Author Archives: Jessica Day

What Makes an Organization Innovative?

Is your organization innovative? We’d likely all think ‘yes’ without hesitation. But in truth, what makes an organization an innovator, whether it’s a non-profit attacking a problem from new angles or a private company looking for a leg up on its competitors, is more than a question; it’s a set of skills to be cultivated, from the team in the trenches to the leaders at the top.

What’s Your Culture?

One of the big surprises when it comes to innovation is that even a great, healthy culture can have unexpected roadblocks to innovation. For example, when was the last time the team sat down and talked about the ideas or concerns customers had, however minor? If profits are good, people are happy, and the business is humming along, often nobody wants to seem like they’re raining on the parade. In fact, even when things are terrible, you usually need to encourage people to speak up and offer some ideas to help.

Or what about the mechanics of ideas from employees? What happens if an employee comes to their manager with an idea for improving an internal process, coming up with a new product, or bringing your current products to a new customer base? Are they encouraged or rewarded? Does the idea move up the chain to somebody who can act on it? And if this isn’t something that happens, why doesn’t it?

Innovation is easy to pay lip service to, but it’s hard to actually build into any company, no matter how fresh and nimble it might be. That’s why it pays to consider how to make your company more innovative, and how to build it into every step.

Building In Innovation

Really, the key forces of innovation are in two places: At the top, and where the rubber meets the road in your industry. There is nobody who knows your place in the industry better or what your customers are interested in more clearly than your team. They talk to customers daily. They use the product, and they field praise and complaints. And they probably have ideas, however raw, that can be refined into a better product.

Similarly, at the top, there needs to be leadership. Innovative companies make it clear they want ideas, that the door is open and there’s always a friendly ear for changes, then they’ll start to come in. It’s easy to forget that walking up to a door with CEO on the front and knocking on it is hard when it’s not your door. So make sure there’s a place to knock, for everyone.

Finally, it’s about both internal and external processes. Innovation is as much about those outside looking at the forest as it is those up close studying the trees, and companies with strong innovative strategies look for both perspectives. By having both teams looking at the horizon and looking at the details, both inside and outside the company, you’ll get a better idea of just where your industry is going, and how you can get there first.

Innovation, as you can see, is hard work. But it doesn’t have to be work you do alone. Request a demo to see how IdeaScale can help you build a better innovation strategy.

IM Award Lessons: Know Your Innovation Audience

This year, Amway won the Innovation Management award for best innovation engagement strategy. They won this award, because of the global reach of their community and their tactics for bringing people on board (including creating cool videos like this one). So we asked Amway a few questions about their program and here’s what they had to say:

IdeaScale: Why is innovation vital to your organization?

Amway: Collaborative Innovation is vital to Amway because it keeps our direct selling opportunity and products competitive and relevant for our Amway business owners. Our focus on this collaboration  has led us not only into a new era in engagement with our business owners, but also a new era in global advancements in digital solutions, social responsibility and product development.

IdeaScale: What’s the most important piece of advice that you can give to someone launching an IdeaScale community?

Amway: Know your audience and your end objectives prior to setting up your community.  Amway is a global direct selling company with millions of active business owners around the world.  In order to create one global community where business owners and employees could effectively share ideas and collaborate, a great deal of planning went into setting the platform up in a way that would allow for effective translation and governance of ideas.  Taking the time to plan ahead, will save time in the future.

IdeaScale: What are you most proud of in your innovation program?

Amway: We are most proud to be Amway’s only digital innovation platform that is able to reach out to our business owners from around the world to collaborate and ideate with them on new and better ways to improve and support their Amway businesses.  To make this global collaboration possible, we’ve engaged in a large team of translators and processes to help us maintain our diverse community by supporting multiple languages.  We are proud of this commitment and look forward to future enhancements as our platform continues to grow.

To learn more about Amway’s award-winning efforts, download the case study today!

How to Boost Innovation by Recycling Existing Ideas

Recycling Existing IdeasWhen it comes to innovation, businesses can often find it seemingly impossible to generate completely new ideas. In these early stages of product development, it can sometimes seem like all of the good ideas have already been taken. However, maybe we don’t need completely new ideas; simply a reinvention of an old classic.

