Product innovation drives growth and is a key strategic focus for all organizations, regardless of their size or activity. But how do organizations generate ideas and turn them into bankable innovations consistently? Recent research at MIT Sloan demonstrated that an increase in the number of winning ideas per employee translates to an increase in profits within an organization. While the finding is not necessarily surprising, the process of generating winning ideas does necessitate more than getting employees to submit a large quantity of ideas, especially where efficiency is concerned.
Many organizations encourage employees to contribute ideas and participate in the organization’s innovation or improvement process, but very few have designed effective organizational processes that turn these ideas into innovation. One issue that often bottlenecks the ideation-to-innovation process (or worse, dead-ends the process altogether) is a mismatch in organizational work-process contingency, or a mismatch between the work requirement and the process that is being implemented. Typically, mismatches occur when ambiguous work is organized serially (i.e. automated, like a factory line), and well-defined work is organized collaboratively (i.e. micro-managed, like a project task force), resulting in degrees of frustration and inefficiency—MIT Sloan.
Similarly, organizations need to design the right processes in order to bring ideation to innovation, keeping the principle of contingency in mind. At the ideation end of spectrum, the process can be largely serial—ideation from employees can be largely elicited without much collaborative supervision—however, as the process progresses to the innovation end of the spectrum, it must transition into collaborative work. The key piece that is too often missing is the transition “trigger”: the people and structural pieces that clearly transition serial to collaborative work and guide it. As a result, ideas in their rough from around the organization rarely receive the attention they need to fully fledge into valuable ones, and the ideation-to-innovation process gradually grinds to a halt.
 Read more about innovation and profitability at MIT Sloan.
 Read more about new approaches to designing work at MIT Sloan.