Insights and sneak peeks into innovation and IdeaScale.

Innovation Health: 3 Keys to a Fit Enterprise

Innovation Health: 3 Keys to a Fit EnterpriseDeveloping innovation health in your organization is a matter of keeping innovative product development moving throughout each year. Innovation health will ensure that as the marketplace changes and your customers’ needs evolve, you’ll be ready to meet each need and challenge with new ideas and processes.

Innovation Health Key 1: An Innovation Process 

When you develop an innovation process, it becomes much easier to keep new ideas moving through the pipeline in your organization. This process will help keep the innovation health in your company strong. There are three elements to a functional, useful innovation process:

  • Ease of Use. The first element of a great innovation process is that it’s easy to use. It should be easy to submit, develop, and evaluate ideas. This makes it much easier to create crowdsourcing projects, internal innovation teams, and more. A great innovation platform that’s easy to use goes a long way.
  • Employee Training on Innovation. Innovation needs to be encouraged at every level. By implementing specific training that assists in creating an innovation mindset in your staff, you’ll be putting in place the second element of a robust innovation process. When employees in your organization are encouraged and trained on how to think innovatively and how to submit new ideas, you’ll get a lot more input into your process.
  • Ability to Obtain a Sponsor for Ideas and Improvements. All the great innovative ideas in the world won’t help your organization’s innovation health if they aren’t implemented. The final element in a functional innovation process is the ability to obtain sponsorship, support, and funding to implement the ideas that are developed.

Innovation Health Key 2: A Culture That Rewards Innovation

Giving lip-service to the idea of innovation and having true innovative health are two very different things. If you don’t have a culture that rewards innovation on every level – with support starting at the very top – you’ll never be able to keep up with the many changes that occur in the marketplace and industry. Here are three ways to develop a culture that rewards innovation:

  • Tangible Rewards. By giving actual, tangible rewards to those who bring innovative ideas into your process and help bring them to fruition, you’ll be concretely showing everyone in your organization that innovation matters. You’ll create a culture that rewards innovation in very clear ways.
  • Cross-Functional Collaboration. A second way to develop a culture that rewards innovation is to encourage cross-functional collaboration. When people with different ideas and perspectives join together to solve a common problem, the results can yield powerful new ideas.
  • Ability to Meet with Key Personnel. Many times, someone in your organization has an idea but doesn’t know if it’s feasible, if it matters, or if it’s already being worked on. By having a true open-door policy – across departments and multiple levels of management – you can create a culture where it’s easy to reach out to key personnel. When an employee can get information from stakeholders, customers, and researchers, they will have a much better picture of how their idea fits in the organization.

Innovation Health Key 3: Metrics for Success 

Finally, to have true innovation health in your organization, you need to know whether you’re getting the return on investment (ROI) that you need. The only way to do that is to develop metrics that help you measure the success of your innovation process and the new ideas that are implemented. Here are three ways to develop metrics to measure the success of innovation:

  • Understand Why Metrics Are Important. If you don’t define what success looks like in your innovation process, you’re likely to reap the results of “garbage in, garbage out”. Far from stifling creativity, metrics help guide and shape creativity so that the innovation truly benefits your organization.
  • Set Output Goals to Innovate Around. Your innovative process will probably function best when you know what you’re shooting for before you begin. Consider setting internal challenges around key outputs, like increasing the percentage of revenue from international markets, or increasing revenue from new customer segments. By doing this, you create innovation that is already aimed at a measurable result.
  • Set Input Goals to Encourage Innovation Health. To ensure that your innovation health stays sound, create some goals around innovation inputs. Things like percent of time senior executives spend on future ideas vs. daily operations, the number of teams that submit projects for innovation awards, or the number of new product ideas coming from mining social media can all be great input goals.

Innovation health is a vital part of the overall health of your organization. The world is changing faster than ever, and the companies that don’t innovate will be left far, far behind. To learn more about innovation health, or to learn how IdeaScale’s Innovation Stages can help your organization, visit our Stages page today!


A non-monetary incentive you may not have considered

non-monetary incentive


Incentives and rewards are paramount to the success of an open innovation or crowdsourcing campaign. The crowd, judges, evaluators, managers need a reason to invest their time, energy, and creativity into submitting and evaluating ideas, and voting and commenting on ideas.  And the reason to participate need not be the promise of winning a monetary and material prize. The opportunity to be more effective in your job is a non-monetary incentive that should not be underestimated.

