Insights and sneak peeks into innovation and IdeaScale.

Common Innovation Pitfalls

barriers-to-innovationRecently, IdeaScale’s own Jeff Wong wrote about how he knows first-time innovators will be successful. Unfortunately, there’s also a flip side to that coin. Here are a handful of common mistakes I see first-time innovators making.

1. No communications plan. A successful innovation effort requires a well-thought-out, cradle-to-grave communications plan. Build pre-launch buzz, hit the launch hard, maintain excitement throughout, report on the results, and take victory laps. It’s not enough to simply announce the launch and hope the campaign’s momentum will drive itself. It takes effort throughout, and that all starts with a plan.

2. No goals set or wrong goals set. A lack of goal-setting in and of itself is egregious. However, what I see more often is setting the wrong goals. Number of ideas collected is a good first step, but if you can’t show what those ideas have done for the organization, you’re not speaking leadership’s language. Focus on outcomes that effect real change. In other words, don’t focus on number of ideas collected, focus on number of ideas implemented and their quantifiable positive effects on the organization.

3. In that same vein, no thinking past ideation. I often see first-time innovators bit by the crowdsourcing bug, and they come to us to scratch that itch. “I heard about this crowdsourcing thing. How can I get me some?” Problem is, ideation — or the simple posting of and voting on the crowd’s ideas — is only the first step. It’s determining what you’ll do with those ideas and how they’ll change your organization for the better that will help build a truly sustainable innovation program.

4. Not developing a diverse incentivization program, or not having any incentivization program at all. People are motivated in a variety of different ways. Thinking through and employing an incentivization program commensurate with that diversity will help maximize and maintain engagement.

5. No sincere commitment from the top down to a true culture change. This one is probably the most important, because you can do 1-4 right, but if this isn’t in place, no innovation program will last. One of my journalism professors once talked about the impending demise — or at best, adaptation — of newspapers as a slow-burning process, “It takes a long time to stop a steaming ship.” The same is true of an organizational culture change. It doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why a commitment from leadership to truly driving this change is so important. If this commitment isn’t sincere and deeply rooted, funding will falter, morale will sink, and the program will flounder.

Those are just a few of the most common ones I see. There are many more that can halt an innovation program in its tracks. Download this infographic to see a few more.

But fret not, friends! You’re not alone. We’re here to help. We, too, have fallen victim to these common pitfalls over the years. However, we’ve learned from them, and because of that, we’ve made significant improvements in our offerings to help you avoid them: We’ve taken a step back and beefed up our onboarding process, we’ve bolstered our offerings to include innovation management and design-thinking workshops, and one of our key company goals this year — from sales and marketing to product — is to be more outcome-driven rather than getting caught up in the minutiae of building out features for their own sake.

One of the main principles of open innovation is that failure is part of the process. However, the key is to fail fast, and to learn from it. We’ve all failed in our pursuit of innovation perfection. Let’s learn from it, recalibrate and try again.

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 Matt Paulson, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale.

The Business Case for Open Innovation

Open innovation means better business.

Making the business case for open innovation can be an uphill climb. And to be fair, if you’ve got the best team, the best technology, and the best ideas, you might wonder why you need it. Here are just a few reasons open innovation is for everyone.

New Perspectives and Ideas

Any organization, however nimble it is, is only as innovative as the perspectives under its tent. That can make it tricky — especially when you’re pushing the outer limits of invention, to push ideas further — and it might also create blind spots. It’s difficult to see all the trees when you’re smack in the middle of the forest. Open innovation changes that by inviting new, fresh approaches to your industry and what you do. A broad, open-minded perspective helps you find places you’re not looking and can offer a global view it can be difficult to achieve otherwise.

Cost Savings

Innovation isn’t necessarily cheap. An idea can take years to come together, from the original concept to the testing to bringing it to market. But opening up your process and seeking out new perspectives might create opportunities to cut down on money and time costs that you might not have considered. New approaches to manufacturing, new technologies that have just come to market and may not have a high profile yet, new materials with mind-blowing potential, or even just simple changes to supply chains and manufacturing approaches can save you millions and turn around ideas faster than you could ever imagine.

Open innovation offers new perspectives.

Competitive Advantage

One of the fundamental truths of business is that the business that does not innovate, or innovates slowly at best, dies. Any company that rests on its laurels is likely to discover that those laurels are being pulled out from under them when they least expect it. But at the same time, innovating can be tough, expensive, or unrewarding. The more open your process is, however, the more minds you have working on your projects, and the clearer, smarter, and faster your innovations will become.

Stronger Customer Relations

Customers want to be heard, and your best customers are often those that speak with you the most. And frequently, products and services can come to market and stumble over unusual uses or ideas that perhaps you didn’t consider. In many cases, it will be your customers who come to you with ideas to make your product better for them, and any innovation system should bring those customers in and ask them questions. What do they want to see? Why do they use what you produce the way they do? This not only helps you refine your product, your customers know that you’re listening to them.

Futureproofing Your Business

Fifteen years ago, the idea that the music industry could even decline seemed impossible. The CD was ascendant, people were buying millions of albums a year, and the industry had a perfect business model that sold songs using radio hits, but to buy the song meant buying the album.

