Author Archives: Jessica Day

How to Silicon Valley Your Business

Silicon Valley Your BusinessEvery year, thousands of companies send their employees to Silicon Valley to visit start-ups and enterprises. They’re hoping these employees can understand and absorb some of the innovation magic and energy here and disseminate it throughout the rest of their organization. Some companies even establish permanent company outposts to have a constant pulse on emerging trends and start-up themes. But what is it that we really know about innovation here in the Bay Area? Well, a great deal of its power comes from blending diversity with resources and education. Which is a recipe for creating this kind of energy anywhere in almost any organization.

Start by investing resources in change.

Over 40% of all US venture funding is concentrated in the Bay Area. That means lots of new ideas (even risky ones) are in a marketplace where they can get some runway to prove themselves. If you start putting some real money (and time) into testing out new concepts by gathering feedback, developing new prototypes, and combining ideas, you might get more disruptive (and profitable) ideas to grow in your own organization. Of course, not every VC bet pays off, so you’ve got to try lots of new notions in order to get a return on some of them.

Build up and encourage diversity.

SF leads the trend that shows that every major tech hub has more foreign-born workers than domestic ones. In San Francisco, 82% of the population is from out-of-state or foreign-born. But this validates innovation findings that show how combining ideas (even ones that appear to be in conflict) creates higher quality ideas. Companies with higher rates 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.

It helps to have access to education.

According to Times Higher Education, California boasts six out of the top 25 universities globally (three just in the Bay Area: Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UCSF). These serve as starting points for new ideas as well as hotbeds for attracting top talent and thinkers from around the globe. Fostering education and investing in those who want to learn creates an energy that is always looking for a new intellectual frontier.

Now… build connections.

In our conversations with Chief Innovation Officers, their primary job is to build connections: between ideas, between resources and researchers, between emerging themes and company capabilities. When you’re a start-up with fifty or fewer employees – creating connections is pretty easy. But when you’re a global company with thousands of employees, that job is more challenging. Diversity, resources, and education aren’t the answer on their own, you need to find ways to build those connections between ideas at scale….

So, we’d still tell you to come visit us here in Bay Area. We’ll show you around to different start-ups and give you a taste of some great weather, but you can start by creating a more innovative work environment today by following the major tenets outlined here.

How Does Technology Influence Innovation?

Technology Influence InnovationIn a recent round of research, I was reviewing adoption rates for new technologies. It took over 55 years for automobiles to reach 80 million people, whereas the internet was able to achieve the same feat in less than 18 years. It reminded me of the staggering comparison: “It took about 75 years for the telephone to connect to 50 million people. It took Angry Birds 35 days.”

Now I’ve been reminded that this is not a fair comparison as there are many other influencing factors (like infrastructure, budget concerns, etc), but at the same time, I think that is precisely the point. Digital infrastructure is fundamentally different than the rules of infrastructure in the physical world, which is why messages, trends, and new products are so easily disseminated these days. In this way, innovation in the technology sector is more volatile, powerful, and drives almost every other sector as it moves to keep pace with our own demands. So what emerging capabilities in the technology industry are influencing innovation in other sectors?

Artificial Intelligence (AI):

If you’re an organization or business that in any way collects or manages data, then you’re likely going to run into AI. AI will be driving online conversations, directing digital experiences, and oftentimes proactively making choices or reports for individuals and companies alike. This article cites the amount of time that can be saved by government officials, if AI chatbots can respond to constituent queries and instead of humans. That’s just one of 26 applications of AI for the government that they mention.


By far one of the buzziest words in Silicon Valley these days. More than a form of currency, it’s an approach to data that allows it to be securely decentralized. Anyone can access, add to, and verify data this way. And that could be used in almost any industry. For example, this article talks about its potential applications in the travel industry, which could help not only manage itineraries and payments, but also improving loyalty programs, luggage tracking, and travel ID, to name a few.

