Insights and sneak peeks into innovation and IdeaScale.

How Government Employees Can be Intrapreneurs

Government Employees Can be Intrapreneurs

I recently watched (for the second time) a fabulous lecture which introduced a framework called the “Inventure Cycle” by Professor Tina Seelig. Tina is the Professor of the Practice at Stanford University School of Engineering, and Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.

Her presentation offered practical tips to take your ideas from inspiration to implementation. If you aspire to be an intrapreneur, (an intrapreneur is an employee of an organization who follows entrepreneurship training to create a new product or service) this framework can help you and your peers not only brainstorm but also prototype and finally implement your idea.

A recent survey conducted by IdeaScale asked our customers, “How do you know if your IdeaScale campaign was a success?” The number one answer was the number of ideas implemented. The Inventure Cycle is a practical tool that can set you on the journey to implementation.

The Inventure Cycle Framework has four main concepts:

Imagination: Envision something that doesn’t exist
Creativity: Applying imagination to solve a problem
Innovation: Applying your creativity to come up with a UNIQUE solution
Entrepreneurship: Applying innovation to bring the ideas to life




Attitudes and actions associated with the Inventure Cycle:

According to Seelig, every organization could benefit from having various individuals in each one of these roles. However, to be successful in each role, she says that a set of attitudes and actions are required:

Imagination: requires the attitude of engagement and envisioning
Creativity: requires motivation and experimentation
Innovation: requires focus and reframing the problem or the question
Entrepreneurship: requires persistence and the ability to inspire others

IdeaScale offers intraprenurs the opportunity, via crowdsourcing, to brainstorm ideas, build teams around an idea, refine ideas, prioritize ideas and ultimately mark those ideas for implementation. Intrapreneurial thinkers are crucial to driving innovation within a company.

Two examples of government institutions that have benefited from crowdsourcing are the City of Atlanta and the Department of Labor. Results from the City of Atlanta’s campaign resulted in ideas that had a potential cost saving of $7.1 million annually. And the Department of Labor won the ePolicyworks team recognition from the Secretary of Labor while improving the efficiency of the policymaking process.

As an individual working on government initiatives, you and your team member can be intrapreneurs! I recommend setting up an IdeaScale community or an internal brainstorming workshop to envision the practical, but also the wildest, craziest out of this world solutions to a problem you are trying to solve.  Next, apply your creativity. See this infographic on How to Get Creative. Start experimenting, try things, break things. But be Innovate, come up with a unique solution to tackle the problem. Finally, practice intrapreneurial thinking to implement the solution.

Share your ideas here about how government agencies can be more innovative on this IdeaScale community.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Sonja Sulcer, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale

What Characteristics Do The Innovation Management Award Winners Have in Common?

innovation management characteristicsIdeaScale hosts the annual Innovation Management Awards in order to celebrate emerging and established innovators, but also to find new best practices and methods for success. This year’s winners had some great stories, but we did notice a few commonalities between them. So what characteristics do the innovation management award winners have in common?

They’re communications specialists. This is good news for the marketers in your organization. Their skills have even more cross-discipline applications. The mechanics of collaborative innovation work very similarly to online social mechanics. How can you make something meaningful across digital mediums? In a video? In 140 characters? Engaging multiple parties in problem solving requires great communications tactics.

They are masters of process. Great innovators create and follow maps. Even when they’re discovering new modes and methodologies, they’re documenting their steps in order to create a repeatable, manageable process that they can use in the future. Once they have a working process, that’s the mill through which all ideas process. Not that there aren’t exceptions, but having a process means that no great ideas are left behind.

They love to celebrate. Who doesn’t want to party? That means celebrating failures (because you were brave enough to try and smart enough to take the opportunity to learn), but they also take a victory lap when they have a new success. That means if there’s new revenue generated from a product, they tell everyone about it. If they build new consensus and make new decisions, then they write a press release about it. It builds faith in the system and encourages others to take part in the process.

To learn more about what characteristics the innovation management award winners have in common, download our infographic on the subject here.

Three Ways Government Agencies Can Do More With Less —Right Now


Government Agencies Can Do More With LessThe Trump Administration is ready to reduce waste, cut costs, and innovate in government. But are Federal agencies?

President Trump has called for a new White House Office of American Innovation (OAI) to bring together the best ideas from Government and the private sector in order to transform processes and spur innovation. Meanwhile, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney’s plans to rebuild government “starting from scratch,” and has instructed agencies to develop a plan by June 30 to “maximize employee performance.” Then by September 2017, agencies are to submit ideas for reorganizing programs to remove duplication and inefficiency

That means agencies need to start collecting, and developing, ideas – and fast.

