I come across this a lot more often than you realize – clients come to me asking how to get their employees to generate new and better product ideas, and even “innovations”. They are likely asking the question in the first place because they don’t believe that they have any ideas. This is always untrue.
EVERY organization, and yes, I mean EVERY one, already has an innovation pipeline. It may be that spreadsheet that the receptionist updates, the notebook that your CTO writes in, even random post-its scattered around your employees desks. It may even be in someones head, after being pitched to by an inventor somewhere in your company.
If you don’t have a formal process, you can bet there is one or many informal ones – I’m talking to-do list for the “next version”, actual lists of ideas, notes, whatever.
So what these clients have not done first is mine their current innovation pipeline, either because they didn’t think they had one, or because they don’t think that the ideas have any merit.
If it’s the former, I’d say – first let’s go back and get those ideas. If its too difficult to find them just by asking, then run an open innovation program so you can get the innovators to reveal those ideas to you.
If its the latter, then at the very least give feedback to the inventors and let them know what you like and don’t like about the ideas – and if you like the ideas, at least develop a prototype and/or file a patent application for it. The inventor wants to know that something is happening. Any feedback, even negative, is a good thing.