Differences Between Idea Management & Innovation Management

Idea & innovation management use a lot of the same methods but have very different uses.Discover how to get the most out of them

November 2, 2022
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As the saying goes: there’s no such thing as standing still. You’re always either moving forwards or backwards.

For organizations, that means coming up with innovative new products and services, internal processes, and sales and marketing strategies – or falling behind the competition.

And that’s where idea management and innovation management come in. 

Understanding the difference between these two concepts will help your organization innovate as effectively as possible. Let’s dive right into everything you need to know.

What is innovation management?

Innovative ideas don’t just come out of thin air. 

And that’s where innovation management – a formal approach to improving and iterating the way your business does things – comes in. 

It’s a five-step process in which an organization:

  • Focusses on an area that could do with improving on
  • Captures ideas on how to improve it
  • Then prioritizes them
  • Then implements them
  • Then iterates and improves on them

Effective innovation management is implemented with your business’s vision in mind every step of the way. It’s all about thinking big and coming up with bright ideas that will make a difference to your organization’s bottom line.

What is idea management?

Idea management is the process of capturing ideas within your business and making sure the best ones get implemented. 

It’s all about:

  • Capturing ideas from across every level of your organization  
  • Prioritizing them
  • Implementing them
  • Iterating and improving on them

What's the key difference between idea management and innovation management?

As you can see, idea management and innovation management are very similar processes. They both involve collecting ideas, refining them, and then putting them into action.

The big difference is that innovation management is solely focused on finding original and inventive ideas while idea management includes capturing ideas of all shapes and sizes.

Let’s look at a practical example.

If you want to boost employee engagement across your organization:

  • You’d use idea management to get a clear picture of where you currently stand when it comes to how engaged your employees are by surveying them on how they feel about their work. 
  • You’d use innovation management to gather suggestions for how you can improve engagement levels from your employees.

While both processes draw on the same tools and methods, they lead to very different outcomes. The most effective organizations know when to use each process effectively to generate the best ideas from within the business.

Who is involved in the selection of ideas in idea management?

The first step in the idea management process is gathering as many ideas as you can. Which means you should involve as many people as possible – both across your business and outside of it.

Of course, the people closest to a project need to be the ones who evaluate which ideas are worth implementing. Your product managers should be the ones in charge of evaluating the ideas they’ve gathered, picking the best of the bunch, and putting them into practice.

Our idea management template can help make sure the ideas you collect are as well-thought-through as possible. It’s inspired by Amazon’s “working backwards” approach, where the tech titan’s product managers need to present their ideas in the form of an internal press release announcing a finished product. Implement our idea management flow and the ideas your people suggest will come in the form of a press release, helping make sure it’s connected to your customers’ needs.

How do you implement innovation management?

An effective innovation management process can transform your business into an industry leader. 

Here’s a step-by-step innovation management process that will help you generate new ideas and approaches as effectively as possible:

Find your focus 

The goal of innovation management is to make sure your organization is on the cutting edge of its industry. And you’re not going to get there if you don’t think big.

What’s your business’s overarching vision and biggest goals? What do your customers and employees most often flag as issues or opportunities? Innovate in these areas and you can make a big difference to your business’s bottom line – and its chances of staying one step ahead of the competition. 

Define “success” 

Once you’ve found the right area to focus on, every stakeholder needs to define what “success” looks like in that area. You’ve recognised an area your business needs to dramatically improve in. What specific metrics are you going to use to measure whether the ideas you implement make a difference?

Trust us: it’s crucial you get unanimous agreement on what metrics you’re going to measure a project’s success on before the project gets underway. Leaving it down to subjective opinion is a surefire way to derail the project down the line.

Let go of preconceptions 

As the saying goes: what got you here won’t get you there. The way you’ve been doing things as a business has led to the problems you’re currently facing. To overcome them, your team is going to need to let go of its preconceptions and embrace the fact you’re going to need to do things very differently to get different results.

Gather ideas

With preconceptions out the window, you can start gathering ideas on how you can improve the way you approach the area you’re focusing on. This is where our idea management template comes in.

Prioritize ideas 

Then it’s time for your product managers to evaluate and prioritize all the ideas you’ve gathered. A crucial caveat here is that you need to avoid the trap of going back to what you were already doing with a slight twist. Innovating means rethinking the way you approach an entire aspect of your business, not just tweaking it. 


Finally, it’s time to implement your innovative new approach. It’s taken a long time to get here if you’ve been following this process. But you’d be a lot more likely to face resistance to an innovative idea at this stage if you hadn’t already spent time finding your focus and making sure everyone let go of their preconceptions on how things should be done.

Measure and refine

Not every innovation is a home run. And that’s okay – that’s all part of the process. But you need to know as soon as possible whether an idea is successful or not so you can double down on what’s working, pivot your approach based on the data, or abandon the idea entirely. It’s important everyone leaves their ego at the door here and listens to what the numbers are saying.


Innovation management isn’t a “one and done” exercise. Once you’ve made strides in one area of your business, it’s time to move onto the next. The businesses that get to the top of their industries and stay there are the ones who are always looking for ways to improve. Follow in their footsteps for the best chances of replicating their success.

The final word

While idea management and innovation management use a lot of the same tools and methods, they have very different uses. Stick to the tips we’ve outlined here to get the most out of these simple but effective business processes.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at support@joinassembly.com.

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

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