Augmented Reality

Even if your product exists in the real world, there are ways that you’ll need to think augmented reality. For example, IKEA now offers an app that lets you digitally “place” items from their catalog in your home so that you can see how you like it.

And More

Robotics, natural user interfaces, the list of emerging tech goes on and on. And all of these capabilities are going to influence your business, no matter which sector you’re in. It also places a tremendous ethical burden on technologists to forecast both good and bad applications of their technology to ensure that they’re building in thoughtful safeguards. But the most fun that you can have in innovation workshop these days is getting a group together to brainstorm ideas around an emerging trend to find out how it might impact your business.

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

Research is Collaborative

Research is CollaborativeEarth Science Information Partners (ESIP) is an open, networked community that brings together science, data and information technology practitioners. ESIP is supported by NASA, NOAA,  USGS and 110+ member organizations all working together to collaboratively share research, funding opportunities, and to network with one another. According to ESIP their mission is to foster connection between “the functional sectors of observation, research, application, education and use of Earth science.”

In fact, NASA was one of the founding members of ESIP, because they wanted to invite others to experiment with Earth data for research and commercial purposes. This wasn’t terribly surprising to me, because NASA is one of the government organizations that IdeaScale has written about repeatedly, because of their commitment to collaboration.

But now research is emerging that shows that the more connected an idea is, the more likely it is to be transformative or disruptive to an industry. This is because the amount of information we each contain in our own brain is inherently limited and the more diversity of opinion, insight, and information that you can bring to an idea, the more likely it is to improve. It will serve more people, have deeper relevance, and change from its original idea.

ESIP’s mission naturally aligns to this collaboration best practice as their key goal for all of their members is connection. Say you have a researcher who’s gathered a great deal of data for one of their experiments, they can then connect them to a government agency who can use that data to inform policy.

But all that connection takes time and before using IdeaScale, humans were acting as matchmakers between data, researchers, and projects. Now, with IdeaScale, it is possible to bring those people and projects together in the same place and they’ve made it part of their ongoing process.

To learn more about Earth Science Information Partners and their use of IdeaScale to connect earth scientists, download the full case study here.

3 Steps to Design Your Innovation Management Program

Design Your Innovation Management ProgramDisrupt or be disrupted has been the slogan of the past few years as new startups repeatedly  overturn and overtake established companies that have been around for years. This trend has given rise to “innovation management,” a term that risks being ignored simply for how wonky it sounds. After all, can “innovation” ever really be managed?

And stodgy as the term might be, I think it actually helps us to redefine some of our deeply held (and erroneous) beliefs. Innovation can be managed, precisely because it is not the slapdash or purely artistic process gifted to us by the few. It is actually a highly collaborative process that can be repeated and organized. But before you get started and either adopt or define a methodology of your own, you’ll need to design your innovation management program starting with these three steps.

Create a destination for ideas. Preferably this should be a digital tool like IdeaScale so that anyone, anywhere, at anytime can add to this environment so that you begin to develop a mine for inspiring and relevant ideas. However, we do think that having an innovation center or innovation department where new ideas are defined and tested can be very powerful, too. It becomes a place that employees can visit to become inspired.

Identify at least one problem to solve this year. IdeaScale has found that success happens most organically when a new idea aligns with a business need. If you’ve got a budget challenge to meet or a customer requirement that you’d like to ideate around, align your first innovation campaign to that need and deliver a result. That’s going to build faith in your program and goodwill in your workforce. So before you begin that not only do you need solutions, you need problems, too.

Define your process thresholds and automate where possible. Define your process with different validation measures or thresholds. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out our webinars on process and on how to evaluate ideas. Ideas should garner a certain number of comments, reviews, funds (or whatever you define at each stage) to move forward and then you can focus on building on those ideas and not moving them forward through an ideation funnel.

Of course, these are just a few tips to get you started. You’ll need to create teams and source new problems and implement ideas through to prototyping and testing and then start the process over. But if you find a place for ideas, pick a problem to solve, and process those ideas with the help of the crowd, you’ll be off to a good start.

