The Stuttgarter Steinbeis Transfer Center for Management Quality helped launch idea management at Wilh. Wissner, a traditional supplier to the clothing industry based in Göppingen (near Stuttgart). One of the most important aspects for the company was to leverage the creative potential and rich pool of ideas thought up by staff through continuous improvement processes (CIP).
The company decided to launch idea management not only to improve performance, but also profitability, product quality and service mentality in all departments. The introduction followed clear steps and criteria: Will my idea improve something? How can I submit my idea? What happens when the idea has been submitted? Why are some ideas discounted? When will I receive a bonus? This was all part of the innovation culture – which only really took shape once everyone had become involved by taking part in workshops and meetings. The company set up an incentive scheme with various control loops. Ideas were assessed and rewarded according to an internal points system.
The company appointed an Idea Manager to act as a lighthouse for staff and link into senior management. His job is to manage communication in both directions, reporting on updates and final outcomes. Idea management has become a management tool providing the company with direction, changing behavior, establishing parameters for generating ideas, structuring innovation processes, and motivating staff. It began with an idea development process called Discovery Stage for thinking up, assessing and evaluating ideas. Evaluations were based on a points system. Each idea was assessed using key indicators, ranked, and presented.
The inventive ideas thought up by staff injected new momentum into the company. Around 50 per cent of ideas and improvements related to existing products and line extensions, the rest were for cutting costs and improving processes. Idea management has given the company’s innovative flair a welcome boost.