How a non-monetary incentive enriched a professional life

This year, I volunteered in a personal capacity with the MIT Climate CoLab to organize and orchestrate an ideation contest on the Climate CoLab open innovation platform. The contest centered on sourcing ideas for how to get people to change their behavior to combat climate change. Part of my responsibility was to enlist prominent experts (academic leaders and CEOs of relevant organizations) as judges for the contest. In light of their many priorities, the significance of their commitment to serve as a judge was monumental.

The week before the judging period opened, a colleague told me about Root Solutions, a non-profit organization that centers on behavior change for improving the environment. It was immediately apparent that I needed to enlist their CEO, Nya Van Leuvan, as a judge for the Shifting Behavior contest. I emailed her that week and she was on board the day before the intensive judging period began. Just in time!

I recognized the significant lift this was for Nya to fit this into her busy schedule on such short notice, so I hoped that it was well worth her while.  

When I convened the judges on a phone call to select the semifinalists, I was delighted to hear Nya convey how appreciative she was of her experience serving as a judge in this contest. The exact reason for her appreciation, Nya explained, was that the judging experience gave her critical insight into to how a certain population of environmentalists interpret the concept of behavior change and how to apply behavior change strategies to their work. By better understanding how this population thinks about the problem at hand, Nya can refine Root Solution’s services, tools, and resources to better inform and educate this population. In short, the reward for participating as a judge was the valuable insight she received that helped her do her own job better.

How to frame non-monetary incentives in the workplace

When you design and pitch your open innovation program to your colleagues, it is advantageous to highlight how their participation in the community aligns with their larger goal of success in the workplace:

  • Their participation will help them collaborate with their colleagues more efficiently and effectively
  • The outcomes of the community will help them produce key deliverables more efficiently and effectively
  • Browsing ideas lends them insights or inspiration relevant to their daily job
  • The community offers a platform where they can solve a nagging problem
  • Participation in the community lends them an opportunity to gain recognition in the workplace

Help your audience understand how the open innovation program aligns with their overall professional objectives. It could be as simple as “Open innovation makes your job easier!”

For more information on non-monetary incentives, see Creative Rewards and The Candle Experiment.

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 Whitney Bernstein, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale.

Where to Look for Sustainability Solutions

erm sustainabilityIn today’s world, the market is more competitive than almost ever before. Consumers have so many options when it comes to goods and services that they focus more on the “best of” above all else. In order to maintain sustainability as a business, companies must be adaptable and flexible in an ever-changing, adapting marketplace. Whereas new ideas used to be generated and investigated by specialized research and development teams, companies have realized that there is perhaps a better pool of innovators which they can tap into: all of their employees.

As is true with finding creative solutions to problems, employees are best equipped to recommend suggestions for potential offerings to clients. Environmental Resources Management (ERM) is a leading global provider of environmental, health, safety, risk, social consulting services and sustainability related services. They recently implemented their Innovation Tournament, engaging employees around the world in recommending potential expansions of offerings. ERM had a 69% participation rate, with more than 3,000 employees contributing and 465 new ideas presented. Of these 465 ideas, 25 were presented as shortlist options, eventually whittled down to five finalists, and a final winning suggestion to be implemented. ERM is holding onto all of the suggestions, though, and keeping them in mind for future implementation.

While staying competitive in the marketplace is obviously very important, another of the most significant aspects of sustainability, that of internal innovation and efficiency, is often overlooked. It’s easy to only focus on being external-facing in your innovation because that seems to have the most immediate impact on an organization; however, if you don’t have the internal infrastructure to back up those new innovations, or you are always stagnating with clunky, dated systems of accomplishing things, you’re not likely to make it very far on external innovations alone. ERM realized this was true, and though their Innovation Tournament was primarily focused on market-facing ideas, it was also open to suggestions on how to improve internal processes as well.

Ultimately, employees of ERM—or employees of any organization—are best positioned to suggest possible solutions because they have the ingredients for successful innovation: the institutional knowledge (to realize what may be feasible, to remain on brand while also providing expansions, etc.) and the investment in the organization to care about finding solutions.