Four Real-World Examples of Innovation in Healthcare

Innovation is changing how we care for each other.

Healthcare is constantly in the news as an industry, and if you pay attention, what most catches attention is how desperately it needs innovation. Whether it’s the paperwork in the backend or the need for powerful solutions to complex public health problems, innovation platforms are finding new ways to make the world a happier, healthier place. Here are three promising examples of innovation in healthcare that may inspire others in the industry:

Fighting HIV and AIDS

Dreams is a group dedicated to helping girls and women by reducing HIV infection rates through education and prevention. However, this is a far more complicated task than just explaining the routes of HIV transmission and offering prophylactic solutions: Any approach to reducing HIV/AIDS has to look to social good. Their innovation strategy led them, as an example, to bolster education funding to ensure girls in Malawi finish secondary school, as better education is directly correlated with lower infection rates.

Tackling Addiction

Substance abuse is a major health crisis in America, costing society billions in lost productivity, law enforcement costs, and medical care. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, is hoping to change that by looking into app design. One of the most important factors in reducing the social cost of substance abuse is the ability to quickly gather and report data. NIDA’s most recent campaign was to create an idea for an app that allows citizen researchers and professionals to effectively work in the field, offering NIDA ideas on how the app would work and what tools it should offer. Instead of anonymous survey data, NIDA will get real, concrete data into a genuine problem.

A doctor today has access to innovation strategies undreamed of decades ago.

Eradicating Cancer

Cancer is an enormously complicated family of illnesses, and part of the problem for researchers is figuring out where to marshal a truly enormous set of resources and volunteer energy. The Cancer Moonshot is a multi-stage process harnessing the power of crowds to determine how data should be gathered and studied, which cancers most need the power of the group, and how clinical trials of promising treatments should be developed and run. Winning the war against cancer, like any war, will take every last one of us, even if great strides have been made in the last few decades—and it starts with forming the best battle plan.

Bridging The Last Mile

Innovation is also coming to how we deliver basic services. One of the most fundamental problems with resource allocation and health is what’s called “the last mile.” Getting vaccines, water treatment equipment, and a host of other helpful materials to nations is quite easy: Mostly it’s just a matter of putting it on an airplane and getting the proper permits. It’s getting it to the villages and towns that most need it—that “last mile”—that matters the most, and it’s trickier than you might think, especially in places with barely any roads or other methods of access. Innovation platforms are helping UNICEF come up with bold new ideas to bridge that last mile and deliver healthcare to everyone.

Innovation platforms are changing the world for the better, harnessing the power of crowds to solve the thorniest problems. To see the power of innovation in action, join our newsletter!

The Role of Women in Innovation

Role of Women in InnovationA scroll through my LinkedIn today is pretty powerful. I see numerous organizations profiling and celebrating their “First Female CEO” or “Women in Charge of Blockchain” or “the Female Entrepreneurial Movement.” It’s exciting to see a more balanced future of the workplace and think that pioneering new ideas are already being championed and redeveloped by women. But it has me wondering, what do we know about the role of women in innovation management?

To begin with, we know that diversity (diversity of gender, race, age, socioeconomic status, etc) fuels innovation. In a Harvard Business Review article, it was found that firms with high levels of diversity were 45% more likely to report market growth and 70% more likely to report capture of a new market. Creating space for numerous voices and celebrating those voices (even the ones that disagree with you) will actually help fuel productivity and creative growth, so we should start the discussion there: that there are far more kinds of diversity to consider beyond gender.

But women are coming up and “between 1997 and 2006, businesses fully women-owned, or majority-owned by women, grew at nearly twice the rate of all U.S. firms.” Gender diverse firms are also 15 percent more likely to deliver better financial returns overall. And female entrepreneurship is currently experiencing a surge as more and more women become educated and enter roles traditionally held by men. And a recent finding – one that I find particularly interesting for innovation – female founders are on an upward trend.  It’s an exciting time and I expect that the future of innovation will be shared equally by men and women.

