Idea Management: Enhancing External Innovation Capabilities within Front-End Activities

Chinneck, Camille Kirby (2017) Idea Management: Enhancing External Innovation Capabilities within Front-End Activities. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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This study examines and verifies the factors influencing idea management in enhancing external innovation capabilities within front-end activities in large organisations. Previous studies have identified idea management as being in serious need of better management. This research aims to address this need by adding new knowledge and understanding to how organisations generate, search and select ideas internally and externally.

Innovation is rapidly becoming a strategic priority, but there is a large gap between the perceived importance of innovation and the effectiveness of approaches used to support innovation. Idea management works under the premise that the innovation process is too important to be left to chance. Ideas are the starting point to every innovation. This research examines the concept of idea management, which acknowledges the importance of external ideas within the innovation process. External sources offer a huge amount of knowledge and ideas, much of which is unexpected and can therefore promote disruptive innovation. Idea management is characterised by a high degree of complexity and must be organised efficiently in order to work in the long-term.

It is well established that there is a general lack of clarity, definition and understanding within the front-end of innovation in terms of language, processes and activities. This is why it is also referred to as the fuzzy front-end, occurring prior to when an idea receives formal funding. Several key activities include opportunity identification, problem definition, environmental scanning, and idea generation and evaluation. These activities involve leveraging internal and external innovation capabilities and is one of the reasons why this research focuses on better understanding and visualising this interaction by improving idea management practices.

This iCase award was funded by the EPSRC and the multinational consumer goods company, Procter & Gamble (P&G). The research outcomes are of interest to large organisations looking to enhance how they manage their internal and external ideas. On a smaller scale, effective practices for internal idea generation are identified which could be of use to SMEs. The thesis will add to the field of front-end innovation literature regarding idea management effective practices, supported by quantitative data on a global scale. A blended methods approach was used where insights were verified through iteration between a systematic literature review, front-end model comparison, global industrial interviews, and a main survey conducted within P&G. This organisation is well known for their success with external search practices for innovation. The industrial interviews were conducted with P&G’s ‘Connect + Develop’ practitioners and were vital to gain an understanding of language and challenges related to the research questions. This guided the development of an industrial survey which assessed the effectiveness of an idea sourcing tool adopted by P&G. The findings from the survey provide further insight into how innovation landscaping tools are used in practice and ways in which to increase levels of tool adoption.

This research finds that organisations do want to find and leverage high quality ideas but are unsure of how to best search for and select them. The proposed
‘Idea Infinity Framework’ helps to visualise, orientate and kick-start search and select processes in organisations. It argues that visualising the sources, interactions and issues to be aware of for idea quality will improve the effectiveness of front-end activities, as well as make better use of practitioner time, effort and funds. This study argues that idea management should take a proactive approach rather than a passive approach to the management of ideas (i.e. search and select) and become more integrated.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: I would like to give my thanks to my thesis committee and my Director of Studies, Professor Simon Bolton for his leadership and motivation. He has been such an inspirational supervisor and a great role model, who has facilitated my personal and professional development throughout this process. I would also like to thank my sponsors, Procter and Gamble and the EPSRC. Michael Duncan acting as my industrial supervisor made this iCase study possible. Many other members of P&G were also a big help in agreeing to take part in the research and providing valuable feedback and advice. Finally, I would like to offer a huge thanks to my family as they are my main support for everything I do.
24 January 2017Completed
Uncontrolled Keywords: Idea management, front-end innovation, open innovation, idea generation, business success
Subjects: CAH17 - business and management > CAH17-01 - business and management > CAH17-01-02 - business studies
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-03 - design studies
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Kip Darling
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2019 15:17
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:52

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