To find out more about sustainability, and how ERM is tapping into employee knowledge for solutions, click here to download our recent case study.

How to Use Crowdsourcing in Small Business

How to Use Crowdsourcing in Small Business Crowdsourcing has become more common in business, but many still misunderstand it. Too many small business owners think that crowdsourcing and crowdfunding are the same thing, and think of it as only a resource to raise money for their business. While gaining funding is certainly one kind of crowdsourcing, crowdsourcing as a whole has greater uses.

By understanding how crowdsourcing can be used for your small business, you’ll be able to capture the fullness of the resources available in the crowd. This will allow you to innovate and implement new ideas, processes, and methods into your business without investing enormous amounts of money.

Starting a Crowdsourcing Project: Teamwork and a Planning 

The first two things you need to use crowdsourcing in your small business is to have a team of people to create and manage the project, and to create a plan around what you want to accomplish and how you plan to use the crowd to do so.

The team that you assemble should have good diversity and represent the major stakeholders in the project. This could include representatives from IT, sales, marketing, and development. If you have a small company, you’ll select individuals that can work together as a team to brainstorm, implement solutions, and make recommendations.

Next, you should think about what the plan is for the crowdsourcing project. Your plan should include the following elements, along with a timeframe for accomplishment:

  • Goal: What is the problem you’d like crowd help to solve? Are you looking to solve a problem internally with input from employees, develop a new product with input from external sources, or improve an existing product with input both internally and externally?
  • Execution: There are several ways to do crowdsourcing. You could do surveys, a contest, use crowdsourcing to get manual tasks completed or data collected, and much more. Decide what type of crowdsourcing you plan to use.
  • Incentive: While the external crowd is more internally motivated than your employees, you’ll still need some kind of incentive for participating in your project. This could be financial, a specific kind of recognition, or company swag.
  • Security and Compliance: It’s important to plan for how you’re going to keep your ideas protected and your company information secure as you invite the crowd to help you in your business. Generally, this requires a combination of IT and legal advice, or you can use a pre-existing crowdsourcing platform that a has protection built in.

Completing a Crowdsourcing Project: Implementation and Follow-up 

Completing a crowdsourcing project has seven stages, and as you go through each one, your team will need to be actively involved to keep ideas moving through the process. It’s also important to keep any and all stakeholders updated on how the process is going, including contributors.

Here are the seven stages of implementing and following up on a crowdsourcing project:

  • Ideate: Participants – internal, external, or both – submit their ideas and suggestions to your company based on the type of crowdsourcing and platform you’ve chosen. This can include design ideas, suggestions, and more.
  • Team Evaluation: Once the process of ideation has begun, the most promising ideas are evaluated by your team – or, if you have several complex ideas to review, one team is assigned per idea.
  • Refine Stage: The most promising ideas are refined and evaluated, and the best ideas are made into formal proposals.
  • Estimate Stage: Each proposal has a cost and benefit analysis showing the estimated cost and benefit to the company if it is chosen to be implemented.
  • Review Stage: Experts – either the team you created or additional subject matter experts – review the proposals and cost-benefit analysis and choose a winning idea.
  • Fund Stage: Funding is secured from your organization to implement the idea, and any benefits, prizes, or winnings are paid to the innovator.
  • Archive Stage: Any ideas that are worthwhile but cannot be acted on immediately are archived and kept for later review and possible implementation.

This process sounds more complex than it is for most small businesses. In many smaller organizations, there aren’t as many stakeholders or as many layers of approval needed to move forward with a new idea. As a result, small businesses often benefit from crowdsourcing even more than larger ones.

Crowdsourcing isn’t just a way to raise money. It’s much, much more – a way to gain new ideas, innovate, and even expand your team temporarily without significant capital investment. As a small business, you can’t afford to let your size keep you from innovating and implementing the best new ideas. Crowdsourcing gives you a way to access those ideas without having to have a million-dollar budget.

For more information about how to use crowdsourcing for your small business, download our Crowdsourcing for Small Business whitepaper today!


A developer’s take on ethical technology

ethical technology
This guy just lost four hours of his life mindlessly surfing the web. Can we do better than that?


How do you feel after browsing the web these days? I mean, how do you feel after stepping away from your computer, or putting away your smartphone?  Would you use words like “empowered”, “enlightened” and “energized”?  Would you ever say that you felt “refreshed” after interacting with the web? Or might you use words with a more negative connotation like “lethargic” or “depressed”?  “Anxious,” even?  

