Booz and Company a management consulting firm conducts an annual survey of nearly 700 companies to gain insights into the early stages of innovation — when companies generate ideas and then decide which ones to develop. In essence the study reveals how companies make ideas work.

If you are interested in implementing new ideas in government the findings of the Booz and Company study might be of interest to you:

– Just 43 percent of participants said their efforts to generate new ideas were highly effective, and only 36 percent felt the same way about their efforts to convert ideas to product development projects. Altogether, only a quarter of all respondents indicated that their organizations were highly effective at both.

– Few companies succeed at innovation without ensuring that adequate processes are in place to generate new ideas, and that those processes are followed in a disciplined fashion.

– Considering that 57 percent of respondents say their company is just marginally effective at idea generation, and a similar proportion say their company’s culture does not support efforts to come up with new ideas, it is clear that many companies have much to learn about the best processes for generating ideas.

– Overall, companies continue to depend on a set of long-standing, reliable methods for coming up with new ideas. The most common method, by a substantial margin, was “direct observations of customers,” ranked number one by 42 percent of all respondents. “Traditional market research” was a rather distant second, at 31 percent.

– When asked what internal mechanisms their company used, most respondents pointed to “innovation champions” — people assigned to coordinate the capture, development, and internal promotion of new ideas — followed by “cross-functional collaboration” among different business units.

– The process of choosing which ideas to convert to full-scale product development is perhaps even more critical to a company’s innovation success than is the ideation stage. The conversion stage is the point at which companies use all the processes and tools at their command to decide whether a given idea in the pipeline is a “go” or a “no go.”

– Overall, 43 percent of survey respondents said their company converted fewer than 20 percent of its ideas to development projects, and just 12 percent reported moving more than 60 percent into development.

Private sector companies know that new ideas for products and services are critical for their success. Government organizations need new ideas also but most of them do not have an identified process for obtaining new ideas and for determining which ideas make the best sense to pursue. Most government organizations do not have “innovation champions”, people who are trained and encouraged to work with others in capturing and developing new ideas.

In a previous post “How 3 Cities Are Seeking New Ideas”, I highlighted the steps Louisville, Baltimore and Chicago have taken to obtain new ideas. Check out“Mayor’s Around The Country Are Encouraging Innovation” and “Creating A Network Of Government Innovation Advisors” as well.

Communities around the Country are obtaining new ideas and implementing innovative approaches in government. Perhaps some of the methods described in the links can be undertaken in your community?