Author Archives: Jessica Day

Common IdeaScale Use Cases

IdeaScale Use CasesIdeaScale recently spent some time talking to our customers about how and why they’re using IdeaScale and we found that those interviews highlighted a few common IdeaScale use cases in the process and we decided to share four of them here. Of course, these are just a few of the ways that IdeaScale customers utilize IdeaScale. Others will use it for sustainability ideation, employee quality of life, business model innovation, social change, and more, but these were some of the key use cases that IdeaScale sees over and over again.

Product Innovation: Georgetown University talked about how student and staff ideas have been used to spur new projects at the University. Those projects could be new offerings for students or new ways to engage with content, but either way – they’re empowering change at the University.

Knowledge Sharing: the US Coast Guard discussed the challenges of sharing ideas with such a broad and diverse workforce. An innovation management program allows great ideas that are succeeding in one area to surface and be applied elsewhere throughout the organization.

Process Innovation: The Wonderful Company highlighted that they were able to workshop and improve new ideas that would better serve the company, but they were also able to identify those changes collaboratively instead of in isolation. Those process improvements sometimes even generate measurable results like time or money saved.

Customer Experience: The United Way shared how they’re sourcing new ideas that will enhance their offerings for their customers (their donors) and that by doing so they are giving those customers an enormously positive impression of the organization – as one that listens and cares deeply.

You might have seen that we’re already discussing successful customer funnels and how they work, but if you’re interested in trying them for yourself, just click the links above to see some common workflows that are already working to solve these problems.

To learn more about the problems that are being solved by IdeaScale customers, watch this video.

What Does a Chief Innovation Officer Do?

What does a chief innovation officer do?We continue to see more and more Chief Innovation Officers at the enterprise level. In this survey from 2015, researchers report that 43% of large companies have some sort of top innovation executive in place, which was up from 33% in 2011. But what does a Chief Innovation Officer do? Well, here are a few of their responsibilities. A Chief Innovation Officer:

Builds Purpose. This purpose comes from two different places: the overall organization’s mission, but also giving purpose to innovation activities. A Chief Innovation Officer can look to an organization for guidance and principles, but they also have to create meaning and excitement around change. What big problem will they solve together? How can innovation help employees build their skill sets and careers? After all, many people are afraid of change (particularly at such a rapid pace), but when it aligns to their sense of purpose, it gains a lot more meaning and pleasure as a continuous practice.

Align Needs to Resources. This means offering focus to innovation efforts. After all, constraints breed creativity and although totally blue sky ideation has its value – solving strategic challenges not only creates change that you can act on, but builds validity for an ideation program. We find that organizations that align their change efforts to a business need are more likely to implement ideas than their counterparts who can generate ideas, but struggle to act on them.

Fosters Connection. Between individuals. Between departments. But most importantly, between ideas. After all, “successful innovation is the combination of creative ideas and sustainably profitable business models.” So a Chief Innovation Officer needs to be an advocate for collaboration and scaling communication across an entire network of people.

Fosters Innovation Skill Building. After all, innovation is a great professional development skill to invest in. It helps individuals build their careers, but it helps organizations gain an edge that they wouldn’t have otherwise. According to experts, there are a balance of eight innovation skills you need to maintain to have a healthy and innovative company. How are you nurturing them and training them up across the entire employee network?

Obviously, organizations that don’t have a Chief Innovation Officer can still work on all of these initiatives, but we find that organizations that have assigned at least one champion to innovation efforts within a company are more likely to succeed, change, and maintain a competitive edge. What other responsibilities should a Chief Innovation Officer have?

Corporate Challenges to Innovation – How Do You Keep It Going

Keep Innovation GoingThis article is part 6 of a 5 part series, originally started on the Ever Evolving website, where we are taking a deep dive into the 5 common challenges to innovation that an organization faces. And, I admit, that is some funky math. But considering this is a special article written in collaboration with our friends at IdeaScale and the fact that I’m an innovator and not a math whiz, I’m allowing it.

Elementary School Math aside, when the IdeaScale team approached us about doing a joint marketing effort, I got excited. And not the Jessica Spano type of excited, but much more of the Jonah Hill type of excited. With the reason being that we at Ever Evolving, LOVE this tool and their team. They are as passionate about Innovation as we are…which we weren’t sure was even possible. AND, they compliment the value that we provide our partner clients, meaning, we have an opportunity to work collaboratively with them often. Which is awesome!

