How a contradiction on Linkedin got us using InPhase in a whole new way

Ideas, issue sharing and collaboration for teams

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A few months ago, I spotted a MASSIVE contradiction on LinkedIn...

2 articles posted right next to one another.

The first headline read
"Ideas are so precious"
Going on to articulate that good ideas were scarce and precious.

The second headline read
“Use my top tips to generate unlimited good ideas”

Well, unlimited versus precious are certainly contradictory in my experience. I’ll also admit I thought “oh no” another silly sales tactic, when I read the second headline, but actually she had a pretty good framework and some awesome approaches for idea generation. I was surprised.

I then turned inwards, and looked at my team. They are always coming up with not good but GREAT ideas. Everyday the team emails me, zooms me, call me and we chat about things that might make the business better, drive sales up, improve the customer experience programme.

While the benefits of this are pretty obvious, operationally it actually generates headaches for me too.

  1. There are too many ideas!
  2. We can't do them all
  3. There is no really well defined ROI for the idea
  4. There is no understanding of resource impact for the idea
  5. The team get frustrated if they then don't see us acting on their good ideas. This is actually a weighty concern for me. At a personal level they are vested in helping out. They want to contribute. I want them to contribute. They need to see they are having an impact, and when nothing happens it's demotivational and they are less likely to contribute in the future.
  6. So... we feedback on ideas (good and bad), BUT... it's hugely time consuming and frequently repetitive. This is especially the case I've found in innovative creative companies like software development.

There are numerous reasons not to undertake an awesomely great idea, but basically it comes down to finances, resourcing, capacity, and the most critical of all, the REAL biggy…. The idea might divert us away from our core strategy.

Because as we all know by now, it’s not the idea that matters, it’s the execution. There is no point in having the best idea in the world if you can’t make it work.

So, what’s the impact for us as a business to help alleviate the headache and keep the teams focused on generating more and more fab ideas?

Last month we launched a new “Ideas and Issues” capability. This directly links into the existing OKR*, GRC** and crisis experience. This helps us now digitally transform the process of idea collection.

This process is just that, a process. It’s automated, audited, structured and typically of InPhase, engaging for the team.

We can easily now capture ideas and issues, whether this is in a meeting, over zoom, by email or just direct into the software because someone thought of something cool this afternoon.

Critically on capture, we can show which ideas drive which objectives and key results, or risks, audit or compliance requirement. The software helps highlight which ideas will have the biggest potential impact on the business, and we can even what-if scenario or role play the idea into the current business plan.

Its easy to see if the idea will replace out an existing workplan, or need totally new resources. The software will identify what the impact of this might be cross departmentally and on the overall team, departmental or company goals.

For example, when the customer care team wanted to introduce new monthly video based training and free resources for the customer base it was costed at an additional £30,000 per annum to the business, and would take resources away from front line delivery. Since our strategy is about customer intimacy and low attrition levels, the 20 point expected increase in customer use of the product, customer engagement and overall customer satisfaction seemed worth it. In reality the success has been higher than that, and over 80% of the customer base engage every month with us live.

The new approach critically lets us see the idea in the context of other workplans. Our customer training programme meant we either needed to recruit, or divert front line resources. It was much easier to see which way for us to go, managing by fact not guess.

Indeed, by mapping out ideas this way I’m often surprised at how many initially awesome ideas actually conflict with the business strategy and if we’d executed them they would have been quietly and slowly dragging us backwards not forwards.

Our InPhase system then gives us a critical set of priority ideas. These Ideas, the ones that align, get worked up into a more formal business case. Anything not obviously workable has a note against it and goes into the ideas register where it’s clear to see why we didn’t do it. Maybe another idea will solve the problem with this idea.

Some ideas are parked because they look great, seem to fill the business case, but timing might be a little off. We come back to these and review them, in our case quarterly.

The ideas register additionally provides a place where we don’t all need to think about the same ideas over and over again coming back to them. If it’s been assessed, marked as a no, it’s a no for at least 12 months. As CEO I’ll dip back into that pot next year and sanity check those little pools of awesomeness in case the strategy changes or it inspires us to move the business in a different direction.

This whole process has to my surprise, educated the team in strategy execution and it’s definitely solidified the meaning of the goals of the business in everyone’s mind.

For now, I’m happy that we’ve massively increased the number of ideas coming my way, everyone is engaged in the process and the cycle of ideas management has some rigour and is less burdensome overall.

Remember, it's execution that's everything... it might only take one little shinny idea to build a business from but that idea won’t succeed if you, your teams and resources are not focused on delivering it.

*If you’ve not heard of OKR this is the new mantra for running your business. Objectives and Key Results are a proven methodology that can help craft business purpose, transform employee engagement ( especially when remote) and align the entire business by carefully decoding top objectives into departmental, team and even individual goals and results that need to be met.

*GRC. The process of implementing checks and balances across your business to ensure business strategy is implemented, risks are mitigated, Standard Operating Procedures are in place and ready to go and that you are compliant with all of your statutory obligations. GRC is your total quality management system.

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About the Author

Robert Hobbs

Robert Hobbs

Robert, the CEO of InPhase, founded InPhase as a business management tools and applications software author to enable organisations to improve the achievement of their business goals.

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