I’ll bet that your experience skews toward the latter because a lot of the most popular websites are specifically designed to hold you captive, exploiting the compulsive and addictive tendencies of our brains. Research suggests that some of the web’s most popular websites, like Facebook, for example, actually make people feel bad, and can contribute to an array of destructive personal behavior (anyone who has seen the comments section of almost any website can surely attest to this). Other studies suggest that people generally stick to a set web ritual, rarely venturing outside one core group of domains in any time period. The above conditions true, it sounds like most people spend their Internet time on websites that make them feel and do bad. Why would anyone choose that?


How the web’s origins can inform its future

When the World Wide Web was originally conceived by the scientist Tim Berners-Lee in the late 80s, it was intended as a system to share information, namely scientific research, between computers that had diverse configurations and often incompatible data structures. While Berners-Lee was specifically designing the web for scientists at CERN in Switzerland, he also had his eye on a loftier implications for humanity: a new and unprecedented way to help share information organically amongst huge numbers of people.

I’m not such a curmudgeon to demand the web be reserved for humanity’s grandest projects and high-intellect alone; I acknowledge a joy and catharsis to be found in sharing your cute kitten photos.  I am concerned, however, when websites like Facebook have teams of people whose sole job it is to figure out how to make you more addicted to their content. If using Facebook made you younger, happier and wiser and legitimately closer with your friends, I would drink the Kool-aid until I was red in the face and bursting through brick walls, but most research suggests opposite outcomes. In this way, I think a lot of the original intent of the web has become perverted to suit the needs of a few large companies.


Hope for the future of the web

To me, IdeaScale captures much of the original spirit and excitement of the web: the idea that, together, with our diverse ideas and various expertise, we are empowered and enriched by the brains of others.  IdeaScale’s software isn’t perfect, but from my perspective, it provides the best platform for collecting and refining ideas to completion. The results are clear:  Ideascale has facilitated an enormous, diverse and inspiring portfolio of projects.  From helping businesses develop amazing new products and promoting a culture of innovation, to engaging citizens in municipal processes, to supporting an array of positive social causes, IdeaScale’s use-cases are truly awe-inspiring.

From a return on investment perspective alone, IdeaScale helps organizations and communities save countless dollars, but the intangible benefits, like boosted morale, engagement and feelings of inclusion, are helping to strengthen bonds and build better teams, from Berkeley to New York, to Europe, Asia, Africa and beyond.  I’m proud and excited to work for a company that’s using the Internet and the web for good.  So here’s my plea to lay off your Facebook addiction, and come check out some of the incredible ideas we have brewing on IdeaScale.  I think you’ll feel the difference.

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 Alex Rivadeneira, Associate Developer at IdeaScale.

How to Develop an Innovation Communications Plan






Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” If anybody knew, it would be him.

One of the most essential elements of any campaign is the preparation of a communications plan, but this is especially true for innovation initiatives. A comprehensive, well-developed communications plan can make or break an innovation challenge.

Developing a communications plan is covered under two main umbrellas: channels for communications and talking points. It’s recommended to choose the top four of eight channels (website, email, social, public relations, partners, events, offline, and beyond) for getting your message out there, and focusing on those. Then there are talking points to consider and think through, which you’ll eventually share through the channels that you’ve selected. These include thinking about the program launch, promoting promising and popular ideas, sharing the progress of ideas as they’re proposed, shortlisting the best ideas, talking about ideas that have been implemented, and tracking successes and publicizing them. These points are outlined in more detail in the infographic above.

But why is it so important to think through a communications strategy before you implement an innovation initiative? What could possibly go so wrong if you only have a few basic ideas in place?

Almost everything these days is incredibly accessible, with an entire digital world at our fingertips 24 hours a day. If you don’t make participating in your program easy for your target audience, why would they participate? Including where and how to participate in your program launch is the first step to making it easy. Following up with communications reminding people where and how to participate via the channels that you’ve selected for sharing information is the second step. When you establish ahead of time the best methods for sharing these pieces with your desired participators, it is that much more likely that your program will be successful. I refer you back to our friend Ben’s saying about preparation.