But, I digress. The focus of this article is on the challenge(s) beyond that final frontier of Innovation or Idea Management. There are plenty of challenges when it comes to just getting an Innovation program up and running. But innovation isn’t a one-time thing. The REAL challenge is, how do you build a program that makes innovation repeatable? How do you build a program that makes innovation perpetual?

 “Innovation is immortality.”

Steve Palmer, Ever Evolving, Inc.

Like a New Year’s Resolution at the start of Spring…

Implementing a cultural change is similar to a New Year’s Resolution in the fact that deciding to start one is easy. The difficulty comes in when you try to prevent the regression to the norm.

I’m notoriously terrible at resolutions. I’m one of those people, that the first week of January I’m at the gym 5 days a week. But by early February I’m happy to be there twice a week. And by March I need a GPS just to find the gym.

But the thing is, there is no reason for me to regress. Plenty of people start their day, everyday, at the gym. So, why can’t I?

Well, when it comes to sticking to a plan, it comes down to two things. One, how serious are you about the goals you are setting? And two, what reinforcement is your environment giving you?

If I was being honest with myself when I set these resolutions, I’m not taking them very seriously. There isn’t a burning desire that, if these resolutions go awry, I’ll have major issues. Instead, I’m OK when I return to bing-watching Game of Thrones…assuming it EVER comes back for that final season!

And two, what support are you giving yourself? People take classes at the gym or go to CrossFit to be around people and use their motivation to persevere in moments of weakness. And I…don’t.

Not All Resolutions are Created Equal

But sometimes changes ARE required. And if your organization isn’t serious about committing to continual innovation, that’s one that needs to be made today!

Did you know that the average lifespan of a business has been cut in half, and is continuing to trend downward? That is, at least partially, due to the fact that the productivity gap between frontier firms and their “competitors” is increasing. And that is evident in a McKinsey & Company survey that showed only 6% of corporate executives are satisfied with their firms Innovation performance.

But, deciding that a change is necessary only gets you so far. To make sure that “resolution” sticks, you need to establish a plan to make it happen.

The good news is, even if you don’t know it, you already have two-thirds of the People / Processes / Technology pyramid needed to implement that plan.


Let’s start with the obvious. IdeaScale handles the heavy lifting when it comes to technology. If you have a subscription with them, you already have the Technology part of the equation under control.


Let’s tackle People next. We start with the premise that, “you probably already have many of the right people on staff.” You couldn’t have grown a successful business without these people.

Now, you may need to augment your staff with a one or more strategic hires. To do this, we recommend hiring full-time staff instead of bringing in outside consultants. Peter Thiel, a well-known entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and author of the book Zero to One states that “…anyone who doesn’t own stock options or draw a regular salary from your company is fundamentally misaligned.” And we couldn’t agree more.


Process is what separates frontier firms from the pack. This process is what allows them to routinely takes in new ideas and develop them from conception to completion.

So, ask yourself this. Does your organization have a process that continually drives your innovation engine?

If the answer is no, don’t worry. That’s where our InnoSpecting Framework can help. We coach organizations on how to use our framework as a baseline, and then tweak it so it fits the way they do business.

Our framework is built on a three-phase process. During the Phase One, the organization goes out and solicits new ideas from sources both internal and external to the organization. This is where tools such as IdeaScale are key, as they help manage and drive this initial round of idea submission and management.

During Phase Two, executives choose which of those new ideas are most intriguing and move forward with experimenting with their highest priorities on a small scale. Of those experiments, the ones that perform well become candidates for further refinement or for being developed and released as new process or product offerings.

While phases one and two are about adding new capabilities, Phase Three is about getting rid of older capabilities before they become an emotional or psychological drag on your organization, its employees, and/or its customers.

This framework, when coupled with regular reviews (what we call Innovation Pulses) and regular promotion (through our 4 Pillars of Continuous Innovation) provides an organization with a roadmap to make innovation repeatable and perpetual.


As I wrap up my guest blog posts, I want to emphasize how close your organization is to being one of those frontier companies. If you are already investing in IdeaScale, then you probably already have two of the three necessary components. Don’t make the mistake of spending money on a tool or set of tools, only to have it sit idle six months into your “resolution.”