Here are three ways the Federal workforce can align with the White House’s accountability and cost-cutting mandate, while continuing to successfully execute on their missions:

1) Look where technology has previously increased efficiency and budgetary savings:

Did you know that one of the greatest examples of government collaboration and innovation is the President’s Save Award? Over five years more than 100,000 ideas were shared through IdeaScale in this single project. In fact, with just two ideas the government saved more than $42M by the year 2014 while using IdeaScale technology.

In total 81 ideas implemented, $100s of millions of savings identified, and the deficit reduced from 9.2% to 4.1% That is one way to better adopt and leverage technology!

2) Adopt innovative practices to generate desired outcomes:

Agencies can learn from the U.S. Coast Guard, is who is already utilizing “design thinking” and “human-centered design” methodologies to power how the Coast Guard leads innovation.

To further continuous innovation at the Coast Guard, all members of the workforce are offered the opportunity to suggest solutions to enterprise challenges, provide ideas to make the Coast Guard better, and collaborate to develop innovative solutions.

The above methodologies then play a critical role in designing challenges and prototyping potential solutions generated by the workforce.

3) Employee empowerment and crowdsourcing:

According to a 2010 report by the National Performance Management Advisory Commission, “to make real improvements, organizational culture must also be addressed.” While culture change can’t be expected to occur overnight, especially in government, look at how the Food and Drug Administration is already improving processes with the help of an engaged workforce.

In 2014, FDA CDER launched a crowdsourced employee engagement initiative to increase the level of employee engagement in high-level decision making. CDER achieved an 80% participation rate from their engaged employees and gathered hundreds of ideas that improved internal CDER functions.

Similarly, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched their Employee Innovation Challenge to encourage VA employees to both share their ideas on how the department could be more efficient in performing its mandate and sustain employee engagement.

By giving employees at any level a simple way to submit, comment on, and vote for ideas 24/7, Federal agencies can source innovative ideas then select innovations for further development, evaluation and implementation to propel the next generation of government

Then the question becomes not will the return of innovation to the White House work, but instead, how great will the return on innovation be?


This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Tim Sussman, Director of Government Solutions at IdeaScale.

Do You Know What Open Innovation Is?

what is open innovationIn case you hadn’t heard, open innovation was defined by Henry Chesbrough as “a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology.”

But what does that really mean? It means that great ideas can come from anywhere. It means that open innovation can happen within an organization (the next great product idea can come from marketing) or it means you can look outside your organization for great ideas, invite them to surface publicly while you work on them internally.

But it really means something else, as well. It means that the process of innovation and competitiveness has been democratized. No company can corner the market on great ideas, because they can come from anywhere. Even small businesses can ask their communities, their customers, their partners for suggestions that could make them the next big start-up.

But what this also means is that companies need to develop new skill sets in order to stay at the edge. They need to become great communicators, they need to become master evaluators, and they need to be able to rapidly implement, test, and optimize great ideas. Even now, 68% of projects never see the light of day which is a lot of work and time poured into things that won’t end up generating revenue. The innovators with the competitive market advantage are going to be the ones that can effectively identify a great idea and build it rapidly, leaving others in the dust.
If you want to learn more about open innovation, download our complimentary Open Innovation Guide.

The Business Case for Incremental Innovation

Innovation can start small and snowball over time.

Does innovation have to be enormous and grandiose? We often like to fondly remember world-changing innovations as just that, but that ignores all the good ideas that were overhyped, poorly implemented, and quickly forgotten. Remember the hype around the Segway? Innovation doesn’t have to be, and sometimes can’t be, massive and world-changing. That doesn’t make incremental innovation any less important.

Why Incremental Innovation?
There are three reasons to innovate in increments instead of sweeping everything off the table and starting over. The first is that, in the broad strokes, that might simply not make any sense. If you’re running a restaurant, you don’t throw out your best selling dishes just because your chef finds them boring.

The second is that perhaps, at the moment, the stage just isn’t set for a broad, industry-changing innovation. Apple is often the most pointed-to when it comes to innovation, but the iPod is a good example: The iPod itself was innovative, making some big, obvious changes to the MP3 player and the software side of music. But once the iPod was out there, it mostly changed in increments — an updated click wheel here, a slimmer chassis there. The same is true of any innovative product; once it arrives, the big innovations are usually already done.

Third, there’s the question of need. Anyone can have big ideas, but do your customers want them? What problem does this big innovation solve for your customers? How does it help? If there’s not a clear answer, then incremental innovation might make more sense.

