Why innovative ideas need followers

Stuart Sinclair - January 24, 2014

Innovation is not, ideally, a solitary state with a lone genius cooking up great ideas in a lab, office, or back garden shed.

Innovation starts with an idea that then needs to be shared with others in order for it to grow and develop. The innovator who can take an idea from initial thought to final product is very much the exception – most new ideas need and indeed deserve the involvement and input of others.

A blog at 7Innovation identifies the 'zero phase' of an idea, where the person who initially had the idea needs to find the idea's first follower, or supporter. The team at 7Innovation suggest this should be "someone in the organization who can fund it, or find a way to fund it." The key, they suggest, is to get someone to listen to a concise summary, which consists of an explanation, the benefits and the potential customers. They also suggest the idea should be prototyped, if only in the form of a presentation, and have a path to market.

As a brief for an appearance on TV's "Dragon's Den", it's on the mark, but for sustained innovation within an organisation, it doesn't quite fit the bill. In fairness, the blog does suggest that for "organizations with an implemented innovation process it should not be hard to get your first supporter, as ideas should first go to experts for evaluation. In this case ideas will have been screened and receive remarks first."

A cloud-based innovation platform setup can take this process of screening to a wider audience. Ideas can receive a wealth of feedback from a whole range of followers beyond those with technical expertise in the field. An open commenting and rating system allows those with diverse experiences to help develop an idea by contributing a different perspective, beyond the technical and the logistical. In turn, the very act of following and supporting others' ideas may in turn spark a new idea in the follower, or encourage them to participate in following a wider range of ideas.

Interestingly, in these days of "no winners or losers", the 7Innovation team wrap up by reminding innovators that "Sometimes it can be hard to get a negative response and rejection, but it could also be a basis for the next attempt with a change in the idea or with presenting something totally new." It's also a reminder to followers not to wade in with heavy criticism but to contribute in a way that moves an idea forward, even if it's only towards the wastepaper bin!

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