To become a company that emphasizes innovation may require a change in culture. And culture changes are notoriously difficult.  But, you don’t have to make that change alone. And when the alternative is going belly-up or being forced to merge with a competitor to compete (with the latest example of that being the Sprint / T-Mobile merger), the path forward is obvious.

You were right to make the purchase. Innovation is necessary to drive your company forward. Innovation is worth investing in. Innovation is immortality.


This is a guest post authored by Ever Evolving, Inc. Ever Evolving, Inc. was founded on the principle that “Today was great, but tomorrow can be better.” We provide coaching and training services to organizations to help them make innovation management repeatable and perpetual. If you are interested in hearing more about our services, you can schedule a time to speak with one of our team members.

The next chance to hear our team speak will be at the Project Summit Business Analyst World Conference in Arlington, VA on June 18th, 2018. You can get your tickets here.

Signup to get our latest thoughts and ideas delivered directly to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.

The Metrics of Public Sector Innovation

Public SectorLast month, leaders in public sector innovation gathered to discuss ways of crowdsourcing new solutions to longstanding problems at IdeaScale’s Open Nation DC.

In advance of the event, we asked registrants to select the topics that they were most interested in learning about and remarkably the topic selected most often was “innovation metrics and ROI.” For that reason, we asked our speakers to share any insights and best practices that they had developed in their innovation programs around metrics and measuring ROI and some interesting themes emerged.

Beware Vanity Metrics. What are vanity metrics? Data that shows activity, but doesn’t show movement on the actual end goal: real results. In an IdeaScale community, that might be a high degree of page views or new ideas, but no movement on the real problem (whether it’s policy making or workplace improvements). Make sure you’re reporting on what really matters.

Progress on Objectives. Every organization has different objectives and different departments even have different objectives internally, but that’s where the real success of a program is measured. Are you making new policies? Are you improving the lives of citizens? Are you retaining more employees? What are you trying to move the needle on? Measure that.

Measure Outreach. When it comes to crowdsourcing, you have to know what it is that gets people into an ideation community and inspires them. In the United Way’s presentation, they talked about a campaign that they designed specifically to re-engage people over the course of months, bring them back, and get them to share more thoughts. But how did they know it was working? They measured every part of that campaign.

Tell a Story with the Data. This was a point that was made over and over and it’s perhaps even more true when we’re talking about nonprofit or government work. We’re not talking about zeros and ones. We’re talking about how people report their position in an emergency, we’re talking about delivering renewed services in communities that need it, we’re talking about changing the lives of those who are trying to get work or live with disabilities. How do the numbers illustrate that truth?

To learn more about public sector innovation, you can view the presentation recordings and download the slide decks on our Open Nation DC resources page.

The State of Innovation in Education

State of Innovation in EducationI was surprised to read the findings of a recent survey in which researchers found that only 38% of graduates reported that their educational establishment was at the forefront in adopting innovations. And yet, I hear employers say all the time that the reason they’re excited to hire folks right out of college, is because not only do they come on board with a wealth of new technological savvy, but they’re also considered to be more creative.  But with our educational institutions stumbling a bit in the face of new technology and change making, what is the state of innovation in education?

If you think about it, universities and educational institutions are almost always breeding grounds for new ideas, prototypes, and creative thinking. After all, universities are the birthplaces of new discoveries: like the accelerating universe, the founding of Zipcar, the identification of new planets, and myriad other things. So which this disconnect between what graduates perceive to be happening and the seeds of so many promising ideas.

The problem is that everything from new business models to new technologies are being discovered and nurtured  in separate pockets of the campus across separate disciplines. Even when innovation is close at hand, there isn’t always someone who is up-leveling, surfacing, and distributing that information so that others gain visibility into that project, as well. That’s one of the key reasons that Entangled Solutions wrote about the rise of the Chief Innovation Officer in the education sector. Sourcing and sharing knowledge is one of their new key objectives.

We’ve been looking at the efforts to introduce innovation into higher education and have noticed a few key idea campaigns that universities always seem interested in running. These campaigns are some of the opportunities for campus-wide learning on which a Chief Innovation Officer could begin their strategy:

Sustainability. Almost every business, school, and individual is thinking about opportunities for going green. Odds are that everyone from your facilities team to your student base has ideas about how to make an impact. Ask them. Diversity. This is one of the most crucial (but also most challenging) subjects to tackle, because it impacts everything from facilities, to admissions and provides the backbone for culture at your institution.

