IDEASCALE BLOG

Author Archives: Jessica Day

A Love Note to Lurkers

lurkersThere was a lot of talk at this year’s Open Nation about the number of lurkers in IdeaScale communities: those community members who sign on, create a profile and view pages, but then don’t take further action like suggesting ideas, reviewing ideas, refining ideas, etc.

For those of you familiar with the 90-9-1 rule of the internet, this makes a lot of sense; 1% of the participants in any digital system will be adding the most value, 9% adding some value and the other 90% are simply viewing the content and benefiting passively from the community. For those of you with lurkers in your community, this is definitely a common ratio and you’re not alone in wanting to empower more participation from those who sign on to your community and stay silent.

However, it was the speakers from the Queensland Police who stated that they see a lot of value even in their lurker participants. They told a story about an idea submitter who got into the elevator with a leader in their organization. During that elevator ride, the leader referenced the idea submitter’s idea, stated how they enjoyed it and said that they were working to make it reality. This from someone who had never made a statement on the platform. This anecdote leads to three truths about lurkers:

Lurkers can still learn. Part of the benefit of a crowdsourced innovation system is disseminating information to others in the network so that they can apply it elsewhere. Even if a lurker never submits an idea – they can still learn from the content submitted by others. Best practices get disseminated this way without lurkers needing to do a thing.

Lurkers provide value as an audience. For the idea submitter, this is part of the value: to be heard in front of an audience. If the lurkers weren’t on there to view content, it’s unlikely that the idea submitters would participate. We need our lurkers, because part of the value is the network.

Sometimes lurkers are still taking action. Just as the elevator story indicates – even if someone doesn’t update their innovation community, they might be thinking about or even taking action on ideas. Obviously, we want these conversations to be happening on a public platform so that others can see why something will move forward or why another idea stalls out, but this offline interaction is still valuable.

So even as you’re trying to activate more of your lurkers, remember that building community means making a space for people to hang out and consume great ideas even if they don’t have one to share right now.

Learn more about the Queensland Police innovation initiative in their Open Nation presentation.

How to Keep Your Creative Team Fresh & Inspired

Creativity is about more than just art.

Creativity is how we get great innovation, but encouraging creativity in a structured environment, like work, can be a bit tricky. Fortunately, with a little creativity of your own, you can get the ideas flowing. Here are a few ways to encourage creativity as part of your innovation strategy.

Issue A Challenge

The proverb that necessity is the mother of invention has always been true, but it overlooks something important: People embrace challenges. Anything you find on the shelf at a store was invented because somebody was challenged to overcome a problem. So, think of challenges you can issue to your team. These don’t have to be product-related, either. Challenge them to think like a new customer who doesn’t know they need your services. Challenge them to use your product in a new way. Or even challenge them to do something totally unrelated. Sweeten the pot with a prize, like an extra week of vacation or a few shares of company stock.

Encourage Both Cooperation And Competition

As long as it’s friendly, competition is no bad thing, and encouraging friendly competition is a good way to get ideas. But don’t forget that some of your team will thrive not by working against each other, but with each other. Encourage them to team up, especially across departments and disciplines.

Balance Structure And Freedom

There will, alas, always be meetings in any industry. But there’s a difference between a meeting where people need to get the information, answer the questions, and get out the door, and a meeting about sharing ideas. Think of creativity like changing the course of a mighty river; it’s a lot easier to gently guide it towards a direction on the horizon than force it to make a sharp turn it may not want to head in. Allow creativity meetings to go with the flow and leave behind the agenda.

Creativity is as much about environment as it is about ideas.

Support Multidisciplinary Learning

It’s often forgotten today that the real value of an education is the skills to think critically and the ability to learn different sets of tools to apply to different types of problems. When people have to step out of their usual way of doing things, it tends to spark creativity. Having methods on hand, such as online courses or tuition remission, for your employees to learn new skills and new approaches, will give them new ways to approach old problems.

Be Creative With The Necessary Stuff

There’s no law that says every meeting must be held in a conference room, or that every worker must discuss creativity between 4 and 5 on Tuesdays. Applying creativity to the small things can help your team develop creative approaches to your challenges. For example, instead of having a meeting about creativity in the conference room, have a “walking” meeting when you take a hike as a group, or have the meeting outside, or even just have it in a more unstructured space.

