Capturing employees’ insights about new business ideas

How does a large, global corporation capture employees’ ideas for new technologies? An article from the Fall 2008 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review analyzes the results of IBM’s 2006 “Innovation Jam” — which involved 150,000 people.

How does a large, global corporation capture employees' ideas about new technologies? "An Inside View of IBM's 'Innovation Jam,'" from the Fall 2008 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, analyzes the results of IBM's 2006 "Innovation Jam," where about 150,000 people, from within IBM and also from outside it, participated in online discussions about promising new business ideas for the company.

The article's authors conclude that the Innovation Jam in 2006, which took place over two three-day periods, "was successful to a considerable degree. It uncovered and solved problems in and mobilized support for substantial new ways of using IBM technology." But, they note, the process also had limitations: Most contributors didn't build well on each other's postings, so "ideas didn't bubble up." And, despite the use of text-mining software, evaluating the ideas later "demanded a great deal of management time." (IBM has continued to "jam"; this fall it held InnovationJam 2008.)

The article's description of both the successes and challenges of the 2006 Innovation Jam brings to mind an interesting question: What is the best way to make sure employees' ideas and knowledge don't get overlooked when an organization seeks ways to innovate?

What, in your experience, are the most effective ways of seeking -- and using -- employee input effectively in the innovation process?