Catching the spark of excitement from leadership is the fuel to make any activity go forward. From the largest transformation effort to ensuring that all employees are able to wear comfortable shoes, it all starts with the support of Leadership. For government and large company Ideation efforts, this is especially true.
But is top leadership the only place for success? While ideation and crowdsourcing holds the potential for changing an entire culture, incremental innovation is more realistic and common. Incremental innovation is more likely to happen at the middle or ground level of an organization.
Middle level managers are caught between day-to-day management and leadership. Offer to give these individuals an hour of discussion about strategy and long-term planning allows them to get excited about their own strategic vision– if only for that hour. Tease out their strategic plan for the next 2-3 years. What elements need buy-in from their stakeholders? Where are there unknowns? What areas are funded but ripe for change? These are the areas where your ideation program can make an impact.
Bring these strategies to life by targeting ideation/crowdsourcing around one of these needs. For example, if the training office is creating their curricula for 2013, shape a targeted question where ideation could tease out at least one new or expansion of a current class. The budget already exists for this change and it will help training stay on top of the needs of the population that it serves. For about the same effort as conducting a survey, training can have a new class that reflects the needs of the population.
Helping middle managers harness the crowd through targeted ideation will bring them closer to understanding what their stakeholders need – and help the stakeholders understand where and how management is capable of taking action. This large-scale dialogue precedes any change and innovation. The manager who is strategic - and brave enough - to begin this dialogue can leverage ideation to create something that works and is accepted by stakeholders the first time, and use it as a stepping stone to the next level of success.