There’s no perfect way to ensure every employee is creative. As you’ve seen here, you’ll often need to be a little creative to get each person to that place. But the rewards will be enormous, and not just for your company; creativity will be great for your team, personally and professionally. To learn more, join our newsletter!

 

What are SLAM Teams?

slam teamsAt IdeaScale’s Open Nation this year, one of our speakers addressed the challenge of managing an innovation pipeline with only one dedicated resource: herself. Obviously, when you work at an organization with over 20,000 employees, the inflow of ideas can be difficult to manage on your own, but Alison Meyerstein has found a way to marshal part-time resources to her cause in the form of what she calls “SLAM Teams.”

Meyerstein first got the idea when she attended a conference and heard about the concept of “Responsive Ways of Working” pioneered by PepsiCo. Which views any work we do: from a list of ideas to a presentation we create is shareable within our organization. Which means we’re all charged with sharing or improving it and to do that, this speaker suggested building SLAM Teams. So what are SLAM Teams? They are self-organizing, lean, autonomous, and multidisciplinary. Basically, the people who are closest to the problem can work on solving it, but they have to be small enough and have enough freedom to function to test ideas and learn more about their potential.

Now when a promising idea comes in, Alison puts together a small SLAM team who can look at that idea to validate and define a problem and further explore concepts in order to build an MVP and business case. If the SLAM team can make an adequate business case, then that idea can go to a product management team who will scale it out for large scale implementation.

But how does Alison incentivize people to join her SLAM team? Well, a lot of the time, if they’re close to the problem then they’re invested in the solution, but joining a SLAM team also has an added benefit of getting employees more professional development opportunities by exposing them to other parts of the business. It has even more legs if someone in leadership has bought into the concept and is validating it to the community at large.

Have you tried SLAM teams in your innovation community? To learn more from top innovators, view and download the presentations from Open Nation 2018 here.  

New HBS Study Highlights Innovation Challenges and Opportunities in the Boardroom

Innovation must come from both bottom-up and top-down.

“Disruption” is so commonplace a word that you practically expect your local preschool to promise to disrupt traditional childcare paradigms. Given this, you’d think that the boards of major companies would be working overtime to put innovation strategy front and center. Yet, a Harvard Business Review survey of 5,000 companies found it wasn’t a top strategic challenge, let alone a priority, for most boards. Why is this, and how can we change it?

Win The Battle, Lose The War

It’s instructive what the survey found took top priority. Forty-one percent of boards saw hiring as their top priority—not a surprise in the overly tight labor environment. Close behind was regulation, with competitive threats from abroad and domestic competitors close behind. Innovation was at 30%, and changing technology ranked with “changing consumer demand” at 21%.

What the higher-ranking concerns all share is short-term thinking. Regulations are fluid and constantly changing, as they’re repealed and revised. Hiring is always a struggle for any organization. And keeping up with the competition is going to consume any board’s time to some degree. There are only so many hours in the day, and boards can perhaps be forgiven for occasionally losing sight of the horizon while dealing with the storm in front of them.

And, yet, the horizon has a way of sneaking up on you, and bringing rocks that will founder a company as surely as any price-cutting foreign competitor or revolving door in the CEO’s office. How can company leadership outside the board show that innovation is more urgent?

Innovation is the long-term solution to short-term problems.

Bring It Home

The key is that innovation is the long-term solution to short-term threats. Microsoft was king of its industry for years, and it spent nearly as long being assailed for stagnating and refusing to innovate. Then Google came along to take over the internet right as Apple consigned the desktop to an ignominious second place with the iPhone. Both began chipping away at Microsoft’s business model, forcing the company to start innovating just to survive. If it hadn’t gotten complacent, it might still be the ruling force in its industry, instead of fighting Apple, Google, and others for the crown.

When it comes to fighting competition, finding and keeping top-tier talent, and keeping ahead of the shifting winds of government, innovation is crucial. Regulation is a good example; while companies dealing with, say, environmental standards, may expect changes in the short term; it’s clear where the long-term trend lies, as consumers demand more ecologically friendly, low-or-no carbon products. Tech industries, in fact, are leading the way in buying renewable power because it’s cheap. It’s also secure since we’ll never run out of sun or wind, and it’s regulation-proof. Why wait for the government to make up its mind when you can beat their standards, and your rivals, to the goal line?