Hand in hand with that, people are much more likely to participate if it feels to them like their ideas and involvement are being appreciated and recognized and respected. This is where the talking points come in handy, because these are all ways of communicating to your community that you appreciate their contribution. Once again, these methods of recognition are infinitely harder without a plan already in place when you implement your campaign.

Have you ever posted something on one of your organization’s social media outlets, only to realize later that somebody had already done that? For teams of all sizes, preparing a communications plan allows everyone to be on the same page about the particular messaging and timing surrounding the campaign. Perhaps there’s a thought to emphasize certain ideas at certain points, so that folks can see what a great idea looks like, or to share the progress of ideas as they move through the process. But if not everyone on the team is on the same page about that, outward communications through the channels you’ve selected can get tricky.

As you can see, the success of any innovation campaign relies on how thoroughly the communications have been discussed. It’s super easy to avoid those negative consequences: just get everyone on the same page ahead of time with a well-thought-out communications plan.

Click here to join a community of people who are constantly thinking through communication and innovation on these levels.

How to Find a Crowdsourcing Platform for Your Organization

How to Find a Crowdsourcing Platform for Your Organization Choosing a crowdsourcing platform for your organization is an investment, but it’s more than that. When you select a crowdsourcing platform, you’re choosing the way in which your organization will receive and evaluate new ideas. It’s about making the choice that will best promote innovation while still being easy to use and robust enough to handle the influx of data. Here are some steps you can follow to find the right crowdsourcing platform for your organization.

Step One: Choose a Selection Team 

No great decision is made in a vacuum, and that includes choosing a crowdsourcing platform. You’ll want to choose a team of people who represent key stakeholders and who have a diversity of perspectives. When you have a great team, you’ll have a lot of help making the decision that works best for the entire organization.

Step Two: Determine and Document Your Goals 

Before you can select a crowdsourcing platform, you’ll need to know what capabilities you need. Work with your team and stakeholders to make a list of the type of crowdsourcing you’re planning to do in both the short-term and long-term. Crowdsourcing can be internal or external, and there are many different methods. Once you know what you need, document your requirements along with your available budget.

Step Three: Assess Multiple Crowdsourcing Platforms 

Once you’ve determined your needs and your budget, you’ll have everything you need to assess crowdsourcing platforms. As you review platforms with your team, you’ll want to document what you find so that you can compare platforms against each other easily and fairly. In addition, you’ll want the documentation so that you can make a business case for your selection to leadership or stakeholders.

Step Four: Narrow Down Your Selection 

You won’t have time – or the desire – to get a presentation from every vendor of a possible crowdsourcing platform. As a result, you’ll need to narrow down your selections based on your assessments in step three. This is where your written assessment of how each option matched your needs and budget.

Step Five: Attend a Product Demonstration and Ask Questions 

With your top selections, set up a product demonstration and be sure to ask questions. You may want to make sure key stakeholders attend as well, along with your team. Here are some questions you will want to ask at the demonstration:

  • Will the platform scale to a crowd of any size? You want to ensure that your crowdsourcing efforts aren’t hampered by the crowdsourcing platform you choose.
  • Are the platform’s workflow and processes customizable? You may discover that your process needs to change or requires different activities than you initially expect, especially as you carry out multiple crowdsourcing projects.
  • Can you make updates to the crowdsourcing platform yourself? You don’t want to be waiting on the development team when you need to make updates.
  • Does it integrate well with your other software? You want to make sure that any data imports or exports that are needed go very smoothly and that you don’t have to build any “bridge” software in-house.
  • Is there a workflow to ensure that the information can be verified by a human, to ensure that the data being received is sensible?

Step Six: Rank the Final Selections and Choose a Crowdsourcing Platform 

With all of the information in hand, you’ll want to rank your final selections based on your needs, priorities, budget, and the results of the product demonstrations.  You may decide that certain specifications hold a higher weight than others when you assign a numerical score. With input from your team, management, and stakeholders, you’ll finalize the order of your selection. Depending on your organization, you may need to make a business case for your specific choice showing the pros and cons along with a cost-benefit analysis.

