Technology to support innovation

by Justin Souter on June 21, 2010


A post about my interest in tools to support idea gathering and the innovation process. Part of a growing series [ok, so I’ll make it part of a series when I do the next post ;-)].


As ever, Wikipedia provides a decent definition:

Innovation is a change in the thought process for doing something or “new stuff that is made useful”. It may refer to an incremental emergent or radical and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations.

Following Schumpeter (1934), contributors to the scholarly literature on innovation typically distinguish between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully in practice.

In many fields, such as the arts, economics and government policy, something new must be substantially different to be innovative. In economics the change must increase value, customer value, or producer value.

The goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better. Innovation leading to increased productivity is the fundamental source of increasing wealth in an economy.

Run up – aka my interest in this area

One of the courses in my second year on the Executive MBA at Cass Business School was corporate strategy. The course introduced me to Knowledge Management, which chimed with a latent interest in ideas.

When I joined Fujitsu Services in 99 (then ICL), it was the height on the boom, and business incubators were all the rage. I volunteered to work with the guy is FS heading it up, but the bubble burst before anything meaningful happened. :’(

I worked in the Knowledge Management practice for 5 years, and IMHO innovation is the other side of the coin to KM.

I also took part in the internal ‘Innovation Pays’ suggestion scheme, and even managed to get my bit of Fujitsu to agree to adopt the scheme, but unfortunately it got crowded out by other business priorities. The only tools in use were an intranet page, e-mail and a spreadsheet.

I like to think I have ideas of my own, so I guess there is a yearning for the possibilities that new ideas can offer.


I thought I should tip my hat to this book by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. Keep concepts it introduced to me:

  • That Coase’s Law might be breaking down – i.e. the idea that organisations form because they are the most efficient way to share information
  • Crowdsourcing – using the wisdom of crowds to solve problems etc.
  • Open innovation – instead of hoarding ideas and patents, share them with others to grow the pie and make money out of ideas you can’t do anything with (more to do with intellectual property)
  • Ideagoras – getting the crowd to share and build ideas together
  • Prosumers – work with your customers to create new products


This emerging space make me think of the impact that CRM had with managing the sales process. I imagine it used to be done mostly on spreadsheets etc., until software came along that helped bring the whole function of sales under control (although the Wikipedia article suggests it’s not always implemented successfully!).

My feeling is that is has been a domain which has been underserved with tools, and hopefully this situation is being addressed. My understanding of innovation management software tools is that they help with:

  • Idea management – capture ideas
  • Innovation mgmt – take you through a process to winnow the ideas and bring the ripe ones to fruition
  • Power of the collective – bring different skills into play


A growing list that I’ll update as I find others:

Blurb from Spigit’s wikipedia entry

A bit of a cheat, but a useful summary of what they’re up to & which hopefully gives you a feel of how such a tool can be used:

Spigit is a company based in Pleasanton, California that provides a SaaS platform for enterprise innovation management. The company provides three core services:

(i) Internal employee innovation management through collaboration and crowdsourced feedback;

(ii) External customer, partner and citizen ideas management; and

(iii) Prediction markets for internal and external crowdsourced forecasting.

The company’s stated goal is to make organizations better at innovation and business decisions through community, analytics and workflow.

So you get the general idea!

Wash up

I’m putting this post out there, to get the balling rolling. I plan a future post on case studies and consultancies in this area.

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