Innovation is not an easy task. But the history of business makes it clear it’s the innovators who survive, while the short-term thinkers fall by the wayside. For help with assisting your board to better understand the importance of innovation strategy, contact us.

Trends First, Solutions Second

Solutions SecondLast year, IdeaScale launched a webinar series that covered the repeatable innovation process (from problem identification to implementation). In the “How to Pick the Right Problems to Solve” webinar we discussed that before an innovator or innovation manager can begin solving problems, they have to look at all the available research and information in order to drive their understanding of the issue so that you can find an actionable solution that actually solves the problem. That could be feedback that you’ve already gathered, research on a subject, workshop discussions, and more.

This also means that organizations need to be trend tracking so that they can always include these signals as part of their initial review of existing information that informs their solution seeking. For example, if someone in the energy sector was working to repair inefficiencies in their thermostat and didn’t take into account the growing trend of the Internet of Things (IoT), they could miss a major opportunity to not only solve that problem in a new way, but lose this critical chance to keep pace with (or blow past) the competition. If all you do is solve the problem in the same way you always have, you’re probably not innovating very often.

In order to constantly be building a repository of information, you can also ask for customers and employees to be adding to your trend tracking. They can submit trends or technology that they’ve observed anywhere (even in other industries) and others can use that as a touchpoint for learning. IdeaScale also supports idea linking so that administrators and moderators can group ideas according to themes or trends as they emerge. In fact, in this way, your crowd might signal trends that they didn’t even know were critical to the future of a product, process, or policy just by telling you other ideas that are on their mind.

Once you have a sense of the emerging trends that are out there, it’s important to hold them up against the problem that you’re trying to solve and see if there might be places that you could include those trends in your new solution – if there’s a space, then you might not just solve a problem, but you might find an entirely new transformative idea that will keep you relevant for years to come.

To review key emerging trends that are impacting your business, download our infographic on the subject.

Examples of Great Innovation Engagement Videos

 Innovation Engagement VideosWhen participation from your crowd is critical to your innovation program, you’ve got to have a multi-channel engagement strategy that works. Almost everyone uses email to get in contact with their end users, but there are plenty of other channels that are valuable for sharing your message including social media (or your internal messaging system for your business), SMS communication, posters or flyers if you’re soliciting ideas from a particular location, press releases, partner communications and many more.

But it’s often truly inspiring and easier to understand if you invite your crowd to participate in your program if you share a video that demonstrates your program and its value, which is why we wanted to highlight some examples from some leading innovators.

Wolters Kluwer empowers employees to think of themselves as innovative thinkers (like Einstein), while also accessibly demonstrating the front end experience of the IdeaScale platform so that the crow knows what to expect when they get there.

Amway’s video clearly demonstrates the value of participating in Amway’s crowdsourced innovation community – not only does it make a company better, it helps employees build their careers.

The CEC’s challenge video highlights past winners so that future participants know what they can expect if they move forward in the challenge, because the challenge runners are truly listening.

Calgary’s video features top leaders from the city (in this case, the Mayor) so the public knows that the program has high visibility and would probably have sincere resources applied to it. It also includes some guidance on criteria – ideas should help the city be more entrepreneurial, creative or innovative.

The JUMP program outlines the process that ideas go through in order to be implemented. The process is demonstrated clearly and succinctly (they even built it into the acronym for their program name).

What are some of the great qualities in these videos. Well, almost all of them are less than two minutes, some include a demonstration of the platform, but all include a clear call to action and the URL where an employee, citizen, or customer can take action.

Have you ever used videos as part of your engagement strategy?

Best Practices for Managing Multiple Stakeholders in the Innovation Process

Innovation is about diplomacy as well as creativity.

Central to any innovation process is stakeholder management. Any idea that you have will have ripples up and down both your company and your vendors, customers, government agencies you work with, and even the general public, in some cases. All should be involved in the process to some degree, making innovation processes as much about people skills and diplomacy as engineering. How should we balance these sometimes competing needs?

Build A Common Language

Just like any act of diplomacy, the first step is ensuring that the same words mean the same thing to everybody at the table. “Tolerance” can mean very different things to an engineering team and a legal team. Sit down and look closely for these pain points, terms that may not be understood by everyone or that may seem ambiguous in context, and work out the clearest language possible.

