Analyzing and realizing collective ideation in firms Jennie Björk Department of Technology Management and Economics Chalmers University of Technology Abstract This thesis investigates collective aspects of ideation. An increasing body of literature has moved away from regarding ideation as solely the act of single individuals to acknowledge the importance of inter-individual relationships. This opens up new opportunities for companies but it also brings about a number of new challenges. For example, it raises the question of how collective ideation contributes to the creation of ideas for innovation and how it can be used in a purposeful way. While previous research has addressed collective ideation in groups, research on ideation networks, comprising individuals and their interactions contributing to the creation of ideas, has been far less researched. The aim of this thesis is to broaden the view of collective ideation by moving beyond the group level. It does so through investigating how individual and collective ideation activities take place within firms, by using a social network perspective. More specifically, the aim is to describe and analyze collective ideation activities in firms, and explore how these can be fruitfully used to nurture innovation efforts. Drawing upon data on all the ideas created within an organization over a number of years, the thesis uses social network analysis to map and analyze the internal networks contributing to idea generation. Several types of analyses have been used to increase our understanding of how various structural properties in an ideation network interrelate with ideation performance by individuals and groups. First, the research shows that individuals who collaborate with larger numbers of different individuals are associated with a higher probability of generating useful and novel ideas themselves. However, this pattern was only seen to a certain extent. Second, the results showed that network structure and ideation performance are interrelated for spontaneously formed groups but not for formal project groups. Formal and informal collective ideation activities are two different kinds that take place in parallel but the results show that they function under different conditions. Third, the thesis explores the lack of agreement in existing theory about the effect of so-called structural holes on organization performance, by focusing explicitly on structural holes in collective ideation. This research adds to an understanding of how the structural properties of interest potentially influence ideation performance, and offers a more nuanced discussion of the potential positive and negative effects of structural holes on ideation. Managing collective ideation addresses the well documented challenges of managing distributed knowledge systems. In order to investigate this further, data from four different case studies have been scrutinized. The results indicate that involvement, focus and formalization stand out as three major dimensions, with implications for how firms use and nurture collective ideation. This thesis argues for that companies can benefit from a deliberate approach to ideation that encompasses the creation of prerequisites for both emergent and planned ideation activities.
Göteborg: Chalmers tekniska högskola , 2011. , x, 63 p.