Your Idea Counts: How to successfully implement ideas in a global customer community

This blog series publication was originally created in Jive Works and is faithfully replicated here as a convenience to our users.

Brandy Robert, Senior Manager, Proactive Service Delivery, Oracle Corporation and Rob Shapiro, Senior Director, Customer Service Experience, Oracle Corporation, have teamed up to implement ideas in My Oracle Support Community. The Your Idea Counts! series of blogs was co-authored by them and will deep-dive in to topics such as why idea generation is important today; ways to capture ideas; user and business impact; changing company culture to rally around ideas; and, of course, measuring idea ROI’s, KPI’s and other intangibles.

Our blogs series, Your Idea Counts!, is not about the platform but rather about the definition, thought process and end-to-end process of implementing ideas in the enterprise for a product(s) but could easily be applied in many other avenues. This is a series because there is much to say and we don’t want you to have to read a book to get something out of it immediately (so, short and productive pieces). This blog series gives you the necessary thinking and end-to-end plan (with actions along the way) on using Ideation.

Everyday we are consumers of numerous products and services. The simple redundancy of, what may be considered, ordinary experiences can lend themselves to the generation of ideas. So, here you are, a user, with an idea around what you believe to be the answer to a perceived problem. It’s something you have spent some time thinking about and just when you want to articulate it, share it or otherwise communicate it you pause.

What is the process to have your voice heard? It can leave you a little lost. Well, you are not alone. In fact, you are the majority! Now, why is that? Certainly many companies have a Suggestion Box or some type of feedback mechanism? Uh, yeah, and it’s highly likely that it is nothing more than a BIG BLACK HOLE. Does my idea count? DOES MY IDEA COUNT?

Answer: It absolutely does!

Your Idea Counts!

But how do you make this happen?

Ah, the $1 Million question and one we will address in this series about using ideation (a.k.a. ideas). But before we begin, we have to take several steps back and explain a few things.

First, we will go on the journey with you. That’s why this is a blog series. We want you to be able to isolate any aspect of ideas, focus on it, study it, twist it and bend it so that you will walk away with something(s) that can be implemented. Of course, we could wait a few more years and just write a book, but that’s not productive for the here-and-now, thus we will write short blogs that build on each other. When we are finally done, we hope to have given you enough content to have a guide for whatever path you choose to explore. We won’t pretend to have all the answers, but we will bring to the discussion some successfully demonstrated business practices and a story that is currently going through several stages of evolution.

Let’s start from the beginning…..

What is an idea? 

According to Merriam-Webster, the first definition of an idea is:

  • a :  a transcendent entity that is a real pattern of which existing things are imperfect representations
  • b :  a standard of perfection :  ideal
  • c :  a plan for action :  design

We prefer this definition for business ideas:

A pattern of which existing things are imperfect representations of solutions.

Breaking this down is important. Ideas are generated to solve a perceived problem. Whether the problem exists in the usability of the product or service, a process, a business requirement, or simply in gaining efficiency, they often result in solutions that need to have some level of significance. Otherwise, why spend the resourcing in developing that solution? By vetting ideas in an open environment like a community, we try to draw out what is universally applicable to that product or service. If you ponder what we are trying to describe and break it down, it really makes a ton of sense.

How do we express an idea? 

Where were you when you thought about a great idea? It’s likely you were not in a place where you could easily transcribe what you were thinking about. Thanks to both low technology and high technology you can still capture what you are thinking about so you at least don’t forget. While there are many forms of expression, the preponderance of expression comes from:

  • Written form. Have you ever jotted a word, sentence or more on something like a match cover? Napkin? Even the old pen-to-hand trick? This is probably the majority case.
  • Visual and/or audio form. You could use the same low technology as the written form, but thanks to cell phones and tablets (largely), you can use a camera or an application to create something that will represent your thoughts or at least remind you what it is you visualize.

It’s quite unusual for an idea to be fully baked at its inception. We often see mental images or think about abstract concepts that represent bits and pieces of the problem solving that will ultimately lead us to the promised land of an actual end result. This is the lead to innovation, which is the act or process of introduction of something new. Even a change or removal fits the category of something new – n’est ce pas (is it not)? Real innovation is taking something that is known and making it better in whatever way necessitates the change (i.e. introduce efficiency, becoming more simplistic, complete a process or flow more easily) and it is through this that we find ways to get “better” results, often with less work.

From a product point of view (and the orientation of our writing), the desired business outcomes of ideas include:

  • Yielding more profit to the business
  • Up-sell / cross-sell opportunities
  • Leveraging or expanding the business value
  • Affect change (causes, non-profit, etc.)

Capturing ideas in a community provides a setting for brainstorming that historically was only achieved in person-to-person meetings. The community is now the virtual business meeting to allow users, developers, business analysts, and implementors to vet out ideas for their desirability, relevance, universal applicability across business and industry, and alignment to compliance or international requirements.

Action for you: Think about the variety of ways for expressing ideas; how can they lead to desired business results for your company?

The Thinking Model 

A company’s roadmap for a product or service is the intersection of 3 major forces:

  • Customers.
    Businesses are born to service customers. The voice of the customer, while not the sole input, is the likely biggest influence. In order to capture organic growth and/or market share, you would ideally offer products and/or services where there exists a higher perceived value than that of your competitors.
  • Company.
    The company creates product and/or service. There is a vision, roadmap, strategy to market and practicality of delivery to name a few. Companies are a collection of individuals with different talents and ideas that produce products and/or services that solve a real world problem with a desirable solution, and does it competitively or specific to a particular segment of the market.
  • Design.
    The product and/or service was intended to serve a purpose. Consideration in the area of design must be recognized. Factors such as support, documentation, constraints (i.e. design limitations) and expertise can govern what can or can’t be done without having to create something altogether new and consequently a new product and/or service. Aspects such as product or service usability, simplicity, reliability, efficiency, speed and scale become the focal point in original or modified design.

Consider this model: Engagement models are used to take in to account the customer, company and design attributes to drive innovation through ideas.

Action for you: What does this tell you about your own specific ideas? How would you use this guidance?

In the next blog installment, we will expand on this concept of ideas and their importance in today’s highly competitive and quickly changing marketplace. We will talk about the value extended to both the customer and the company when they engage with collaborative ideas, and expand on the premise that this is a strategy that can no longer go ignored, or lost among the darkness in the proverbial black hole!

Another Action for you: Make sure you come back to absorb the next blog on “Why Idea generation is important today and the engagement model.”

Please let us know what you think about this topic in the comments below. What are your challenges related to ideas?

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