An Idea management platform is a digital process for generating, capturing, and evaluating ideas – and turning the best ideas into practical, real-world innovation.

Particularly relevant is the phase of capturing ideas, where companies obtain feedback or insights from both internal and external stakeholders. Even though the idea management platform is a tool mainly used to help the employees to contribute to innovation within the company, valuable feedback can also be collected from outside the organization. As highlighted by Bill Joy, some of the greatest ideas can in fact come from outside the organization:

“No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else”.

Bill Joy, Co-Founder of Sun Microsystems

For a long time, companies limited the contributions of external stakeholders to passive inputs. Initially, firms wanted to be the initiators, inventors, developers, and designers of the product. They still can, and they still should – but nowadays, in order to stay innovative, some companies have started to also include external feedback in the development of new products. In this sense, the role of users has become more important over the years.

The User Innovator

The importance of users’ insights in the development of an innovative product is often unknown to most. In fact, it is wrongly believed that producers are always the source of innovation. According to a recent study conducted by Eric Von Hippel, an American economist and a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, user innovation is not a rare phenomenon. Producers’ willingness to innovate often relates to the fact that they can benefit from the innovation through selling it. That is great and absolutely natural. But in companies where it is relevant, users still bring a different perspective that can be of value too. A user innovator comes up with innovative ideas because he or she urgently needs a certain product or service solution. A user innovator innovates in order to benefit from actually using the innovation.

Users innovate in different ways. And sometimes, users make unusual discoveries related to existing products and even create new markets by re-using them. Additionally, users dissatisfied with standard products innovate through modifying and customizing existing products to their needs. Finally, some users come up with totally new ideas, which sometimes constitute the basis of entirely new industries. Even though users innovate in different ways, most user innovations have the one thing in common that they are developed collaboratively through user communities.

The Importance of Sharing Ideas: Online User Communities

The importance of sharing knowledge and ideas is a vital aspect for user-innovators. The goal for the users might be to make the product more suitable to their personal needs, but many users (as well as the companies themselves) realize that the best way to get there is by exchanging know-how.

Brainstorming and exchanging ideas permit the continuous improvement of the technology as highlighted by different well-known user innovators.

…we were all helping each other and giving each other ideas, and we’d brainstorm and go out and do this and the next day the (other) guy would do it a little better, you know, that’s how all these things came about…

Larry Stanley, a windsurfing user innovator

Before the arrival of the Internet, users used to share ideas through word of mouth, at meetings or through magazines. Nowadays, online communities allow users to easily bring together their varied individual needs, skills and know-how. Communities makes it easier to ‘match’ problems with individuals possessing ideas and means to solve them. Communities can identify and solve a wide range of problems through facilitating rapid development and simultaneous experimentation. An alternative but highly effective version of the online community for sharing ideas is the idea management software. As you know if you have visited our blog before, this tool allows you to collect and develop all the relevant ideas while promoting the interaction between users in creating innovation.

Idea Management Platform: the Tool that Users and Companies Need

Today, idea management platforms like Ideanote are first and foremost channels that help employees share and develop ideas and be a part of the everyday innovation process in the company. But it can easily be used to include external users in the innovation process – and, as such, be a way to facilitate the user community.

Companies have to listen to employees, or in this case users, to attract ideas. Through this win-win relationship, companies benefit from users by improving products’ features, while users profit from companies by (hopefully) obtaining products more suitable to their needs. Best case, the company gains a competitive advantage and the users are as happy with the company’s products or services as ever.

Suggestions

Local Motors, Ducati, Lego, and Fujitsu are just some of the companies that have included their users in the product development process. You could be the next one. Make your users feel part of the company, and gain happy customers and superior products/services as a result. To accomplish this, an online idea management platform is the way to go. As our slogan suggests:

Be smarter, together.

Are you still wondering about the advantages of an idea management platform? Here are a few articles that might convince you: What is Idea Management and Why is it Important? Or what about “5 Idea Management Platform Benefits”?