Idea jams can boost companies' ability to innovate

Nov 11, 2013 by Caroline Örmgård
Credit: Anne Elerud-Tryde

Chalmers researcher Anne Elerud-Tryde, who works at the Center for Business Innovation (CBI) research centre, is studying how large companies work on developing new ideas for innovation. How the work of managing ideas is carried out - if there is any sort of system for the idea work, what the driving forces are, and how companies deal with new ideas are some of the questions Anne has studied in nine large businesses. One method that has proved to work for many businesses is carrying out "idea jams".

Idea jams, which are events lasting two to three days where employees produce and discuss ideas together, are popular among several of the companies Anne has studied. The event can be conducted through physical meetings but also in chat forums online, where employees work together to develop prototypes and present ideas to each other for several hours.

"The event is often led by a moderator, who is tasked with finding points in common and asking relevant questions to develop the ideas further. Several companies also conduct creativity workshops and inspirational seminars in connection with their idea jams. During creativity workshops, people usually talk about what being creative involves and perform exercises in how the works creatively, while inspirational seminars can focus on what innovation is, for example. They then take all their reflections into their idea jam," says Elerud-Tryde.

Practical guidance

In most of the companies she's studied, idea management is a part of more comprehensive work on creating an innovative business culture or developing the company's ability to innovate. The study was carried out on nine large technology-based companies in Sweden, Germany, and the United States. The interviewees are all, or have been, involved in their companies' work with managing ideas.

"I'm trying to show how a company that wants to work with idea management can go about it on a practical level – that is, what can be done and what should be thought about. One example could be conducting idea jams," she says.

Important results

She also hopes to make other effects of idea jams visible – ones that perhaps aren't obvious every time.

"During the interviews, I realised that it doesn't necessarily have to be the new ideas that produce the most benefit for the companies, and it's not certain that this is the only reason for working with idea management. This type of work also opens up new areas of contact within the organisation, which is at least as important for innovation work as the ideas themselves that come out, says Elerud-Tryde.

By pointing out other effects, she hopes that companies will be more aware of what expectations they could have for this type of work, and that the work with ideas is as important for the ability to innovate as the ideas themselves.

In-depth studies

The study is part of a larger research project financed by Vinnova, where Elerud-Tryde works along with her CBI colleagues Sofia Börjesson and Maria Elmquist. Currently, she's sketching out a new article based on her research results.

"I also hope to be able to go further and more in-depth into one or two of the nine companies in order to get better insight into the work on idea management. It's incredibly instructive and interesting to learn how large companies on producing new ," she says.

Explore further: Understanding creativity, across sectors and across cultures

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Is there a hidden bias against creativity?

Nov 18, 2011

CEOs, teachers, and leaders claim they want creative ideas to solve problems. But creative ideas are rejected all the time. A new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the ...

People are biased against creative ideas, studies find

Aug 26, 2011

The next time your great idea at work elicits silence or eye rolls, you might just pity those co-workers. Fresh research indicates they don't even know what a creative idea looks like and that creativity, hailed as a positive ...

Recommended for you

Which foods may cost you more due to Calif. drought

Apr 17, 2014

With California experiencing one of its worst droughts on record, grocery shoppers across the country can expect to see a short supply of certain fruits and vegetables in stores, and to pay higher prices ...

Performance measures for CEOs vary greatly, study finds

Apr 16, 2014

As companies file their annual proxy statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this spring, a new study by Rice University and Cornell University shows just how S&P 500 companies have ...

Investment helps keep transport up to speed

Apr 16, 2014

Greater investment in education and training for employees will be required to meet the future needs of the transport and logistics industry, according to recent reports by Monash University researchers.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.