IDEASCALE BLOG

Author Archives: Jessica Day

How Has Idea Management Changed Since IdeaScale Launched?

IdeaScale was recently interviewed as part of the 97th Floor Mastermind Series. The questions ranged across a variety of subjects like how we hired our first few team members to our thoughts about the future of innovation management. But some of the questions made us think about how idea management has changed since we launched. Remember when the app looked like this?

how has idea management changed

 

 

Looking backwards made us think of same major milestones about where innovation management software has been (and where it might be going)… So what’s changed?

Engagement Features. We realized pretty early on that if we’re going to have a crowdsourcing tool, we needed to have some powerful embedded functionality to get people onto our app – that’s why we’ve created social integrations, email tools, multiple notifications, multi-language translation settings and more.

Integrations. As soon as we started working with enterprise organizations, we realized that our tool was going to sit in a robust universe of software solutions and we needed to be able to connect to them, share information, and add value to existing processes, which is why we’ve created so many out-of-the-box integrations with SSO software, project management solutions, data solutions, Google Analytics and much, much more. We found that this amplifies our capabilities and our customer success.

Later Stage Idea Development. This is why we built our Stages. Sure, we started out focusing on posting ideas with comments and votes and that delivered some early-stage value to our customers… but we realized pretty quickly that the real idea pay-off didn’t come until you started to make some decisions and act on those ideas. That’s why we needed tools to build proposals, to evaluate ideas, to assign resources to ideas, to combine and consolidate ideas into themes, and much more. Most early-stage idea management tools can’t do all this.

Security. Finally, with all the concerns around privacy and intellectual property, security has continued to be a leading priority at IdeaScale. To this day, we are the only idea management platform with FedRAMP authorization. It’s important that all of our customers have confidence that they control their data and no one else.

So those are just A FEW things that have changed in IdeaScale over the years. Obviously, tons of other updates, strategy shifts, acquisitions, and more have gone into it. You can listen to the full interview here, but feel free to keep the questions coming. How do you think idea management has changed?

Nine Actions You Can Take Today to Make Your Company More Innovative

Innovation strategy is often about direction and momentum. But in order to have either, you need at least a small amount of mass to get started. And as we all know, whether it’s a boulder or a bureaucracy, inertia keeps objects at rest from moving. So how do you get up some speed? Try these methods.

  1. Focus on small innovations. Big innovations often grow not out of big ideas, but a thousand little ones that come together at the just the right moment. What’s a little problem you can solve that makes either life at your company or life for your customers just a little easier?                                                                                                   
  2. Keep the focus on your core business. Think of the Swiss Army Knife. Yes, you can get truly ridiculous variations with a hundred tools. But how many of those tools will you use? And how many of them are genuinely useful? One useful “boring” feature that supports your core business is worth a million useless flashy ones.
  3. Embrace failure. Much of science is literally failing, learning from that failure, and failing again until you succeed. For every brilliant work of art, there’s an embarrassment a genius burned in the fireplace. If people fail and don’t get in trouble, it’ll embolden them to keep trying.
  4. Go where your employees are. Visit their departments and workspaces to talk with them. Sometimes a roadblock to innovation, or a better way to understand the innovation they’re proposing if you can’t quite see the value, is literally right there in their space.
  5. For each innovation or approach, appoint a leader, a stakeholder who understands the issues well and can make calls quickly. Also, ensure this leader can get every group of stakeholders on the same page.
  6. Have leaders create a small team with a short deadline to solve a problem. Time pressure helps people think, and small teams don’t get bogged down in getting approval and consent from everyone.
  7. Make your trust and respect clear, and make that a policy for everyone in a leadership role. People don’t speak up because they’re afraid of being wrong. Make it clear it’s OK to make a mistake, and with smaller innovations, and thus smaller stakes, it’s more important that they learn something useful. And similarly, don’t hesitate to step in to protect a good idea.
  8. Don’t imitate your competitors, but understand why they present the innovations they do. Is an odd new feature they’re proposing some sort of brilliant innovation, driven by data? Is it a prelude to shifting to another segment of your industry, or even out of your industry altogether? Or is it a wild swing in the dark based on a hunch?
  9. Keep one eye on the deck and one eye on the horizon. One of the most powerful tools human beings have in any organization is the power to work together to achieve goals, but that means every one of us has a small bit of work to do, and we can focus on that work to the exclusion of all else. So take a breath and look up towards your ultimate goal, and make sure the rest of your team does the same.

To learn more about innovation strategy and innovation management, join our newsletter.