Pick Representatives

While you should try, as much as possible, to communicate with groups of stakeholders directly, it’s unlikely the entire department can drop everything and attend every meeting. So, put in a request that they choose a representative who can speak for the group, and who’s responsible for helping to keep the group informed and to collect ideas and concerns from their team. This gives everyone a stake in the process without consuming everyone’s time.

Make Friends

It’s not just good manners to introduce stakeholders to each other. It also improves communication and helps make their ideas and thoughts more concrete in the minds of your innovation team. It’s much easier to write off a complaint from some anonymous member of the accounting department than it is to dismiss the concerns of Bob, the accountant who shared a coffee with everyone. This has a second benefit, too, helping your employees get to know each other and clients a little better.

Everyone needs a voice.

Communicate

We’ve all had the experience of only being contacted by a person when they want something out of us. The best way to avoid looking like that person to a group of stakeholders is to keep in touch. Regularly reach out with what steps you’ve taken and ask for input. Send along information promptly when requested, and be available to discuss it. Invite them to meetings and conferences, and if they can’t make it, send along a summary.

Be Clear On Impact

With any innovation, each stakeholder should be able to walk away with a clear understanding of what they’ll be expected to do, and what will change in return. If an idea requires them to spend a few hours now to save dozens later, then they should fully understand that’s the case. If it’s going to save them money, they should have a figure, and that’s doubly true if it’s going to cost them money.

Run Pilots And Tests

Finally, don’t hesitate to put some rubber on the road and try your ideas out. A pilot program or a small test will cost minimal amounts of cash and effort while giving everyone who holds a stake in the program an idea of what it can do for them.

No innovation process will run entirely smoothly as a diplomatic operation. But if you keep everyone’s feelings, and what’s at stake, in mind, you can get everyone behind an idea and watch it soar. To learn more about people management and innovation, request a demo.

 

Chain of Command vs. Flattened Organizational Structure

One of the reasons that people love a crowdsourced innovation program is that it levels the playing field for ideas. Yes, the CEO or Commander might have the best idea, but maybe the most transformative ideas can come from someone who just joined the company or someone working on the front lines of the organization far from the top. Crowdsourced innovation allows you to transparently prove and communicate the value of an idea no matter where it comes from.

Perhaps the place this value is most keenly felt is in the military or other traditionally-stratified organizations where chain of command is absolutely imperative. IdeaScale has worked with a number of organizations like this, including the United States Coast Guard, New York City Police Department, and other departments around the world. What many of these organizations report is that although chain of command is very powerful for keeping forces organized and united (particularly in chaotic situations), it also stifles innovation since ideas need to climb a tall and formidable ladder. These ladders are very often siloed (by geography, discipline, or otherwise) and are often concerned with de-risking new ideas rather than disseminating them – a common innovator’s dilemma – so instituting a crowdsourced innovation program can be transformative as even incremental improvements can be transformative at scale. So how do you marry the value of chain of command with a flattened organizational structure?

At the 2018 Open Nation, Queensland Police spoke to this very challenge and told us that it is possible to flatten an organization for innovative ideas, but maintain chain of command when necessary. Charmaine Meiklejohn stated that she knows when she calls on the police to respond to her request, she knows that chain of command is in place, but when it comes to innovation or new ideas then there’s no need to funnel ideas through those channels and that change in organization has been hugely empowering.

To learn how the Queensland Police can maintain both of these structures in a single organization, register for our Ideas Connecting Our People December 4th webinar.  Registrants will receive a link to the video recording of the webinar and attendees will have the chance to ask questions in a live Q&A. See you there!

What IdeaScale is Grateful For

IdeaScale is GratefulWell, here in California it’s a predictably lovely fall day (brisk, but not cold with skittering leaves chasing each other down the sidewalk). It’s Thanksgiving in America and we think it’s a great idea to sit down and share our gratitude.

Voting. If you haven’t noticed… IdeaScale loves voting. We love it in all of its forms: in elections, in web applications, on The Voice…. We offer our employees PTO to vote and we even volunteer at the polls on election day. Why? Because it’s a tool that values equality and that makes our jobs easier (at IdeaScale, we prioritize product development based on what people upvote in our community). After all… even animals vote. That is why we want to protect that right and we built it as a fundamental aspect of our tool.