Psychology Today published an interesting finding that people will tolerate failure more easily in a man, because he is perceived to be a risk taker and that women are expected to work to steward new ideas through to completion because they are more adaptive. The article proposes making sure that all innovation teams have an equal gender representation, but I would also argue that we should begin shifting attitudes so that innovation failure and success is equally tolerable across both sexes or the workplace will eventually prove an unsustainable environment for new ideas.

And this brings me to a second thought about gender and innovation. Many people think that as one identity begins to excel, it means that another must decelerate, but in innovation (as I suspect, anywhere else), it is not an either/or but a new opportunity to partner as all groups gain the opportunity to learn new skills and in the end what wins is not an idea’s author, but the idea itself.

The State of Innovation in the Financial Sector

Innovation in the Financial SectorFintech funding is increasing. Just over a decade ago, we were spending a little over $5 Billion on financial technology – today we’re spending nearly $78 Billion. Why are we seeing that investment accelerate? Because the financial sector is ripe for disruption and investors want to make sure that they’re part of the financial future which is an industry that is estimated to make up 20% of a country’s gross domestic product.  

Here are two reasons that the financial sector should anticipate disruption:

New Technology. Certainly you can’t go on any website without seeing the word “blockchain” (whether that technology is relevant to the website or not). But that’s not the only piece of emerging tech that is impacting the financial sector: big data and market predictions are certainly developing, crowdfunding technology allows for microfinancing of small businesses, digital security continues to be one of the chief executive’s concerns in the financial sector. All financial institutions are running to keep up or risk becoming irrelevant.

Shifting Customer Trends.  Customers no longer feel like financial decisions and planning are the purview of specialists alone. 46% of affluent Millennials and 41% of affluent Gen X perform research online, make decisions and execute their own trades without ever turning to an expert. And trust in a brand is no longer determined by how long its been around. In fact, 76% of affluent Millennials are open to financial services provided by non-financial brands.

So how do you stay ahead of the curve? Crowdsourcing ideas allows you to ask for signals (like emerging trends) from your crowd, but also empowers that crowd to make suggestions and share ideas that will drive the business forward. That’s why lots of financial institutions are starting by asking their employees for new product ideas, process solutions, and more.

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

Lessons About Culture and Creativity

One of our customers recently had the good fortune to hear Adam Grant speak at an event. Adam Grant “has been Wharton’s top-rated professor for seven straight years. He is a leading expert on how we can find motivation and meaning, and live more generous and creative lives. He has been recognized as one of the world’s 10 most influential management thinkers” and in this presentation, he shared some insights that resonated with both our customers and with us. Take a look:

4 out of 5 people do not share their great ideas with anyone. This can happen for a number of reasons: they don’t know with whom or how to share their idea, they don’t believe that their idea is a good one, they’re shy – there are many barriers to overcome. With all of those great ideas out there, how do we help them overcome those barriers? One way is by making the place and process for sharing ideas obvious to anyone – no matter who they are in a company. Where do all the ideas go (good and bad)?

Avoid cultures where leaders say “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” – You WANT people to let you know when there are problems. This is something that we recommend to our customers all the time (especially as a launch campaign) – start by asking for problems and bring all the power of crowdsourcing to bare on it – let others bring new perspective to it, let the crowd vote and prioritize the problems they think are most pressing, and go from there. And even then, you want to be really clear on the problem, its limits and capabilities before you start asking for solutions. You can hear more about this in our “developing problem statements” webinar.

It takes 10-20 exposures to an idea before the listener (often the leader) ‘hears it.’ This rule of thumb applies to almost anything. Marketers are told that someone has to see a message at least seven times, before they’ll interact with it. I’d guess that 10-20 impressions is even more accurate, because all of us are exposed to so many messages every day, that we’ve become filters more than funnels for information. That’s why good ideas need a place to live and a communication plan to go with them and advocates who will support them.