Mark Twain famously said in his autobiography ‘Chapters From The North’ that;

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages”.

When you apply this train of thought to innovation, it becomes apparent that some of the most successful products and services in human history were developed by recycling existing ideas.

Take the iPod for example. First launched in October 2001, Apple‘s portable music device has revolutionised how we all listen to and download music. However, what you may not know is that the iPod was initially devised by recycling an existing idea.

After all, the first portable MP3 players hit the market in 1998 and by 2001 there were over 50 different models available through which you could download and play music from your computer. What Apple did with the iPod was reinvent an existing idea; they took the core concept of an MP3 player, scrutinised the complaints that consumers had about these cumbersome and inadequate MP3 devices, and developed a new product which remedied these solutions. As Bill Fischer highlights in his ‘Innovating The iPod’ article;

“The goals articulated by the leadership were surprisingly simple, broad yet precise. For the hardware: A thousand songs in your pocket; for the software: so easy that your Mother could do it; and for the project: and on the shelves in eight months! The team could get to work without feeling constrained by the way the vision was presented – they were both totally focused and liberated at the same time!”.

The end result was a 6.5 ounce device with a 5GB hard drive that could hold 66 hours of music. This lightweight, technologically proficient reinvention of existing MP3 players was an global phenomenon that has since sold more than 400 million units since 2001.

One of the fundamental aspects of the iPod‘s success was Apple‘s ability to recycle existing ideas and expand upon them. Businesses can deploy these same principles within their own innovation strategies. First and foremost you need to identify the most popular product or service which currently exists within your field of industry and then scrutinise its strengths and weaknesses. In the case of the iPod, Apple were able to take the benefits of a portable music player and remedy the key consumer complaints such as inefficient storage space, cumbersome hardware and confusing user interfaces.

Similar innovation strategies can be noted within all fields of industry; from the technology sector to the entertainment industry. For instance, horror director George Romero is heralded by many as the innovator of the modern horror genre due to his iconic movie franchise Night of the Living Dead (1968-2009). Regarded by many moviegoers as the progenitor of modern zombie shows such as The Walking Dead, what you may not know is that Romero actually created his iconic ‘living dead’ monsters by recycling key archetypes from existing horror movies. As British actor Simon Pegg explained whilst reflecting upon Romero’s legacy;

“Romero adopted the Haitian zombie and combined it with notions of cannibalism, as well as the viral communicability characterised by the vampire and werewolf myths and so created the modern zombie”.

In this manner Romero was able to analyse the core principles of conventional movie monsters such as a vampire or werewolves, ascertain the key aspects of what made them scary, take out the tired clichés that moviegoers would expect, and create something new that would truly shock and captivate viewers in equal measure. The end result was a critical and commercial success; transforming a small-scale film with a $114,000 budget into a iconic viewing experience which grossed $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally; thus earning over 150 times its budget!

The success of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead franchise is a shining example to businesses that you do not need a massive budget to recycle existing ideas and boost innovation. Irrespective of whether you manage a start-up or a large corporation, the concept of recycling existing ideas can be achieved by carrying out targeted research within your field of industry, scrutinising the key principles of existing ideas and ascertaining their strengths and weaknesses. This practice can be achieved through brainstorming sessions which will enable you to generate a list of possible products and services which you can then test by presenting them to focus groups, conducting feedback surveys and holding one-on-one interactions with your target market.

This is where IdeaScale can help. The idea management platform utilizes crowdsourcing so that your business can suggest possible product ideas to an actively engaged community who will vote and comment upon the effectiveness of your ideas. By taking advantage of this streamlined innovation process, you can evaluate, enhance, and prioritize the ideas which are best suited for implementation in a cost-effective and highly efficient manner.

With studies showing that more than 85% of the best global brands have used crowdsourcing in the last ten years, taking advantage of these crowdsourcing resources can help your business to stay one step ahead of your industry rivals.