Budget Strategy. Almost every university is looking for ways to become more efficient and people are finding new ways to save money all over campus. Now what if they could share those strategies with everyone else?

Process Improvement. What about new ways for students to access services? What about new career development opportunities for faculty? There are always processes that can be updated and optimized.

10-Year Vision. Don’t make your strategic vision in a vacuum. Find out where others think that you should go. Post your ideas, get feedback on them, or start with a blank slate and have your community tell you what the future holds.

To learn more about innovation in the education sector, download our complimentary infographic on the subject.

A Successful Process Improvement Workflow

Successful Process Improvement WorkflowLast week, IdeaScale introduced a proven customer experience improvement workflow that is being used by our highest performing communities. This week, we’re going to look at a high-performing process improvement workflow (by far IdeaScale’s most common use case). This workflow has been used to find new time efficiencies, save money, and more. Organizations like this gather ideas from employees and empower those employees to implement those ideas with the help of the crowd.

Suggest (using the Ideate stage): This stage is open to anyone who wants to make a suggestion that would make a process better. This could be something that could improve operations, it could be something related to your supply chain, your team member cooperation. But the goal is to gather ideas that make things better, faster, or cheaper. Oftentimes, administrators will ask community members to state how the idea will impact one of those three categories (better, faster, cheaper).

Explore (using the Refine stage). In this stage, idea owners and community members fill in additional questions about the problem to be solved, what audience it is being solved for and why it matters. Only leadership can see these answers and those that seem worthwhile are moved into the proposal building stage.

Build Proposal (using the Refine stage). In this stage, idea owners answer key questions about the solution that will help prepare it for potential implementation. Questions include the resources that will be necessary to implement, but also practical questions about estimated positive impact and the associated costs of launching this solution.

In Development (using the Ideate stage). After reading the proposal, leadership moves approved ideas into this stage (with voting turned off) so that all community members can note the progress of an idea.

Results (using the Estimate stage). Idea owners validate their initial predictions by reporting on the savings or earnings that they predicted in the proposal stage, as well as the costs that it actually took to implement ideas.

Implemented or Archived (using the Archive stage). Once a process improvement’s results have been recorded, it is moved into the implemented or archived stage so that people can see the entire history of the new idea. If the reported results weren’t monetary, then the moderator tags the idea for the intangible benefits like lessons learned or experiential impact at this stage so that they can still view large scale themes and intangible wins across the community.

Are you using IdeaScale for process improvements? Let’s launch this new workflow in your IdeaScale community today!


A Collaborative Product Development Stage Gate

Product Development Stage GateYou might be surprised to learn that silica sand is used in a wide variety of industries: everything from the oil & gas vertical to products in sports & recreation. It’s amazing that sand can be used for arts and crafts or even water filtration. So a company that provides silica and sand based products actually has a wide range of innovation opportunities as they build out their product portfolio.

For that reason, Covia instituted a company-wide innovation program so that employees from anywhere in the business could share ideas for new products, provide incremental improvement suggestions, create process improvement opportunities and transparently articulate and evaluate that value to everyone in the community simultaneously.

In order to manage a 500% increase in the volume of ideas, the Sustainable Development Business Innovation (SDBI) group instituted a unique workflow for each campaign (there are four major campaigns in the ideation community) and each workflow included several levels of review. Here’s an example workflow from the Product Innovation campaign:

  • Team Review: Sub teams comprising cross-functional Subject Matter Experts (SME-T) are established.
  • Idea Score Screen (ISS): SMEs utilize the ISS for idea reviewing, scoring and relative ranking.
  • Stage Gate® Product Development: The top ranked ideas next move to Gate One of the Stage Gate® process for additional screening by the Stage Gate committee before they are approved to move to Stage One, which is the R&D Feasibility Study phase.

Periodically the SDBI presents promising ideas to leadership who help to remove roadblocks. And the results so far are very encouraging: an estimated $5 million in new revenues from product ideas and an estimated $2 million in cost savings in the process efficiency category. And all of this, because existing ideas are being shared and implemented beyond the bounds of their silos.

To read the full story behind Covia, download the complete case study.

