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The value of idea jams

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The value of idea jams

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An increasing number of organisations are looking to open up their strategy and decision making processes to employees throughout the company.  IBM are undoubtedly the champions of the idea jam, but even the banking sector is attempting to tap into the wisdom and insights of all of their employees.

South African researcher Anne Elerud-Tryde is currently conducting research into how companies go about managing ideas.  How the work of managing ideas is carried out – if there is any sort of system for the idea work, what the driving forces are, and how companies deal with new ideas are some of the questions Anne has studied in nine large businesses.

Idea jams proved enduringly popular at several of the nine companies Anne studied, with the sessions conducted across both online and offline mediums.  The study was carried out on nine large technology-based companies in Sweden, Germany, and the United States.

“The event is often led by a moderator, who is tasked with finding points in common and asking relevant questions to develop the ideas further. Several companies also conduct creativity workshops and inspirational seminars in connection with their idea jams. During creativity workshops, people usually talk about what being creative involves and perform exercises in how the company works creatively, while inspirational seminars can focus on what innovation is, for example. They then take all their reflections into their idea jam,” says Elerud-Tryde.

Whilst the work KPMG is doing in the banking sector is broadly related to improving strategic direction and decision making, Anne found that idea jams for most companies formed part of a wider effort to be more innovative.  She goes on to state that often, the ideas generated are merely a side benefit, with the new connections made by people working together across the company more beneficial.

“During the interviews, I realised that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the new ideas that produce the most benefit for the companies, and it’s not certain that this is the only reason for working with idea management. This type of work also opens up new areas of contact within the organisation, which is at least as important for innovation work as the ideas themselves that come out” says Elerud-Tryde.

By pointing out other effects, she hopes that companies will be more aware of what expectations they could have for this type of work, and that the work with ideas is as important for the ability to innovate as the ideas themselves.

Of course, with any innovation work, the execution of ideas is arguably more important than the generation of ideas, but nonetheless, this research should prove a nice addition to the canon on idea jams.

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