Ultimately, by carrying out targeted research, devising new ideas and testing them out using IdeaScale, you can efficiently take an old idea and recycle it into something with which your clients will actively want to engage and recommend to others. If you would like to learn more about the ways in which your business can boost innovation by recycling existing ideas, please do not hesitate to contact our IdeaScale team today and to subscribe to our IdeaScale mailing list.


This is a guest post authored by Amber Tanya, a writer from Kent, England. Miss Tanya has worked as a ghost writer servicing multiple international news and automotive publications. Miss Tanya also holds a First Class Honours degree in English Literature from an esteemed British University. She primarily writes technological, travel and scientific articles but is versatile and enjoys writing across a broad range of other topics. You can contact Miss Tanya at [email protected] Miss Tanya can produce outstanding content upon request and can adapt her writing style to suit the tone of your brand.

Ideas by Women

Ideas by WomenIt’s International Women’s Day and it’s definitely a favorite holiday here at IdeaScale. We are always looking for more ways to close the gender gap (paid family leave, equal pay, and employees at IdeaScale are encouraged to go leave work today and participate in International Women’s Day activities), but we wanted to take a moment and celebrate some wonderful ideas by women – innovations we might take for granted but probably couldn’t live without. As we #pressforprogress in 2018, we wanted to celebrate the progress that these women created.

The Fire Escape. After a major fire in 1860, the public realized that as part of their continued progress, they needed to find safe ways for families to evacuate. Anna Connelly patented the design for the fire bridge which allowed occupants to exit their apartment in order to enter another building in case of an emergency. This may have led to the modern design of the fire escape that we’re all familiar with.

The First Computer Algorithm. Ada Lovelace was a mathematician who recognized that theory of the computer could be used for much more than just calculation and she wrote an algorithm that earned her the title of “the first computer programmer.” It would take at least another seventy years before a computer powerful enough to handle the equation would be realized, however. Which leads us to our next invention…

The Computer. Grace Hopper designed the Mark I: Harvard’s five ton computer in 1944, which was intrinsic to the American World War II effort.

Kevlar. Stephanie Kwolek was a DuPont chemist looking for a lighter material for car tires who earned a patent for what she created instead: kevlar.

The Chocolate Chip Cookie. Thank god! I mean. I’m really excited about escaping fires and all the cascading benefits that have arrived as a result of computers, etc, but chocolate cookies are the best thing for me on a sad day and I wouldn’t get by without them. Thank you, Ruth Wakefield!

What ideas by women are you most excited about?

How to Avoid Voting Bias in Crowdsourcing

Avoid Voting Bias in CrowdsourcingCrowdsourcing has been judged to be one of the most impactful, but least used digital hacks by organizations by Gartner. Why is that? Well, it’s an emerging discipline and there’s a lot to learn about how to do it well – how to communicate, how to moderate discussion, how to provide intrinsic value, and more. And one of the questions that we receive every so often is how to correct for voting bias. Sometimes new ideas don’t get as much support as ideas that have been in the community for a long time, sometimes popular ideas are more a reflection of the popularity of the idea author than the merits of the idea, and other complexities. So here are some suggestions that you can use in your IdeaScale community to avoid voting bias in crowdsourcing.
1. Don’t use voting. Use one of IdeaScale’s other evaluation methods: five star-ratings, pairwise comparison, etc. You can invite everyone to participate in those reviews or you can restrict those reviews to particular groups. Voting isn’t the only way to gather crowd feedback.
2. Use a separate stage for voting. This doesn’t always correct against popularity, but definitely corrects for recency bias and can sometimes correct for popularity contests since idea submission and promotion are separate tasks. First launch a stage where ideas are just submitted (voting turned off) and then move all those ideas into a time-limited stage for voting (as in voting can only take place between this date and this date) so people have a limited time period for getting in there to support their friends’ ideas.
3. Use the fund stage. You can give everyone, specific groups, or individuals a budget of tokens (aka votes). You can also set goals for how many tokens an idea has to receive in order to be considered. You can even automate the software so that when an idea reaches that goal it automatically moves to the next stage for review or team-building, etc.
We’ve talked about getting beyond the top-voted idea before, but how are you managing crowd voting for success?