How Will Transportation Change in the Next Thirty Years

Transportation ChangeTony Seba, author of Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation said “We are on the cusp of one of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruptions of transportation in history.” It’s not uncommon to hear consultants, experts and authors put forth similar statements about other industries, other technologies, but in my research about transportation innovation, I’ve come to believe that this isn’t an overstatement. Consequences in this field have ripple effects for almost every other industry and companies that are not prepared for some major shifts will not be with us by as soon as 2030. So what sorts of changes are we talking about?

Well, for one, transportation won’t always be necessary anymore. With the rise of 3D printing, we won’t always have to shift goods through time and space anymore – we’ll be living in a far more on-demand world. Consider already how “the rise of 3D printing has led to a decrease in business for shipping companies.” Truck shipment, after all, is one of the major middle class employers and it is a job that might not exist soon with the rise of autonomous vehicles and 3D printing.

Consider, too, how changes in transportation might change the landscape where we live. In the RethinkX report, authors write “As fewer cars travel more miles, the number of passenger vehicles on American roads will drop from 247 million to 44 million, opening up vast tracts of land for other uses.” This poses a challenge not just for car manufacturers or shipping and logistics companies, but also leaves a whole new blank canvas for those who would like to fill that gap. Is there another use for all those roadways?

And finally, one of the biggest drivers (ahem) of change in the transportation field is sustainability. Carbon emissions from vehicles produce nearly thirty percent of all US global warming emissions (more than any other segment). Auto manufacturers, auto companies, and energy manufacturers are beginning to respond to this problem as public sentiment has shifted dramatically towards solving this problem. Organizations of all sizes will need to consider their end-to-end carbon costs as they plan for the future.

To learn more about emerging transportation trends, download our complimentary infographic on the subject.

How do you think transportation will change over the next few decades?

7 Must-Read Books on Innovation Strategy

Part of good business is reading business theory.

Innovation strategy is an enormous topic, and staying current can be an intimidating task. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of brilliant people working on tomes to help you think about the present, and just as importantly, the future, of innovation and where your industry is heading. Here are a few that particularly stand out.

Capitalism Without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy by Jonathan Haskel and‎ Stian Westlake 

Much of economics is designed around physical stuff, things we pick up and put down, and things we often trade physical tokens to buy in the first place. But when was the last time you paid for something in cash? Haskel and Westlake make the important point that the world of the tangible is losing value, and often data and software are taking its place, an important factor in any innovation work.

Boom! Deciphering Innovation: How Disruption Drives Companies to Transform or Die by Lisa Hendrickson and Jim Colwick 

“Disruption” is becoming an empty buzzword, but it remains true that small companies with big ideas can, and ultimately will, upend almost everything we currently think of as the rock-solid order. Hendrickson and Colwick explain why this is inevitable, and more importantly, how to “future-proof” your innovation strategy.

Fluid: How Culture, Hidden Opportunities, and Flatter Structures Lead to Profitable Innovation by Najeeb Khan 

One of the key concerns about innovation is how to structure the groups in charge of it so that all stakeholders have a voice without stalling out good ideas. Khan offers a detailed roadmap to avoid this pitfall.

Start your morning with the latest in innovation.

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth

Raworth makes a salient point as you look to the horizon: No form of growth, whether its population growth, economic growth, or the growth of resources, lasts forever; and a key driver of innovation will be changing our mindset towards all forms of growth, particularly in what we consume to drive it.

They All Laughed by Ira Flatow

Flatow’s history of innovation looks not at the brilliant inventors who changed our world but the people who thought they were full of it. It’s an important look into the mindset of people who pooh-pooh innovation, because Flatow doesn’t write them off as fools, but rather explains why they had every reason to think what they did.

Innovation Nation: The Hidden Truth of How the Government Drives Change by Taylor Fitzgerald 

One of the major blind spots in innovation, as Fitzgerald points out, is we don’t realize world governments can be partners, or even competitors, in our field. We often write off the basic research and studies governments fund, and Fitzgerald argues that doing so puts us at risk for our innovation strategies being wiped out.

WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us by Tim O’Reilly 

It’s easy to be nervous about the future, especially when you consider that in 1990, nobody really expected the internet to be more than a corporate tool, that in 2000 the idea entire industries could quiver in fear before just one website selling books and CDs, and in 2010 that we’d be arguing over the psychological effects of that website we post vacation pictures to. O’Reilly makes the point that we’re not seizing control of the future, but that we’ll have to if we want to keep functioning, and discusses what our responsibilities likely will be as the world changes.

