems. For example, ideas on how to reduce production costs.
  • Derivative ideation which refers to building on an existing idea, such as developing complementary products or accessories to sell along with a company’s main product.
  • Innovation. An example of innovation ideation is the process of a pharmaceutical company developing new medicines. This type of ideation often involves extensive research and experimentation as part of the ideation process.
  • Developing a “revolutionary idea”. Ideation sometimes results in an entirely new line of thought or set of ideas, such as the development of a new philosophy.
  • Serendipitous ideation. This is the type of ideation where someone comes up with a new idea even though they weren’t consciously trying to do so.
  • Combination ideation. This includes combining multiple ideas to create a new process or way of doing something.

Successful ideation

Successful ideation requires three things:

  1. People to contribute ideas
  2. Software to capture ideas
  3. Process to facilitate the development

The people part is self-explanatory. The third point refers to the process the organisation puts in place for selecting the top ideas and making them happen. The role of ideation software (or idea software) is what makes us at ClearPeople excited.

The golden rules of ideation

Golden rules of ideation

What is ideation software?

Ideation software or ideation platforms enables ideas to be systematically collected, shared and acted on. The important thing is that an idea platform or software provides a simple way for ideas to be capture and then, crucially, managed and developed.

Idea software enables companies to better manage the process of developing ideas into real solutions that deliver value for the business.

Why use ideation software?

By providing one digital location to capture, evaluate and develop ideas, organisations encourage innovation. Ideas are often shared informally in different departments and through a wide variety of ways. But this also presents a high chance that a promising idea could fall through the cracks. Ideation platforms or software capture every idea, ensuring each one is properly evaluated and that employees at every level are being fully utilised and recognised for their contributions.

The rationale for investing in idea software is the same as that for investing in employees and customers. Ideas can spark product improvements, new revenue streams and greater employee engagement. Ideation software provides a structured framework for coming up with, capturing and developing ideas across the business.

Ideation software also holds certain advantages over in person, or face-to-face ideation workshops.

  • Idea software works independently of time and location which means you can reach a larger audience than with a workshop.
  • Idea software provides an inclusive, easy way to put ideas forward, particularly for introverts who may feel less comfortable in group discussions.
  • Many ideas can be generated in a brain-storming workshop. But those ideas capture one moment in time and are strongly dependent on both the situation and participant motivation. An ideation platform can be accessed at any time by all employees when it suits them to do so.
  • Ideation software allows you to reliably measure your organisation's innovation level. You see how active the members of your organisation are, how many different perspectives are expressed, and to what extent your company can innovate.

How to select the right ideation software for your company

There are a lot of idea management software and tools you can use to bring structure and management to your ideas. In fact, with 53% of global services decision makers investing in emerging innovation and idea management technologies, the number of innovation management choices is growing.

As ideation, by nature, is transparent, inclusive and helps foster a company-wide culture of innovation, you want software that supports this.

Features to look for in ideation software

Integration with existing technology
Any ideation platform needs to integrate well with your company’s existing technology. This is not only a cost-efficiency and licensing consideration but software that integrates well is software people can start using straight away.

Inclusivity and accessibility
Your software needs to be something everyone has access to and can easily use, no matter their digital skill level. To ensure everyone has instant access to the platform, it makes sense to select ideation software that fully integrates into your existing systems. Microsoft 365, for instance, could be your chosen software platform and you will need ideation software that plugs into it.

Idea capture
It’s important to have a centralised location where users can submit and vote on ideas. This could be done with a form, but one of the primary functions of innovation software is to provide secure idea capture capabilities.

Organisations can use unstructured or structured idea capture methods. An unstructured approach allows for the open submission of ideas by any contributor without limitations. Structured methods rely on a form-based process that limits the submission of ideas. Hybrid idea capture methods allow for any combination of branded, unbranded, external, internal, structured or unstructured idea capture.

Organisations can choose the best method based on their objectives as long as it’s secure. It should just take a few clicks for all information, including shared documents and original ideas, to be protected.

Intuitive interface
Idea software should help people navigate easily through idea submission forms, evaluating and voting for ideas and workflow processes to make the process as inclusive as possible.

Enabling collaboration
Voting for ideas, liking and commenting are all ways to get people involved, and speed up the process of making things happen. Enabling collaboration helps you tap into the company’s collective intelligence and expertise.

Adding an element of gamification to this (badges for contributions and achievement levels, dashboards with progress bars and scores) can enhance the fun and engagement.

Clear workflows
Having a transparent and effective workflow for ideas to be taken from capture to evaluation and development helps build trust in the system and the company’s commitment to innovation. When people understand how the process works and where in the workflow an idea is, they are more likely to support and contribute to it.

Idea capture is essential, but this also means you need to archive ideas – and be able to find them again. A search function that allows people to look through existing ideas is important: the timing might not be right for an idea when it’s first suggested, but it’s one you want to save. Also, to avoid duplication, you will want to look through previously proposed ideas to see if your new solution or campaign has already been mentioned.

Idea management software that provides analytics enables companies to build up insights and make informed decisions. Having measurements in place allows you to identify the best ideas easily and create reports on metrics and trends.

Questions to ask an ideation software provider

So, when considering your ideation platform options, here are some questions to consider:

  • Can the software be fully integrated into your current technology platform?
  • Is the tool accessible?
  • Is it intuitive to use?
  • Does it offer transparency and collaboration?
  • Does it provide dashboards and reporting that make it easy to identify ideas and trends?
  • How much does it cost and is pricing per user or by other licensing methods?

If innovation is part of your business strategy, a good ideation platform will help your business gather, share and evaluate ideas quickly and easily, and provide the framework to make ideas happen.


Author bio

Jeanne Davies

Jeanne Davies

From journalism to content marketing, I've always enjoyed learning and writing about a diverse range of topics, but the digital world has become particularly interesting to me over the last decade or so. ClearPeople gives me an opportunity to shape my work life and it's fascinating how technology allows me to create great working relationships with colleagues across continents and time zones.

View all articles by this author View all articles by this author

Get our latest posts in your inbox