Ideakeep blog
Individuals in Innovation process
Interview with Alexander Sukhov
In 2018 we had a great opportunity to ask Alexander some questions concerning his vision of idea management and ideation in general, the future of Idea and Innovation, the right motivation and mistakes while implementing Idea and Innovation processes.
Dr Marta Perez
Alexander Sukhov — PhD Student in Innovation Management at Karlstad University

Alexander is doing his PhD in Innovation Management at the Service Research Center, Karlstad University. The subject of research deals with peoples interpretational differences and how that influences decision making in innovation projects.

He also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses mostly to engineering students and is an active supervisor for their masters theses.

He likes adventure, sport, rides motorcycles.

List of publications:
  • The role of perceived comprehension in idea evaluation, 2018
  • A conceptual model of the idea construct in innovation contexts — Laying the groundwork for a generative idea assessment approach, Alexandre Sukhov, Peter R Magnusson, Lars E. Olsson, 2015
  • Exploring the merits if internal outsourcing to increase effectiveness and efficiency in idea screening, Johan Netz, Alexandre Sukhov, Peter R Magnusson, 2015
  • Rethinking idea assessment — the generative approach, Alexandre Sukhov, Peter R Magnusson, Lars E. Olsson, 2015
  • The downside of ambiguity, Alexandre Sukhov, E Lars Olsson, Peter R Magnusson, 2015
Implementing innovation management is a complex and complicated process
How Idea management entered in your life?
It started with my Master thesis at Karlstad University, where my supervisor who previously worked for 20 years at various R&D departments, but then switching to academia, introduced me to Innovation and Idea Management. Now I am doing my PhD in Idea Management trying to advance his work and making my own contributions.
What is your approach you've formulated during studies and work?
My personal approach centres around understanding the individual that is involved in Idea Management activities.
What are interpretational differences influencing decision making in innovation?
Through some of our recent research we see that there are differences in how open vs. conservative experts make sense of ideas, in a recent paper I also found that difficulty to understand an idea leads to undervaluation.
People may sometimes not understand the ideas and underestimate their potential, while some people are able to see even higher potential than was intended by idea creators.

Alexander Sukhov
What is the role of Idea Management? Is it, first of all, employee motivation or a real R&D and income rise?
I tend to view ideas as vectors that suggest a certain direction, whereas employees, their motivation, and well organised innovation processes determine the magnitude with which they are implemented in an organisation.
Execution is an extremely important part of innovation projects, and it is vital that a good team together with clear organisational strategy work towards implementation. Some ideas might be aimed at reducing costs, while others at increasing revenue. But every time something new is created it will also create a little bit of chaos, which is needed for a creative and stimulating environment.
What do you think about AI in idea management? Did AI achieve such technological level to replace humans or to help them create and ideate?
I think that currently AI that is implemented in some organisations is primarily aiding humans to be creative and helping with processing of useful information.
We heard that financial motivation doesn't work, do you agree?
In order to be creative it is important to have intrinsic motivation (feel that you want to create ideas and drive innovations), for some people this motivation could be stimulated through financial means, but it is not the financial motivation that is responsible for creativity in all cases. Finding out what people are motivated by in each case could show very different results.

So, I would maybe say that financial motivation may have an indirect effect in some cases. But the most important thing is that people feel motivated, encouraged, feel safe, and see that what they do is meaningful in order to create new ideas.
How do you think, what are 3 big issues of companies implementing idea management?
  1. Expecting quick outcomes (innovation process requires time and investments, it may be a slow cultural change in an organisation).
  2. Being hypocritical (saying that the company should innovate, yet not spending needed resources or implementing new and radical ideas, and thus acting conservatively).
  3. Not allowing ideas to develop before they are evaluated (cutting of the idea flow too early and dismissing some ideas that may have great potential).
How do you think, why bottom-up innovation and idea management doesn't work?
Well, if the bottom-up innovation doesn't work, probably it is because there is a dissonance with the policies/agendas/strategies at the top. I think it could work if the interests of management are aligned with the bottom-up activities. Better communication, acceptance and empowerment are great tools for operation managers.
Employees in innovation management implementation process should not have conflicting roles
Should ideas be anonymous?
If one wants to reduce biases and focus more on what the ideas have to say — yes. Otherwise one risks to like ideas of a certain person, or dislike ideas because one dislikes the person.
How an idea should be evaluated?
Different ideas should be evaluated in different ways. Preferably, one can start with finding ideas with most potential benefit, and then select the ones that are more implementable. But criteria for evaluation would depend on what the organisation is looking for, and how much time they are willing to spend. Some studies show that the most efficient process is when first ideas are evaluated intuitively (e.g. good/bad) and then followed by a stage with criteria (e.g. original/feasible/useful). Other studies suggest that ideas need to be complete (contain enough information) so that an informed decision could be made.
Why people are so hard to be motivated to generate ideas?
I don't think that they are hard to motivate, everyone is creative in their own way in their lives. Some people don't want the extra responsibility at a work place to conduct an innovation project, some may simply fear speaking their mind. If there is a supportive environment throughout the organisation, people will be more open. But when people are forced to generate ideas (original ideas), they are not very likely to do so.
Anybody can generate a mature idea or not? Could we learn how to ideate correctly? How?
Idea matures gradually, it is also changed through the implementation process. Start with defining (or re-defining) a certain problem/customer need, and then there are design techniques that can help to coming up with a solution. Some ideas require collective knowledge, so sharing ideas with others and refining them usually improves them and creates further legitimacy for their implementation.
What is your recommendation for those who would like to implement idea management?
Understand why you want to do this, what outcomes do you want to obtain? Based on that certain approaches for idea management could be more relevant.
Different conditions require different actions, I don't think that there is a "one size fits all". So, work with professionals who know more about this, reflect, revise, and adapt to what works best for you.
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