Remember, innovation moves almost as fast as we can print books. So keep reading and, most importantly, keep innovating. To learn more about how you can keep innovating as the world changes, join our newsletter.

Creating Innovation Value

Creating Innovation ValueIn a recent Harvard Business Review article, researchers Peder Inge Furseth and Richard Cuthbertson discuss their findings from a review of innovation case studies from corporate leaders such as Borders, Amazon, Apple, Xerox, and Kodak. They’ve found that oftentimes, companies spend more time and resources building out their innovation capacity, but not actually building out new abilities that will create more value for more people. In that way, companies like Nokia fall by the wayside as they build small variations on products for consumers, but don’t build out systems that add value for more people (like the developers building apps on their phones or the variety of experiences customers could have through those apps when you’re considering Apple’s business model).

They conclude the article by stating “the thinking and practice of innovation should start from the premise that successful innovation is driven by the shared value created. Innovation should be value-driven; corporations, and governments, need to create value for a network of stakeholders: customers, suppliers, and the firm — maximizing value solely for the owners is not enough.” This recommendation is powerful for organizations that are looking to evaluate promising ideas. Perhaps ideas that provide value to the maximum number of audiences are the ones that you should prioritize?

So to make innovation work, for whom must you create value? Here’s a list of starting point:

Owners and Stakeholders

Most organizations never leave this one out, but it’s worth mentioning that most ideas ought to provide value for this group, since they’re unlikely to flourish if they’re not generating rewards for your main stakeholders, as well. These leaders are the ones that control resources and strategy decisions, so finding some value (even intangible value) is paramount to grow a new idea.  

Employees

Your employees are one of your most valuable company assets. They can be advocates, evangelists, and even frontline researchers, but they can also be disengaged and liabilities (after all disengaged employees cost the US up to $550 billion every year). Finding value for your employees is a great way to maximize the value of new ideas. Maybe it’s improving work life or finding new ways to make their job easier or creating purpose on the job – all of those can create value for your employees.

Customers & Citizens

Obviously, the public is one of the key places that you need to create value. Even if they’re not your customer, but they have a positive association with your brand – that can add indirect value. If a new idea aligns with what the public cares about or needs, then you’re far more likely to create a halo of value for your company.

Partners

This could be strategic partnership, suppliers, or anyone related to your supply chain. After all, your organization exists in a cooperative ecosystem, can you create value for others who are part of your extended team?

The Community (or World)

Recent studies into impact investing show that it is at least as profitable (sometimes more profitable) than investing in organizations that aren’t prioritizing a mission or positive social impact. Many investors in this space make the point that Millennials in particular want to work for companies that are making a difference in the world, so these companies have a better capability of retaining talent so finding ways to make a positive impact on the world can provide a virtuous cycle of value.

Can you think of other groups to whom a company should provide value?

3 First Steps From Idea to Your Start-up

From_Idea_to_Your_StartupStartups are all the rage these days. More and more people are starting up their own small businesses in the hope that they can grow their company and make a comfortable living. Thanks in large part to the internet, there’s never been a better time to try and get your ideas off the ground. However, even if you do have a sound idea, you’re going to need to put in a lot of effort to get the most out of it. While many small startups do manage to go the distance, it’s easy to make mistakes and see your efforts amount to nothing. We’re going to look at three key steps that every small business owner should consider. If you can do these steps correctly, you’ll be able to put yourself in much better stead for the future.

Understand Your Key Markets

The most important thing is that you ensure that you put in sufficient market study. If you don’t do this properly, you’ll have no idea how to attract the customers you need to succeed. There are many different effective ways of carrying this out. If you have a budget, you could consider hiring someone to carry out some kind of detailed market research for you. In large part, this means that you’re going to need a thorough understanding of your industry. Things will be different depending on whether you intend to market to individuals or businesses. These days, there are many effective ways to carry out detailed market research. You’re going to need to be able to carry out ongoing analysis of your business website, in order to understand who is visiting your site and how they are interacting with your content. Marketing companies can go a long way towards doing this for you. It’s also worthwhile putting together mailing lists. Even though the recent changes in GDPR have made it harder to market to your customers, there are still plenty of effective ways to carry out ongoing market research of everyone on your mailing list. This is a great way of understanding who your target demographics are, while also allowing you to effectively put together dedicated market campaigns for them. These are all things that businesses need to do on an ongoing basis. If you’re not able to monitor changes and implement new ideas, you’re not going to be able to fully understand your business and industry.