The Value of an Innovation Mentor

value of an innovation mentor

Lots of businesses utilize mentors – from start-ups to the Fortune 500 and they’re using them for a variety of performance goals. They’ve found that more employees have a positive experience if they’re mentored, but business owners have even reported higher revenues and more growth if they’ve received mentoring.

So, in the age of business mentors, some customers are asking “what’s the potential value of an innovation mentor?” We see three key areas where mentors can guide and nurture not just innovators, but innovations.

Culture. If you’re looking at innovation as a matter of environment and climate, having mentors who will help test and see ideas through supports an overall innovation culture. Think of the last great idea that you had that someone took in hand and helped you experiment with and prototype. You might have to go back to elementary school – but wasn’t that teacher or mentor not just helping you, but also helping to set a tone that it was okay to try new ideas and ask for help? That’s how an innovation mentor can impact organizational culture.

Connecting Ideas. We hear more and more often that the most original and transformative ideas are actually the most networked and well-connected ones. An innovation mentor doesn’t need to think of great ideas, they need to be thinking of connections that they can facilitate and similarities that they can draw. In fact, the practice of combining ideas might be one of the most disruptive plays that an organization can make.

Assembling Resources. Innovation mentors are like VC funders or angel investors to intrapreneurs. Maybe they’re not directly funding an initiative (although sometimes they might be), but they’re helping them find the budget, head count, or talent that’s necessary to test and grow a new idea. This is most important in the implementation phase and is sometimes the difference between a great new line of business and a dead idea.

To learn more about innovation mentors, download the complimentary infographic on the subject. 

How to Refresh Your Innovation Strategy in 2018

Every lightbulb needs changing.

Refreshing your innovation strategy is likely on your to-do list for 2018. But you may also be stuck on how to get started. Maybe you’re happy with your strategy, or just not sure how to improve. Try these tactics for a more innovative year.

Look At 2017

How was your 2017, innovation-wise? Honest self-assessment is always important in any industry and any endeavor, but particularly so with innovation. Look at the moves you made, the ideas you refined, and the ideas you set aside. Look at your process and talk with your team about what they view as their achievements and their challenges. Are there places that you can refine the process? Don’t focus just on successes and failures, either, but decisions. If an idea was set aside, always ask why that was done and look at the process behind it.

Build An Innovation Platform

One common problem in innovation strategy is that businesses grow, and what originally worked might simply be too constraining. If your company has grown by leaps and bounds, that means its innovative capacity has grown, but you need to tap into it. That can be difficult to do, however, if you’re trying to engage everyone from the delivery team to the boardroom. The solution is an innovation platform that allows you to collect ideas from across the company, and even outside it, that will give everyone a chance to help define ideas and find challenges before they hinder the rest of the process.

Look At Competitors

Start with other companies in your industry. Take a look at what your competitors did in innovation over 2017 and consider how they might have made those decisions. How have those innovations been paying off? What would you have done differently? In particular, consider if your strategy would have produced the same results and if not, why not? Don’t view this as a chance to criticize yourself so much as just evaluate what others in the same industry are doing and get a sense of what you personally think of it.

What crosses the air gap of innovation?

What Happened Elsewhere?

Every industry is unique, but each company’s approach to innovation can offer useful tools for yours. A good start is the innovations you added to your life over 2017. Is there a new smartwatch on your wrist or a voice assistant in your home? Did a new app change how you ate, worked out, commuted, organized your life? Often, looking at innovations elsewhere can help you tackle innovations elsewhere. Ask your team how they changed things around in their lives during 2017 and ask yourself if you can apply those lessons to your company.

Get An Outside Perspective

Finally, you should seek out a few pairs of fresh eyes. No matter how innovative a thinker you are, there’s always going to be a degree of thinking “inside the box.” Consulting with an outside perspective, somebody who can view your industry from the outside, can shake up how you take on various challenges in your industry or even spot opportunities and challenges that no one else sees coming.

Want to start 2018 with a better innovation strategy? Request a demo of Ideascale’s platform.

IM Award Lessons: How Innovation Maximizes Mission Performance

How Innovation Maximizes Mission PerformanceThis year, the US Coast Guard won the annual Innovation Management Award for organization that could demonstrate the best and most repeatable innovation process. That process surfaced numerous valuable ideas that will lead to lives saved in future Coast Guard operations.  So we asked the Coast Guard a how innovation maximizes mission performance and here’s what they had to say.