Innovation is a steady climb, not a sudden jump.

How To Innovate In Increments
Incremental innovation can often be where the magic really happens. For example, who thought the real innovation the iPhone would introduce to most of the world would be the touchscreen? With the arrival of the iPhone and its flood of imitators, the costs of touchscreens were driven down to the point where every product that needed to save space and didn’t need physical controls started using them.

And that’s a good place to start: How can you update parts of what you do? Is there a better tool to control things? Is there new software that can streamline your process? What inspiration can you draw from other products?

Another place to look is your customers and employees. Look at what people like about your product, and what they think could be improved. Look closely at how things are used, as well. The Slinky may be well known as a kid’s toy, for example, but it got its start as a spring developed by a Naval engineer to keep instruments stable at sea. To this day there’s not much difference between your standard metal Slinky and the springs that inspired it.

Finally, you should ask yourself about the little things you’d like to polish and refine. We all have our pet peeves and preferences, and it’s worth inquiring after those and see where they take you.

Incremental innovation is often the best way to get innovation done. So look at what you can change in the details, and you might be surprised by just how much innovation you can find. To learn more, get the Innovation Starter Kit.

The 3 Most Common Questions about Idea Management Software

I’ve been with IdeaScale since 2011.  I’ve been on thousands of prospect calls.  Though much has changed on our tool and in the innovation space, these questions are just as prevalent as they were in 2011. In 2017 I’m talking through the same concerns as I was 6 years ago. Here are the three most common questions about idea management software that I encounter each day:

1. How many people do I need to dedicate to running the community?

This is a great question, and the answer varies greatly.  While a few of our clients have dedicated FTE running their community day-to-day, a far more common scenario is a small group of Moderators dedicating an hour a week or a few minutes per day.  

What we can tell you is that some of our most successful most thriving communities have very active moderation.  It may take some time to find the right balance of moderation for your community. For insights on successful moderation strategies check out Innovation Awards winners: the Department of Labor, Making All Voices Count, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

2. Do I need to involve our IT?

Yes, for an internal employee facing project you do. But we swear we make this painless. (No really).  The one area in which you will need assistance from your IT team: utilizing Single Sign-On.  Single Sign-On is a method of connecting your existing employee credentials into our system allowing your employees to seamless login without creating a new profile.  Why is Single Sign-On important?  Well for a number of reasons:

Security – We know that in 2017 cybersecurity is a top concern of CEO’s (and IT alike). So keeping your community secure and intruders out of your community is a top concern. So whether it’s your everyday Russian agent or 400 pound hackers, we’ve learned that keeping data secure is of utmost importance.   

Ease of Use – By allowing your employees to be automatically logged in (without creating yet another login and password combo), we are removing a big barrier to participation. As much as we all love to create a new login and password, we can skip that step altogether.

In order to keep your IT team happy we’ve blueprinted our SSO methods here and here. These two documents save hours and hours of back and forth.  

We’ve overseen hundreds of Single Sign-On implementations. Representing IdeaScale  in many of those SSO engagements is our Senior Developer, Christoph Schebel.

“We set up calls with the client’s IT team to assuage any fears.  Frequently they’re off and running in just a few hours.” Schebel adds, “It can also be as fast as 15 minutes.”

After SSO is configured the rest of the configuration can be administered solely by a layperson and your IT dept can go back to their day job.

3. How long does it take to set up?

A typical enterprise on board takes four weeks (although the community itself can be up and running in just a few clicks). But what goes into that four weeks? Configuration of the community, set up and moderator training.  

I asked Innovation Architect, Kerry Seed, himself a veteran of hundreds of client launches, whether the four week timeframe was realistic?  

“We have broken down the configuration and on-boarding tasks into a four week schedule. Committed clients are able to launch in a month with ease.”

So what are the barriers to a quick launch? Seed reports, “Some people struggle to coordinate with marketing to get branding and communications plans set up. Once they have those assets in place though, it is usually smooth sailing.”

Also included the 4 week configuration period, is a training of the client’s Moderators and Administrators. Of the training regiment Seed adds “Our goal is to prepare clients for a successful launch. We encourage them to project into the future to consider their plan for executing on ideas. This all begins in the on-boarding process. Our four week plan covers not only software configuration, but strategic planning for creating a culture of innovation.”


This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Erik Siebert, Innovation Strategist at IdeaScale

Expert Interview Series: B.J. Shannon of TINYpulse About the Role Employee Feedback Plays in Idea Management

Role Employee Feedback Plays in Idea Management

B.J. Shannon joined TINYpulse in June of 2013 as Employee # 1 and now heads up the global Customer Success Team. We caught up with B.J. to discuss the value of employee feedback and how best to obtain and leverage this information in order to help a company succeed.