Step Seven: Plan for Success 

Once your crowdsourcing platform has been chosen and funded, you’re still not done. It’s up to you and your team to set your organization up for success with your crowd projects. You’ll want to make sure that you have a crowdsourcing project team and a budget in place to allow you to move forward with at least a few crowdsourcing projects. Otherwise, the crowdsourcing platform won’t get the use that it needs to truly benefit your organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about crowdsourcing platforms, or finding out how IdeaScale can take your organization’s innovation to the next level, take our online product tour!


5 Innovation Campaign Ideas for Universities

university open innovation

Some universities come to IdeaScale with a targeted problem they want to solve, and with a vision to use open innovation to source solutions. Others come to IdeaScale with a vision to use open innovation to increase community engagement, but the specific problem to which they will apply this method is not yet defined. Either way, we are here to help you shape a university open innovation campaign that meets your objectives.

When university open innovation is the solution to an existing objective

For some universities, the decision to build an open innovation program derives from a targeted problem they want to solve. They have identified open innovation is a key component to their overall strategy, and they come to us for a university open innovation software solution to scale up their ability to gather input and ideas from the crowd. In this case, the campaign is designed around the target problem.

For example, one university approached us with a high-level directive to make attendance at their school more affordable. The university president had already set up a task force for addressing this issue, but they needed a way to capture and organize ideas from the entire university community. We worked with the university to set up a targeted “affordability campaign” on IdeaScale’s platform, gathering creative ideas from students, faculty, staff, and administrators on how to control the cost of attendance at the university.

When an innovation campaign issue strikes close to home – in this case, the pocket book – the crowd will be eager to contribute ideas. It’s important that you choose the right platform to capture that enthusiasm and cultivate an online environment to develop them into full solutions for implementation.

When existing objectives are the seeds for university open innovation

Some universities are not certain which problem they want to target, but they approach us with an entirely different directive. In these cases, the university leadership has heard about the power and importance of open innovation and wants to position the university community at the cutting edge of innovation methodology. There is a high-level directive to engage the university community in an open innovation program.

This is an important object in itself, because it supports an institutional culture that is open, innovative, and cutting edge. However, just as in the first case, the university still needs a campaign around which to rally the crowd.

Starting with a blank canvas can seem daunting and the directive to “engage the community in open innovation” can seem amorphous. But the IdeaScale team draws on their extensive experience in this area to guide universities through the process.

Your 5 Innovation Campaign Ideas

To this end, I have compiled a list of ways that universities have used the IdeaScale solution to support organizational excellence. It includes a template of 5 question types and their formats as well as a list of 38 potential improvement sites on your campus.

If your open innovation program is a blank canvas right now, I recommend the following:

  • Take a moment to peruse this list
  • Select a campaign type that will work well for your audience + 3-5 topics that you think are top priorities at your university
  • Discuss with your leadership to choose the priority areas that you will put forth as your inaugural campaigns on the IdeaScale platform

I hope this helps you in shaping your program. We are here for you to discuss what some of these campaigns might look like and to provide tips for communicating these campaigns to engage and activate your audience.


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 Whitney Bernstein, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale.

IdeaScale Feature: Innovation at RedFynn Technologies

IdeaScale is always looking for examples of how other companies are maintaining their innovative edge. In this blog post, IdeaScale interviews Shane Hurley, CEO of RedFynn Technologies about their culture of innovation. 

IdeaScale: How do you create a culture of innovation at RedFynn Technologies?

Shane Hurley: We believe that having a culture of innovation starts with the company’s core values and purpose. You have to create an environment where innovation is encouraged and empower your team to constantly be looking for ways to improve and innovate. For example,”We are open-minded” and  “We invest in improvement” are two of our core values here at RedFynn that help create a safe environment where the team feels empowered to be innovative every day.

IS: How do you empower employees to share their ideas in order to drive innovation?

SH: To build on the above, it starts with culture and then from there you need to schedule regular meetings that allow the team to disconnect from the day-to-day stuff so that they can be in a creative state of mind. For example, we always do our quarterly planning offsite. This removes all of the normal distractions and allows the team to really focus on and brainstorm together. When employees are able to escape the monotony of daily operations, they feel more free to explore creative approaches. That’s why leaving the office (together) is so important. It adds a new dimension to the brainstorming process, which in turn brings new ideas to the table.

IS: Is innovation related to employee engagement?

