wardell books

Idea Generating System

Idea Generating System

As you know, the primary role of Research and Development is the creation of new and improved products and services. To make this happen, your R&D department must become an idea factory… a hotbed of inspiration, working hand-in-hand with Marketing and Production to produce customer focused, quality products the company can be proud of.

New ideas come from a wide variety of sources; customers, employees and competitors just to name a few. But no matter where your ideas come from they should be funneled through your R&D process. This will bring a measure of control and consistency to an otherwise unpredictable environment. The idea is not to remove spontaneity; on the contrary, the idea is to make spontaneity work for you by turning it into a practical business development tool.

While not all of your ideas will make it through to Production, all of your ideas should find their way into this process before they are put into action. This will bring some measure of consistency and give you some measure of control over the R&D process without stifling its creative nature.

Build an Idea Machine

Your Research and Development department feeds off new and innovative ideas. It needs a steady stream of these if it is to output anything of value on a regular basis. Certainly you will come up with new ideas yourself, but when it comes to ideas, more is almost always better. To generate these ideas, encourage everyone involved with your company to contribute them. Your R&D department can then act as an idea collector as well as an idea generator.

Your R&D team may be your primary source of new product and feature ideas, but ideas can come from anywhere. Some of the best sources are your customers. They consume your products every day, so they are bound to have a few ideas for improving them. Set up focus groups with your best customers to find out what they think.

Another excellent source of product development ideas are your employees. They are the engine that makes your company run, so chances are they come up with new ideas all of the time. You can tap into this great resource by rewarding those who come forward with their ideas. Your Corporate Culture will play a significant role here as well. An environment that promotes and rewards the sharing of ideas will do more to encourage this behaviour than anything else.

A third, under exploited resource are your suppliers. Often the companies that supply your business also supply other similar businesses. As a result, they may have a better understanding of your industry than you might think. If you take the time to ask them for their ideas, you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Once you have a list of viable ideas, you can begin the process of filtering through them, identifying those that will improve your operating efficiency and strengthen your market position in a cost effective manner.

“Our best ideas come from our clerks and stockboys.”

- Sam Walton

Begin by reviewing your Operations and Marketing strategies. This will remind you of your customers' needs and the direction your company is going. Then, begin the process of brainstorming about the future of your products and services. It may be appropriate for you to involve other stakeholders (staff, customers, suppliers, etc.) in this process as well. The following questions will help you with this process.

What are the largest or most common complaints that people have about dealing with companies in your industry?

How could you eliminate these complaints 100 percent of the time for your business? Brainstorm a series of ideas, no matter how impossible they seem right now. You never know where they will lead.

Good ideas will…

  1. Upgrade your existing products
  2. Eliminate your weaker products
  3. Create/introduce brand new products
  4. Save your company time
  5. Save your company money
  6. Fit in with your Operations and Marketing strategies

What new services, products, or features (consider quality, value, and packaging) might help to establish your business as a market leader in your industry?

IdeaSourcePotential ValuePriority Level
Make a current operating manual available to customers on the internetCustomer$ savings in customer serviceB

Screen Your Ideas

Now that you've got a running list of viable new ideas, you need a method of eliminating the least valuable ones so you can focus on the most valuable ones.

The following questions will help you identify the impact a new idea might have on your business. Run through this list for all ideas with an A or B rating.

What is your new idea?

How might this new idea impact your production systems?

Will it slow things down or speed things up?

Will it require entirely new systems, or could it fit within your existing structure?

Do you have the necessary equipment or space?

How might this new idea impact your production costs?

How else might it impact your production system?

How might this new idea impact your labor requirements?

Do you have a large enough staff to handle the additional work?

What costs will be required to implement this idea?

What costs savings or profits might be generated by this new idea?

Idea Screening System

Your Idea Screening System will determine which new Research and Development idea should be explored further. In many cases your decision may be intuitive, but always give an important decision the time and attention it deserves.

Design your Idea Screening System. As appropriate, incorporate the questions you answered previously.