What does TINYPulse offer that can improve employees’ morale and/or corporate culture?
TINYpulse enables employees to contribute and receive feedback throughout the year by offering yearly or semi-annual survey check-ins for both culture and performance. We turned traditional engagement surveys and performance reviews on their heads and made them TINYer and more regular.

How important is it to engage the entire organization?
Providing an avenue for all teams to feel empowered to submit suggestions on how an organization can improve culturally or as a business is an incredibly easy and affordable investment that has an almost guaranteed ROI. Simply showing all employees that their opinions are valued and wanted has beneficial impacts on morale and engagement.

If a business owner or manager were to say to you, “I don’t need a software program to spot a burned-out employee,” how would you respond?
I’d ask how they knew this, and would likely hear the response, “I have an open-door policy, and I am a very approachable boss.” We find that so many “bosses” underestimate the power dynamic that exists between employees and their supervisors or employers. Not all employees feel comfortable providing honest feedback and can successfully hide being burned out or being on the hunt for another job.

We talk with so many managers and business owners, and almost invariably they say that the most terrifying words they can hear from an employee are, “Here’s my two weeks’ notice.” If they were able to spot this in advance, they’d likely do something beforehand to intervene. Software programs that collect anonymous employee feedback on a regular basis can do just that.

What guidelines do you recommend to companies or organizations regarding whether the completion of employee surveys should be voluntary or mandatory?
Well, I recommend that organizations survey their employees anonymously, so this is sort of moot by definition. It’s impossible to enforce a mandatory completion policy for anonymous surveys.

However, I do think that communicating with employees before deploying the surveys in order to explain the “why” behind what organizations are doing, and what the commitment from the employer is regarding what will be done with the data (sharing back, action planning, etc.), can be impactful on completion rates. Employees want to provide feedback, but they have to know that it’s going to result in positive change and not just disappear into a black hole. A mutual commitment between employers and employees regarding what is expected from both sides can be more successful than just saying that survey completion is compulsory.

What advice would you provide to a company or organization on how to proceed if stakeholder surveys revealed a significant problem?
First and foremost, remind yourself that this problem would have existed whether or not you were aware of it. Once you realize that you’re in a better position for discovering it, you’re in a much better place to say “OK, let’s acknowledge this to our employees and talk about how we can fix it – or that we won’t be able to fix it.” Not all issues can be immediately addressed, but employees need to know that an issue has been acknowledged – and they will be more understanding once that occurs.

Want to see how IdeaScale’s ideation software can help you keep your employees engaged and generate new outcomes? Request a demo today!

Top 5 Advantages of Crowdsourced Innovation Management

5 Advantages of Crowdsourced Innovation ManagementHundreds of years ago, only those who belonged at the top of the career ladder had access to information and research and development. There was little interaction with employees since management expected them to do their job based on practices established by the management themselves.

Fast forward to today: employees can share their opinions, come up with ideas, and help the company in the promotion of a product.

This is what crowdsourced innovation management is about and below are the 5 advantages of crowdsourced innovation management

1. Improved Employee Sentiment

You may have the capital to start your own business, but employees will always be the life-blood of every organization. This is why it is important to not only treat and pay employees well but also make them feel they are valued – and this crowdsourced innovation can offer that. Otherwise, their setbacks could impact their performance, which could be passed on to your customers.

It doesn’t matter where you work or what industry you belong to, keeping your employees engaged would lead to boost in employees’ morale, which could translate to improved services and better results. This keeps your customers happy and pleased too.

2. Enhanced Competitive Advantage

You know that crowdsourced innovation management boosts your employee’s morale and sense of worth in the company. This could show in their attitude and actions towards their work – but it doesn’t end there.

Engaging your employees in the development and decision-making of a product or service increases your competitive advantage, because their suggestions will likely result in new product offerings and service improvements that will help you stay ahead of the competition.

3. Decreased Turnover of Employees

When you are a business owner, one of the biggest challenges you will face is to retain employees. The good news is crowdsourced innovated management can help you minimize that and encourage employee retention.

How is that possible?

Through crowdsourcing, you are able to make employees feel that they are valued. Seeking  their opinion and valuing their importance especially during times of change in the organization makes them feel that they are valued in the company. As a result, they are less likely to leave since they are in an organization that knows their worth.