Creators. We can’t help ourselves – we love people who think of new ideas, invent things, improve things, collaborate with others to make things better. Surprisingly, this doesn’t always mean a lone genius coming up with ideas in a vacuum, but usually a group of people who are building something together. We want to celebrate all of you.

Diversity. Companies that report high levels of diversity are 45% more likely to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% more likely to report that the firm captured a new market. And I think it’s unfortunate to start with the business ROI when you can also talk about all the other business  value: like an improved company culture, exposure to new concepts and ideas, and a great deal of laughter and camaraderie (at least in our experience of it).

Our Co-Workers. It’s great to work with so many committed and passionate people with such a variety of interests (from apocalypse planning to party planning). We definitely love the people on our team.

Our Customers. Of course we’re grateful to our community of practitioners – not only do you make it possible for us to grow and experiment with technology, but we also learn a lot from you. That’s why we’ve created our community of practice, and we love everything we learn at our annual customer event: Open Nation.  What we learn drives decision making, company planning, and more.

So that’s what we’re grateful for. What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

How Technology Changes Our Home in the Most Unexpected Ways

Technology is constantly changing our lives. It improved our communication and transportation, it increased the pace of business and development, it’s changed government and our families. It has also impacted our home in the most unexpected ways. As we head towards a fully-automated future, we can see many indicators of how technology changes our house. With technology, we can make our home a convenient place to stay. We can create home improvement projects easy and fast. The possibilities are limitless. Technologies that are changing our home in the most unexpected ways are smart lights, thermostats, digital assistants, fast internet connections, smart television, and entertainment (to name a few). Let’s look at how a few of them are influencing us.

1) Fast Internet Connections

With internet connections, communication is convenient and fast. In one click, we can talk to our loved ones who are miles away. These connections have brought us to the rest of the world: families can reunite, businesses can conduct research and studies without spending millions, entrepreneurs can grow, expand and communicate through a platform. These are some of the positive impacts of interconnectivity. At the same time, it asks us to be responsible for the flow of information (especially for parents who want a say in the content that their children see).

2) Home Improvement Technology

Smart lights, thermostats, and digital assistants are some of the many home improvement technologies. Smart lights help us in so many ways. They can improve our sleeping patterns. And with technology, we can make our home voice activated. In a single command, we can enable the thermostat to adjust the temperature in our homes. Even without voice commands, we can set the digital assistants in our home to conform to our living conditions. These assistants can prompt us if there’s something wrong with the HVAC. They can let us know if the air filter needs replacing.

Smart appliances can make our cooking more convenient than before. They can aid you in preparing meals in under 15 minutes without sacrificing taste and nutrition.

These smart technologies make our life easier. However, these technologies make us too dependent on convenience and comfort. This dependency on technology, sometimes, impair our judgment, because sometimes we forget to stay physically active.

3) Home Entertainment

Back in the 1990s, television series were the thing. People were happy with knitting hobbies and other simple forms of entertainment, reading physical books, joining a sports club, or simply listening to a radio. These entertainment ways are still the same except that they have evolved. Now, everything is digital.

Back then, cassette tapes or CD’s are the methods of recording music. Today, we can download them from online sites. We can buy them in digital music stores. Now, the easiest way to obtain books is through an eBook subscription. In a click of a button, we can download thousands, even millions of books to read. Before, watching movies means going to a movie house with popcorn in one hand. We don’t need to go out to enjoy our favorite film anymore. A subscription will suffice. After a day of showing a movie on the big screen, we can download the online version. We can watch a video over and over until we know every dialogue and scene.

Final Thoughts

Technology is great in making our lives more comfortable and more convenient than ten years ago. It affects our lives in so many ways. It improves communication, home living conditions, and education systems. However, relying too much on technologies can be a bad thing. Technology can impair our better judgment. It makes us unhealthy in some ways. After all, for a healthy life, we need more than convenience. We also need physical activity and to put our devices down every once in awhile. 

This guest post is authored by Jimmy Milner.  He spends most of his time in his garage-turned-wood workshop. He loves tinkering with tools and using them to complete beautiful home improvements for his lovely family. Air Tool Guy is where he shares tips, experience and passion to fellow DIY-ers.