SH: We believe that everyone has their own inner genius. We do not hire anyone who is not a value fit with our company’s core values. All of our team members share our core values, our mission, and our passion for our company’s purpose and since we do not hire unless there is a perfect value fit, engagement comes naturally. So, to answer the question, we believe that core values and purpose engage your team, so long as your team believes in those values on a personal and professional level. Naturally, an engaged team will feel passionate about making the company the best they can and will be constantly innovating every single day. Essentially, natural employee engagement drives innovation.

Department of Energy Calls for Innovation

Department of Energy Calls for InnovationThe United States Department of Energy (DOE)  is now using crowdsourcing to issue calls for innovation on a national scale, to bring new ideas on energy-efficient building technologies to the attention of leaders in research and development. Through a program called JUMP, innovative thinkers in the area of energy-efficient building technologies are rewarded with idea development and prize money. The first JUMP winners were recently announced in May 2016.

What is JUMP?

JUMP is an online crowdsourcing initiative aimed at advancing energy-efficient building technologies. It’s an online crowdsourcing community co-hosted by five DOE national laboratories. The program presents an opportunity for the public to present ideas for new energy-efficient building technologies to private and public sector leaders in research and development.

One of the great benefits of the program is the ability for inventors to collaborate as a community. One 2016 winner said “JUMP is exactly the platform I was looking for to express my creativity and innovate collaboratively. Independent inventors often struggle to develop ideas that the market is ready to accept. Even then, it is difficult to strike the balance between protecting and sharing an idea to further develop it. JUMP is a recipe for success because it brings the large organizations, small innovators, and national laboratories to the table to

identify what the market needs, the technology can solve that need, and how to get it to market quickly.”

JUMP is an acronym that stands for:

  • Join the discussion
  • Unveil innovation
  • Motivate transformation
  • Promote tech to market



How to Participate in JUMP

Each year the DOE issues specific challenges through JUMP that innovators can submit solutions for. To participate, visit the JUMP website and learn about upcoming regional events and the current challenges that have been issued.


The DOE welcomes energy efficient building technology ideas that fall under the specific topics, or “calls for innovation” that have been rolled out. To qualify, ideas must offer the potential for significant energy savings, advance disruptive innovation for building technologies, must be developed fully enough that feasibility can be evaluated, and must not advertise or endorse specific companies or products.


JUMP participants benefit first of all by networking with other innovators by reviewing, commenting, and voting on ideas. In addition, award winners may receive one or more of the following:

  • Cash awards between $2,000 and $5,000
  • Networking with national laboratory scientists to help develop your idea
  • Access to the Small Business Voucher Program, if eligible
  • Coordinated access to leading industry partners to potentially collaborate to advance your design and possible funding opportunities
  • Invitation to recognition events for advancing design and demonstration of your idea

For more detailed information, be sure to visit the JUMP FAQ.

JUMP Winners 

Congratulations to the recently announced winners of the JUMP contest! There were three calls available, and one winner was selected in each one.

In the HVAC Sensors Challenge, Rande Cherry and Chris Cirenza won for their concept of non-invasive thermal flow/Btu metering using heat flux sensors. They will receive a $5,000 cash award sponsored by United Technologies Research Center.

In the Water Heater Challenge, Benjamin Knobb was selected for his idea for a thermally isolating preheater. He will receive a $5,000 cash award sponsored by A.O. Smith.

Finally, in the Defrost System Challenge, Joseph Geddes won for his idea to use light emitting diode arrays to radiatively transfer energy to the ice. He will receive a $3,000 cash award from General Electric.

The New Calls for Innovation 

There are three new calls that are eligible for submissions for the next JUMP awards. They are:

  • DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program and ORNL are seeking commercialized or near-commercialized technologies on lighting or lighting controls, and packaged HVAC or HVAC control systems to enable significant energy savings in federal buildings. Submit your idea!
  • CLEAResult and National Renewable Energy Laboratory are seeking ideas for ways to leverage the open, programmable, and sensor-rich platform of smartphones to enhance the way we live, manage, and interact with our homes today and in the future. Submit your idea!
  • Callida Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are seeking ideas for distributed temperature sensing in office buildings. Submit your idea!

There are expected to be multiple calls throughout 2016, so keep up to date on the JUMP site.

JUMP uses Ideascale technology to drive innovation in energy. To read about how our customers use Ideascale visit our resource center today!