4. Develop Crowdfunding

Imagine this: you have a product in mind that you want to include in your line. After brainstorming, a team starts to develop a prototype and will be passed on to another department for testing. This team will make some comments and send the prototype back for revision and re-testing. This cycle goes on until you develop the perfect product for production – and all steps entail funds.

The good thing about crowdsourcing is you can minimize your costs. At the same time, other departments may set aside part of their budgets to give way to the product because they believe in it and they contributed to it.

5. Opportunity to Refine and Perfect Great Ideas

An idea, no matter how great it sounds, is not perfect in the beginning. Through crowdsourcing, you are able to take advantage of the experience, expertise, and ingenuity of other people in the industry. You are able to pool resources, find out what works and what doesn’t, and come up with a product that showcases the brilliance and excellence of your employees.

The best part is you can minimize trial and error efforts since you were able to combine efforts and the brilliance of the people around you. Remember that no matter how brilliant a person is, he can never know everything.

The bottom line is two heads are better than one and this crowdsourced innovation management is a perfect example of that. Listen to what other people have to say, keep an open mind, and who knows, that simple idea could lead to higher profits. Plus, your employees are happy too.

Paul GilbertThis post is a guest post by Paul Gilbert. Paul Gilbert is a professional blogger, an enthusiast who loves to write on several subjects including Insurance, personal injury, workers compensation & social security disability. He is also a part-time consultant at Zea Proukou, providing  solutions & support to injured workers for claiming workplace injury benefits under Workers’ Compensation.

Environmental, Social, and Governance Strategy in the Workplace

Environmental, Social, and Governance StrategyAs if corporate managers didn’t have enough to worry about, they must now  consider a new business challenge: investors are increasingly looking towards non-financial data to determine your company’s risk.

Environmental, social and governance strategy (ESG) refers to the three central factors in measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a company or business. The overall market for ESG investments has swelled to $8.7 trillion in U.S. assets under management last year, up 33% since 2014, according to the U.S. SIF Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

In the past, a small class of investors would utilize ESG data through a screening process, mainly to filter out certain investments from an ethical perspective (tobacco, gambling, human rights violations, etc).

But today, a growing number of institutional (think: pension funds) and activist investors are linking ESG data with financial performance to make investment decisions. “This is a way of reducing risk,” Clifton S. Robbins, CEO of Blue Harbour Group LP said in an interview. “If we can add one more lens to look through that helps us determine risk, that’s fantastic.”

This shift in how investors are determining your company’s investment risk is being met with new analytical tools to make access to ESG data easier than ever before. Just this week, the Wall Street Journal announced State Street Corp.’s new tool to gauge environmental, and other social risks. “We have the root data, everything about the company itself,” said Lou Maiuri, head of State Street’s analytics and markets businesses. “We sit on 12% to 15% of the world’s assets.”

And it’s not just big investors – the little ones are paying attention as well. The relative proportion socially responsible investments made by individuals in Canada, Europe and the United States increased from 13% in 2014 to 26% at the start of 2016, according to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance’s newly released Investment Review.

As a manager, how are you thinking about these issues? Is this a challenge for you? I’d love to hear from you for a future blog post. In exchange, I will send a copy of Thomas Friedman’s new book, “Thank You for Being Late” to the first five people who respond.

In the meantime, here are three things you can do today to get a jump start:

    1. Ask your employees what they care about. This is one of the first steps to developing a purpose-driven workplace. Focusing on purpose rather than profits builds business confidence and drives investment. Additionally, 73% of employees who say they work for a purpose-driven company are engaged, whereas only 23% of employees are engaged at companies that are not purpose driven.
    2. Maintain an ongoing dialogue with employees on social issues. The old adage of telling employees to leave personal issues at home is over. Four out of 10 working Americans say they take care of personal or family needs during work and about a quarter report that they regularly bring work home (26%), work during vacations (25%) and allow work to interrupt time with family and friends (25%). These were among the findings of a survey by APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.
    3. Ask the public for solutions to your sustainability challenges. Many leaders are afraid to openly discuss their company’s negative impact on the environment at the risk of gaining bad publicity. IdeaBuzz is a turn-key solution for hosting a low profile contest to an existing crowd of problem solvers to discover new solutions. Additionally, sustainability ideation has been proven to increase overall innovation performance and competitive advantage.

Today’s corporate managers must now consider both financial and non-financial (ESG) factors when evaluating company performance and setting strategic goals. “When we call a CEO we are going to be asking about this,” Mr. Robbins said. “We’re going to hold you accountable to what we’ve talked about.”


This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Josh Folk, VP of Global Sales at IdeaScale