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to download our infographic detailing meaningful innovation lessons from Adam Grant’s Originals, you can find it here. 

2018 Innovation Learning Priorities

2018 Innovation Learning PrioritiesEvery year, IdeaScale asks its customers what they’re focused on learning this year. This information becomes the backbone of our content calendar for the rest of the year for both our customers and prospects: it informs what we blog about, what white papers we research, what sessions we feature at Open Nation, and more. This year, we were somewhat surprised at the top three study priorities that innovators are focused on, but it’s also what you can expect to learn about at Open Nation 2018.

Community Engagement Strategies. Well, actually, there’s no surprise here. This subject is one of the leading themes every year. The good news is that so many engagement strategies are evergreen and can be used time after time, but there’s always something new to try every year (whether it’s a new channel for outreach or a new incentive structure that works better for public sector organizations). It’s a subject that we’ll probably always write about, because if a company can succeed in its communications strategy, it’s far more likely to succeed in its innovation program.

Innovation Metrics and ROI. Now this subject was a surprise finalist this year and in our deeper dive into the subject matter, it’s become even more complex. Innovation metrics and ROI can mean very different things to different companies or even to different people within the same program. For this year, we’re focusing on innovation program metrics (outlined in this infographic) and then also introducing the concept of firmer, longer-term metrics that companies can track after the launch of a new program, product, or service.

Implementation Strategies. This is probably the theme that we were happiest to see appear in our top three. We think that the fact that this is a key concern for innovators this year means that innovation programs are maturing to the point that ideation is no longer enough. Lots of organizations start out simply by asking for ideas – they just want to brainstorm and fill their innovation pipeline. Ideas, however, don’t make you more innovative – it’s the follow- through that defines an organization. So we’ll be focusing on implementation strategies like how to assemble resources, how to make the case for new ideas, how to plan for implementation and more.

If you’re interested in learning more about these themes, consider joining us at Open Nation in Berkeley on October 25th this year. We’ll be discussing all of these topics and more.

What about you? What are you focused on learning this year?

Avoiding Groupthink and Empowering Introverts

Avoiding GroupthinkThere was this great infocomic a few years ago that talked about the virtues of online brainstorming. Although there are lots of benefits that we’ve discussed in our blog before (transparent processes, lower program costs, etc), this comic highlighted two of my favorite benefits that results from online brainstorming: avoiding groupthink and empowering introverts. Let’s dig into why each of these is possible.

Avoiding Groupthink. When brainstorming and collaborative ideation happens in a physical location, it trends towards polite agreement or staying with the ideas that occur in that small frame of time and receive the most group consensus. When you invite everyone to do their homework ahead of time and share ideas on their own, you sidestep the problem of ideas that gain the most immediate traction by the loudest voices. All ideas are able to exist simultaneously, independent of one another and then later can receive honest feedback, meaningful connections and equitable opinions. Ideas come first, consensus can come later.

Empowering Introverts. There are lots of studies and articles and books about the virtues of introverts – they’re excellent listeners, observers, happily independent. But many introverts find it difficult to speak up in a room (particularly when a louder, extroverted personality feels so comfortable working the room). For that reason, introverts find online ideation freeing: they can take the time to thoughtfully craft and share their idea and it arrives at the same volume and speed as the ideas of extroverts. It’s far more likely that an introvert’s voice will be shared (and heard) when it is in this online context.

This is something that NYU noticed when they started engaging the voices of their 4,000 administrators in order to inform their representatives to the University Senate about the strategic initiatives that mattered to them. Not only did the AMC note nearly 100% participation from their staff in their online portal, but they also noted a marked increase to in person meetings as well and perhaps most importantly:

“The best thing about IdeaScale is that we’re hearing from individuals that we had never heard from previously and we’re able to advocate for ideas by clearly articulating the support they have”

-Mike McCaw, Chairperson of the NYU Administrative Management Council

To learn more about NYU’s AMC crowdsourcing initiative, download the case study here!