by Diann Daniel

Where Do Good Ideas Go?

Jul 17, 20073 mins
IT Leadership

For too many companies, the answer is nowhere.

Today I interviewed Thomas Koulopoulos, founder of the innovation consultancy Delphi Group, for a short piece I’ll be publishing soon about some of the ways good ideas get squashed. He recently conducted a study with 374 business and IT execs at a senior manager/director/VP level and found that 22 percent lost interest in championing their idea due to internal process and bureaucracy. Other idea stoppers included no process in place to support the idea (2 percent) and the idea not making it through the review committee (3 percent).

It wasn’t all bad news. Twelve percent bulldozed the idea through barriers but were successful in getting it put to use. Twenty-one percent said their idea was embraced by an executive sponsor. And twenty-seven percent, Nike style, Just Did It: They went ahead with the idea.

The importance of how ideas or supported (or squashed) is paramount. I recently was involved in writing a quiz, “Is Your IT Organization Innovative?” (it will be posted when our 2007 CIO 100 Special Edition goes live on August 1). To write the quiz, we used the questions posed to leaders of innovation, the CIO 100. We asked them about technology, such as where their IT dollars are going, but we also looked at cultural issues.

A biggie was innovation-focused leadership, which 61 percent of our CIO 100 winners said was essential to creating an innovative environment. (Respondents checked off their top three.) The second most-important ingredient in creating an innovative environment, according to the CIO 100 respondents, was smart, creative people (that’s you). It weighed in at 57 percent. Good business-IT alignment was next with 50 percent. And coming in at 25 percent was failure-tolerant management.

People too often think of innovation as being represented by the mad genius locked away in solitude, says Koulopoulos, and it’s just not true. In fact, he says, innovative ideas are so often arrived at by a group. He’s not endorsing the wisdom of mass crowds, per se (or at least not as some people are promoting that idea), but he is stressing innovation’s fundamental reliance on people, not one person or a select special few.

I have to think he’s right. Recently, I’ve written about web 2.0, soft skills, enterprise architecture, and all I can think is how interdependency is perhaps our most fundamental truth, not just in life, but in business, and I think that can sometimes get lost.

 Web 2.0 is about collaboration and support, so are soft skills and leadership, so are so many of the IT systems designed to integrate and build bridges between people, systems, departments (even if they haven’t always succeeded).

Innovation, I think, is especially reliant on collaboration and support. We’re all in it together.

So I’m curious what your thoughts are on this…What is your company doing to create and foster new ideas? Or what isn’t it doing? I’d love to hear!