The Process that Happens Before Printing: Idea Management

3D printing is changing the prototyping and innovation management space. It’s allowing companies to more scalably and swiftly develop minimum viable products and product enhancements and it’s only going to get more sophisticated and more accessible as time goes on.

But what people don’t often think about when they’re holding an object in their hand is the process that happened before creation… the idea phase. And there’s a whole industry that’s developing around idea management and what some are calling “repeatable innovation.”

Idea management is the process by which organizations gather ideas, develop them, select the best ones and then bring them to life (which is where 3D printing, digital prototyping and other forms of implementation come into play). There are numerous idea management processes and methodologies that help cultivate and develop promising ideas (from design thinking to agile development, etc.), but at IdeaScale we’ve found that there are just a few discrete steps that most of these methodologies have in some form or another.

Strategy: The strategic phase consists of developing meaningful problem statements, goal setting, discovery, requirements setting and beyond. Any good repeatable problem solving and innovation management program begins with a well-thought-out strategy.

Idea Generation & Feedback: Next, open up a forum for brainstorming and ideas and try to make it as open as possible. Good ideas can come from anywhere. Let crowds of people share their thoughts, let others build on those ideas and further vet them with questions and comments. You can invite all your employees to participate, you can invite the entire world to participate, but diversity of input plays a huge role in the quality of ideas that you receive (hint: the more diverse the ideas and inputs, the better).

Idea Refinement: This is where a lot of good ideas live or die. Do the ideas stand up to more rigorous standards of research when thinking about the competitive landscape or technology feasibility? Some good ideas just haven’t found the right match of timing and relevance. Some ideas are so novel it’s even difficult to answer some of these questions, but most ideas need to combine, grow, and develop into true proposals with some help from experts and passionate champions and advocates.

Idea Review & Selection: Ideas are evaluated against some set criteria and against the existing goals, programs and plans of an organization. The most promising ideas are green-lit, others are held back for further refinement or exploration, some are rejected because they are not ready or not relevant. But all ideas need some level of approval to acquire the resources necessary for implementation.

Prototyping and Implementation: this is probably the most exciting phase, when ideas start to take on new forms. Either they are developed digitally, programmatically, or physically and they are tested in the real world. The tests identify new problems and opportunities to further improve the idea and sometimes the process starts all over again, but as our abilities to scalably prototype and test improve, I’m sure we’ll see even more sophistication go into the idea management process.

To learn more about idea management at What steps do you think are essential to the idea management process?

IdeaScale 3d printing jessica-day-webAbout the Author:

Jessica Day is a marketing and technology writer and editor for IdeaScale, a leading innovation software solution for idea management. She received her Masters in Writing from the University of Washington. Day also blogs about crowd-based innovation and idea management solutions at

1 thought on “The Process that Happens Before Printing: Idea Management”

  1. This is an excellent post that really takes the time to explain just what goes on! Thanks for publishing. Made interesting reading to me, and I work in CAD/CAM !

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