A Successful Customer Experience Innovation Workflow

Customer Experience InnovationLast week, IdeaScale introduced a proven product improvement workflow that is being used by our highest performing communities. This week, we continue that trend by showcasing a workflow that has been used to demonstrably improve customer experience and customer satisfaction. Organizations like this gather ideas from employees about how to make customers lives better and they track their progress by measuring their customer NPS Score. Here’s what that funnel looks like:

Suggest and Vote (using Ideate): In this stage any employee can suggest ideas and moderators reply to each and ideas are moved to another stage every two weeks.

First Review (using Review): Popular or promising ideas are rated by the customer team for their potential impact and viability on a scale of 1-5. The top ideas progress into the next stages. Those that aren’t appropriate or aren’t possible right now are moved into the declined or archived stages.

More Information (using Refine): In this stage the idea submitter answers additional questions about how the idea will work in practice. Only ideas that have answered every question can progress to the “make a case” stage.

Make a Case (using Refine): In this stage, the idea owner adds more in-depth information about the idea, arguing for both its relevance and proposing an initial plan. Ideas that have answered every question and are moderated to the next stage by the customer experience team have been approved for development.

Prototype (using Refine): Although testing the new product or process to improve the customer experience takes place in the world, the idea owners and teams report on progress here (including when they plan to develop the first prototype of their solution).

Testing (using Refine): Again, the results of test are recorded transparently by the idea teams. Now anyone can see where an idea is winning or losing.

Declined, Archived, or Live! (using Completed Stage): Finally, every idea has a place to go. An idea can end up archived or declined at any time, but only those that have been implemented will end up in the launched stage.

Are you using IdeaScale for customer experience innovation? Let’s launch this new workflow in your IdeaScale community today!



What the U.S. Coast Guard Can Teach Us About Innovation

The Coast Guard has changed the game with innovation.

When we look for inspiration with innovation strategy, we rarely consider organizations outside the corporate world. But it’s not just start-ups and big companies innovating. Organizations of all sorts are developing their employee’s ideas to achieve their mission, and one of the best examples is the United States Coast Guard.

A Tough Job

The Coast Guard is rarely discussed, but it’s got one of the toughest jobs in the military. The Coast Guard has eleven general orders that range from search and rescue to assisting shipping operations. They’re out on the water, every day, working in industrial, criminal justice, and safety applications, and that, as you might guess, means they need all the help they can get.

The Coast Guard’s innovation strategy was to use it to strike a balance between the short-term needs of getting the job done, and the long-term goals of the organization. In the past, the Coast Guard relied on specific leadership to get the innovation job done, but their new strategy turns to their sailors, not just their commanders.

It’s simple, really: The Coast Guard has created a platform where it lays out a challenge, but remains what they call “solution-agnostic.” In other words, they don’t have a specific solution to make it fit. Instead, they ask for solutions and run those solutions by the stakeholders. It’s one thing if a commander likes an idea, but it’s much more powerful if the technicians keeping the boats afloat or the mates who use those boats to do their jobs like an idea.

From there, it drives the Coast Guard’s investment. Nor is it a one-off or a program built around meetings. It’s a rolling collection of challenges that’s going every day of the year, available anytime for anybody in the Coast Guard to weigh in.

The Coast Guard has 11 crucial jobs, and it’s innovating around every single one.

And Someone’s Proud To Do It

What’s attention-getting is how effective this strategy was at leapfrogging what seemed insurmountable boundaries. For example, one of the problems with past innovation was rank. Since the Coast Guard is a military organization, there’s protocol surrounding how, and whether, you speak to someone who outranks you. A boatswain’s mate can’t tell a commander his idea is the dumbest thing he’s ever heard of, no matter how politely he says it.

Secondly, it drew on a specific, shared point of concern across the entire Guard, namely disaster response. Ranking officers and ship crew alike felt that lessons learned from recent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon spill and Hurricane Sandy hadn’t been propagated through the entire Guard, and they were worried about losing civilian lives. So the Guard made sure the veterans of those disasters had a platform to discuss the challenges, explain how they solved them, and not only opened the door to innovating in their organization but teaching. The lessons learned from Sandy have helped with hurricane season this year and will keep lives safe going forward.

The mission of a start-up or a company looking to shake up its industry may not be as urgent as the Coast Guard’s. But there’s a lot you can learn by looking at their innovation strategy. To learn more, join our newsletter.