IdeaScale: Why is innovation vital to your organization?

US Coast Guard: The Coast Guard has eleven statutory missions, ranging from protecting living marine resources like fish to chasing drug smugglers. There’s never enough time, money, assets, or people to get all of those missions done to the level we’d like. It’s extremely important for us to benefit from our the creative and intellectual capabilities of our workforce in order to really maximize our mission performance. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve, and the Innovation Program provides leadership for that constant renewal.

IdeaScale: What’s the most important piece of advice that you can give to someone launching an IdeaScale community?

US Coast Guard: Have a few good research questions in the can before you launch. Have a diverse set of challenges, ones that are broad and ones that appeal to specific communities. Use your challenges to grow participation, and always keep your radar on for some problem in your organization that could benefit from crowdsourcing. Often you’ll hear leadership wondering what to do about an emerging issue. Offer them the collective wisdom of the organization to at least begin to look for solutions.

IdeaScale: What are you most proud of in your innovation program?

US Coast Guard: Our program has become the Coast Guard’s Swiss Army Knife in terms of thought leadership; people come to us for help on a myriad of issues, many of which are on the “solving world hunger” level of difficulty. It’s extremely fun and rewarding to offer some techniques like crowdsourcing and human centered design to get discussion of the ground. I’ve seen the organization grow and mature in certain areas based on our work.

To learn more about the Coast Guard’s award-winning efforts, download the case study today!


Debunking 5 Myths about Building an Innovation Team

Build the best team, by ignoring these myths.

Building an innovation strategy can be intimidating, and often it’s a relief to have a team together. But too often, innovation teams meet, talk, and come out with ideas, but nothing else. In part that’s because we buy into myths about teams, so here’s the fact to fight the fiction.

Innovation Teams Should Be Big

The most important lesson you can learn about teamwork is to take successively larger groups of people to a movie. Two people can easily pick a movie and a date. Three, it’s a bit harder. Ten? Good luck. The same is true of any team, but innovation teams in particular need to be smaller and leaner. In the world of abstract ideas, it’s easy to go off track, and a smaller team means more focus.

Innovation Teams Should Share A Background

We’ve all heard the hilarious stories of corporations going wrong in their international marketing. Coke’s supposed accidental slogan in China, “Bite the wax tadpole!” is particularly infamous. But stop and consider the lesson in these stories: Nobody, at any point, talked to somebody from that country. It was all people who didn’t see the need to look from another perspective until it was too late. Innovation teams are much the same. The more diverse their backgrounds and approaches, the better off you are.

Innovation Teams Need Complete Latitude

The sitcom 30 Rock has one of the best examples of what happens when a team has vague goals and total latitude. A top executive and a bunch of creative people get together to build a profitable microwave, there are no bad ideas, everything is incorporated… and they wind up building a car instead. The trick with innovation teams is to offer a set of milestones to make an effort to hit and give them latitude within those goals. Think of it as a game: Set some strict rules, set some goals, and then tell your team to start playing.

Get more than good feelings from your team.

The More Ideas, The Better

Tying into the issue of focus, innovation teams often get stuck on collecting ideas, instead of refining them. Teams will pick up an idea, fiddle with it, and then drop it in favor of something else. That is, of course, just not an effective way of doing things. So, among your milestones should be having the team pick up and work with a handful of ideas, and only go back when one idea either doesn’t pan out, or two ideas work better together than alone. The team needs to commit and to understand sometimes ideas aren’t going to pan out, and that’s OK.

It Needs To Be In-House

Nobody knows your company better than your employees, but this can be both a virtue and a disadvantage. Knowing the details of everything gets in the way of sheer creativity. “This would be a great idea, except I know the head of accounting and he’d never go for it.” You need internal teams, but you also need external teams to offer a fresh perspective. You never overcome a challenge perfectly by only looking at it from one angle, and multiple views of the challenge will help you craft a better solution.

Ready to build your best innovation team? Contact us!