Build the Most Reliable Team Possible

It’s really important that you make sure that you are working with the best team possible. Very few industries are able to support businesses run by a single individual. This means that you’re going to need to hire people, and you’re going to want the best you can get. Many startups are put together by young people who are already used to working as a team. You may be tempted to go into business with friends, and this can often work well. However, many people are also aware that business relations with friends can easily become sour. You may want to consider hiring outsider in order to get the most out of your business. First of all, you’re going to need to decide what constitutes the right kind of team. Small business often have a fairly low budget, so you won’t be able to put together a massive team from the get go. However, as long as you ensure that your key employees are the right kind of people, you can let the rest of the business grow organically. Bear in mind that it takes time for people to fully understand a new business, and you and your employees will probably have to be fairly versatile in their early days.

Be Prepared to Make Ongoing Changes

It’s important that you understand that your business will probably have to go through a number of changes in its lifetime. Many people feel compelled to ensure that their product is completely foolproof and complete before they start pushing ahead. As a result, they lose valuable time and find themselves having to spend money while not actually making much back from it. It’s a good idea that you get going as soon as possible, even if you feel like your product or service is not complete. This allows you to continually adapt it, and work out new ways of making things profitable. It also lets you start interacting with your target audience from the very beginning, building relationships and establishing yourself as a trustworthy company. Even if it takes a large amount of fine tuning before you’re happy with things, it will still be massively beneficial to you.

These are just a few ideas on how to ensure that your business does as well as possible from the beginning. You’re going to need to be extremely versatile, and willing to change things in order to make them work. However, with enough dedication, you should be able to put yourself in good stead for the future, and benefit from impressive returns.

 

###

This article is a guest post authored by Floyd burton. Floyd has  been researching ways to earn money on cryptocurrency start-ups. You can follow him on Twitter.

15 Great Quotes to Inspire Innovation

Quotes to Inspire InnovationAll of our customers need to be inspired from time to time. That’s why it’s nice to hear from other innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders about how to get creative and build the future. So we’ve gathered some of our favorites here and organized them into five sections that roughly align to the innovation process.

Understand the Problem

“The best vision is insight.”

– Malcolm Forbes

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.”

– Charles Kettering

“If I had asked the public what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

-Henry Ford

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

-Albert Einstein

Get Inspired

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”

-Oscar Wilde

“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.”

–Tom Freston

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.”

– Emile Chartier

Take Action

“What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change the world.”

– Simon Sinek

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

-Andy Warhol

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”

– Theodore Levitt

“Invention is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”

-Thomas A. Edison

Work Together

“If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.”

– Steven Johnson

“Innovation—the heart of the knowledge economy—is fundamentally social”

– Malcolm Gladwell

Build the Future

“It’s tough when markets change and your people within the company don’t.”

Harvard Business Review

“Advertising is just a tax you pay for lack of innovation”

-Jeff Bezos

What are the Limits of Innovation?

Limits of InnovationWe are living in a time when most science fiction fantasy seem possible. After all, we are living in the world of bionic limbs, stem cell research, and artificial intelligence. Because of all this, sometimes it seems like there’s nothing we can’t do. But is that true? What are the limits of innovation?

Innovation leaders sometimes define innovation as the intersection of desirability, feasibility, and viability. This working definition is sometimes the criteria used to rank order promising ideas. But it’s also useful in thinking about the limits of innovation.

Desirability

This is probably one of the fundamental components of innovation and one of the key value adds of a system like IdeaScale. Assessing desirability in the form of votes (or sometimes in volunteer resources or money or by using other methods) is a great way to find out if an idea has legs. Even if it’s an interesting idea, but it’s not very popular, then it’s unlikely to find an audience willing to spend their time or money on it and the idea won’t last and it reaches the limits of innovation.

Feasibility

If you simply can’t achieve the core components of an idea, then you reach the limits of innovation. For example, it would be a great idea to solve crimes by downloading the last 20 minutes of thoughts from a victim’s brain. Unfortunately, that technology does not exist…. (but maybe it’ll be next year’s runaway sci-fi hit on Netflix?) Of course, feasibility isn’t always just about global capabilities, but your capabilities as an organization. Do you have the talent and track record to be able to deliver on any given idea – if not, you’ve reached your innovation limit.

Viability

Perhaps the most nebulous quality to define, but also one of the most important if an innovation is going to have lasting impact. If your idea is associated with a fad rather than a persistent trend or certain laws or regulations eclipse the idea’s potential, then you have reached the limits of innovation.