Net Neutrality and its Impact on Innovation

Net NeutralityIn today’s technologically advanced society, the Internet is a vital resource for start-ups and established businesses alike when it comes to driving innovation. From finding new ideas to testing prototypes, the Internet provides a vast multimedia platform through which companies can innovate on a global scale.

However, in recent months the topic of ‘net neutrality’ has become a growing concern for innovators. Simply put, net neutrality is a practice which ensures that Internet service providers (ISPs) should be legally required to enable access to all online content and applications regardless of the source and without favoring or blocking specific products, services or websites.

In this manner, net neutrality provides a level playing field where businesses of all shapes and sizes can drive innovation and compete for the attention of consumers without restriction. Until recently, net neutrality has been upheld by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and their 2015 Open Internet Order. However, on December 14th, 2017, the FCC voted to repeal the current US legislation on net neutrality. Given that the previous US administration proposed a strong defense of net neutrality on the grounds that it promotes innovation, we have to wonder how will this recent decision affect start-ups and small businesses? As an Inverse article highlights;

“We are still in the infancy of the web…We are just starting to see AR, VR, and mixed reality take off. This field plus many other new technology fields will need access to even fast(er) networks and more data delivery. Incumbent technology companies plus start-ups will be racing with each other to develop the new ideas. Start-ups to challenge and progress the status quo will need the critical access to an equal and fair playing field”.

After all, companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon and Netflix as well as small businesses and individual users have voiced their outrage at the repeal of net neutrality on the grounds that it will enable ISPs such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T to corner the market it and price out competition. But how is this possible? One article, “The End of a Free and Open Internet?”, advocates that;

“The end result would mean that even if you paid a more expensive monthly fee for high speed internet, the loading times of certain websites could still be significantly lower if the site in question did not have a deal with your ISP. For example, if your ISP had a partnership with Netflix then they could slow down the loading times of sites such as Amazon Video in order to make their own TV and movie services more appealing”.

In this manner, it is suggested that small content producers will not be able to afford the rates which ISPs will inevitably charge for faster loading times. As such, the repeal of net neutrality could create a ‘two-tiered’ Internet where wealthy established corporations pay for their preferred content to be delivered at rapid speeds whilst start-ups and small businesses are left with slow loading times which will actively deter consumers, hinder their profit margins and stifle innovation within the international marketplace. As Nicholas Economides, professor of Economics at NYU Stern School of Business, aptly states;

“The greatest threat to innovation is if new companies, innovative companies, have to pay a lot to be on the same playing field as everybody else…Net neutrality supporters worry there might be secondary effects from limiting the free flow of ideas and information online”.

Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Experts such as University of Pennsylvania professor Gerald Fauhaber have argued that eliminating net neutrality could actually benefit small content producers and drive innovation. In a Spectrum article, Faulhaber compared tiers of Internet speeds to the various delivery services offered by a post office;

“One company can pay a little extra for expedited service while others who don’t need rushed delivery simply pay the standard rate…We’ve heard this about how only large firms will be able to do it, but if you look at the way the economy works—that’s not true at all…The only people who will buy it are those that need it, and if you’re a small firm and you need it, you’ll buy it…I don’t see this as removing opportunities, I see this as creating opportunities for innovation”.

Regardless of the ultimate impact of net neutrality, the art of innovation is often driven by having access to the right resources. By focusing upon garnering data on your target market, refining ideas and testing prototypes, creators equip themselves with the power to define how, where and when they innovate; irrespective of loading speeds. To learn more on the ways in which your company can drive innovation, why not sign up for the IdeaScale newsletter today? The newsletter provides insightful updates on important changes in the technology sector which will help your brand to engage with a larger network of clients.

This is a guest post authored by Amber Tanya, a writer from Kent, England. Miss Tanya has worked as a ghost writer servicing multiple international news and automotive publications. Miss Tanya also holds a First Class Honours degree in English Literature from an esteemed British University. She primarily writes technological, travel and scientific articles but is versatile and enjoys writing across a broad range of other topics. You can contact Miss Tanya at [email protected] Miss Tanya can produce outstanding content upon request and can adapt her writing style to suit the tone of your brand.