How do you conceive of the limits of innovation?

Crowdsourcing Storm Solutions

Crowdsourcing Storm SolutionsWe are in the peak of hurricane season here in the US and numerous people are recovering from the loss and destruction in the wake of Hurricane Florence. With scientists predicting that climate change will only intensify storms and other extreme weather, we thought that it might be a good idea to look to the crowd for solutions when it came to hurricanes and their impacts. Here are a few places where the crowd might be able to help.

Crowdsourcing Climate Change Solutions. There are numerous scientists, researchers, and inventive citizens with creative ideas about how to build a more sustainable future. In the US, 16 states, Puerto Rico, hundreds of cities and nearly 2,000 businesses are committed to honoring Paris Agreement standards, but how we get there is still up in the air. The crowd has grid solutions, battery storage ideas, and more. Incidentally, IdeaScale offers our software free of charge to any organization that would like to use it to run a climate solution challenge.

Crowdsourcing Disaster Response Ideas. Last year, the Coast Guard used its IdeaScale community to share, develop, and collaborate on solutions born out of the responses to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. This included sharing best practices used to rescue those impacted by the storms. Those ideas informed the heroic rescue efforts of the Coast Guard this year in Hurricane Florence. This approach could be used by other cities, businesses, and government organizations.

Crowdsourcing Relief. We’ve already covered how the power of crowdfunding can help those looking to recover after a disaster. That relief can be for small businesses, individuals, and communities and considering the range of damages – from medical expenses to property loss and more.

IdeaScale is proud to work with the United Way and we’re proud to promote their efforts to contribute to the recovery following Florence. We’ve donated to their Hurricane Relief Program and now we want to take the opportunity to invite you to join us and do the same. 100% of individual donations given to these hurricane funds will be distributed to the affected areas.

Four Innovation Lessons You Can Learn from Amazon

Amazon is everywhere, and innovation is why.

Amazon has been one of the key innovative drivers of the twenty-first century. From its beginnings in a garage selling books over the internet, it’s become a technological and social behemoth redefining not just book sales, but commerce, upending entire industries and putting pressure on entire sectors of the economy to innovate or else. But how did it reach that level of innovation, and what can we learn from it?

Innovate Outside Your Edges

One of the ongoing themes of the Amazon story is that it’s consistently rolled the dice on ideas seemingly outside its core competency. The site wasn’t just satisfied to sell books; it quickly expanded to media, and then to small consumer goods, and now sells almost anything you can buy. Its recent moves, in particular, underscore this. Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, for example, brings it to a low-margin, heavily competitive industry and also into the world of brick-and-mortar retail. It’s moving not just beyond dry goods, but beyond its own delivery.

Apply Your Competencies

For a long, long time, Amazon didn’t make money. In fact, Jeff Bezos, the company’s CEO, expounded on the idea of “profitless prosperity,” the idea that even if a company wasn’t technically profitable, it could still grow in other ways. That rather dramatically reversed because Amazon found an unlikely place to become profitable: Amazon Web Services. AWS, as it’s known, started as an internal system for cloud computing to improve Amazon’s retail operations. But it quickly became a consumer product because everybody wanted a website that stored and moved data efficiently. Even if you never use Amazon for retail, and in fact, Amazon tends to lose money on retail to this day, your favorite websites probably use AWS.

And if you pay attention, Amazon has applied this in other ways. Part of the success of the Kindle is Amazon’s mastery of supply chain and buying power; it works with everyone, so it knows where to get the parts it needs at the lowest price.

Amazon constantly innovates outside the edges.

If You Have A Safety Net, Use It

Amazon, for all its acclaim, has failed a lot. It’s repeatedly tried to get into online banking and mobile payments with services like Amazon Wallet, WebPay, and Amazon Local Register, for example, and it’s been stymied every time. Sometimes this is because the company has played follow the leader; Amazon Local Register was one of the many, many attempts to draft off the success of Square. Other times, it just didn’t stand out. But Amazon knew that it could take these bets and lose, and it’s learned something from each of them

Commit

Finally, one thing you can’t say about Amazon and its attempts at innovation is that the company is wishy-washy about it. Whenever it attempts to change an industry, it jumps in, feet first, buying companies, leveraging its skills and competencies in clever ways, and pressing its advantages hard. It may win, it may fail, or it may even barely stand out. Amazon Prime Streaming has had some success, but it can’t hold a candle to Netflix. But Amazon still commits, and often that commitment is what wins the day.

Ready to apply the lessons of Amazon to your company? Contact us!