In 2017, the music industry has shrunk by billions of dollars because Apple figured out people wanted to buy songs, not albums. Open innovation ensures you’re futureproofing your business against sudden change, which will only come faster.

Open innovation is, in many ways, increasingly central not just to building new products, but staying competitive. So don’t hesitate; start an IdeaScale community.

Improving Workforce Engagement in Your Purpose-Driven Workplace

improving-workforce-engagement-in-your-purpose-driven-workplaceIt’s clear that consumers care about quality and price when purchasing products and services. However, did you know that company reputation and social responsibility, rank immediately after those two factors? And, when it comes to workforce engagement, exceptional employees care about work that has a positive impact on society.

As a business, you need to satisfy both the consumer and employee side of the equation if you want your shareholders to be happy. Businesses are beginning to realize that doing good is not only the right thing, but it makes good business sense for the company. This realization is what’s driving the trend towards a purpose-driven workplace.

What is a Purpose-Driven Workplace?

A purpose-driven workplace infuses purpose into all that it does. It pursues purpose as well as profitability. This doesn’t mean that your company’s mission focuses 100% on saving the world. Many times, it’s simply about creating a connection between the work that’s done in your organization and a larger purpose. Then, helping employees see that connection.

When you create a purpose driven workplace, you provide your employees with a way to:

  • Make a positive impact on others and on the community around them
  • Connect with others and build meaningful relationships at work
  • Achieve continued personal and professional growth

When you provide employees with these opportunities, they’ll feel like their work matters and they’ll know that they are making a difference. Even more, they will grow and learn within your organization, helping you create a deep well of talent for promotions over time.

Why a Purpose-Driven Workplace is Important

Beyond feeling and doing good, the importance of purpose for any organization is startling. A survey by Deloitte showed that 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. Clearly, having a purpose-driven workplace is a vital part of keeping employees engaged and productive.

Improving Workforce Engagement

There are many ways to improve engagement by creating a purpose-driven workplace. These ideas are just a starting point. Ask your team to see what else they can come up with:

  • Discuss the impact that your product or service makes to the end user
  • Share positive customer stories
  • Give back to the community in volunteer hours as well as with funds, products and services
  • Provide project opportunities that highlight purpose
  • Give employees time to work on projects that are meaningful to them
  • Consider realigning employees to emphasize strengths and interests
  • Solicit opinions and feedback to find out how your employees connect purpose to work
  • Implement incentives or programs that help connect the dots between work and purpose
  • Systematize and automate where possible to help you stay organized, maximize resources, and save time

Creating a purpose-driven workplace doesn’t have to be expensive. Simple, consistent communication that happens on the new employee orientation day and extends into the daily, weekly and monthly activities of your workforce may be just the thing you need to create an engaged workforce.

Whatever you decide, the purpose-driven workplace is here to stay. You need a plan to sustain workforce engagement long-term. Our latest whitepaper shares tips and strategies that others are using to get there. Download your copy of The Purpose-Driven Workforce today.

Five Tips for Cultivating Creative Thinking on Your Team

Creativity is the great untapped resource on any team.

How do you bring out the creativity of your team? It’s one of the harder questions to answer in innovation management, but it doesn’t have to be. With some smart thinking and careful decisions, you can bring out the best in your team.

Be Open

Creativity is encouraged, or discouraged, by leadership. In some cases, company leaders have discovered they’ve got brilliantly innovative employees with smart ideas, but nobody bothers to ask them what they think, and they’re not willing to come forward at risk of looking foolish. Set up channels of communication so employees can talk to you and know that they’re being heard, and make sure they follow your example by talking with customers and others their work touches. With that, you’ll see the gates open for ideation.

Encourage Cross Competencies

One of the toughest problems with creativity is that it can be difficult to get perspective outside the daily grind. If one team is customer-facing and the other is handling the back end, they may not understand each others’ challenges. Make sure that every team that “touches” each other has cross competencies and communicates so they can see their work from a different perspective.

Promote Accountability

Creativity can lead to explosive success, or it can fall flat on its face. It’s a difficult call to make because even brilliant ideas can be hamstrung by unexpected factors. Putting yourself out there, let’s not forget, is a gamble not just at work, but with your sense of self. If people think their careers are on the line or think they won’t get credit, they won’t bother with innovation. So, set standards to reward success and to limit the pain of failure. Innovators should get proper credit for their ideas, and if an idea doesn’t work, the blame game should be strictly off-limits; instead, set the standard that the entire team parses what went wrong and applies that to the next idea.

All a great idea needs is a spark.

Create Incubators

It’s easy for an established business to go on “autopilot.” If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right? But that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment and innovate. Creating small pilot projects and other incubators in your most established businesses will allow you to foster innovation and give your team room to toy with ideas. If one doesn’t work, you can set it aside as a learning opportunity and try the next one. When employees understand that creativity is low risk and high reward, you’ll see far more of it.

Discourage Complacency

Humility is an important aspect of creativity, and there’s no hubris greater in business than deciding your place as an industry leader is assured. Again and again in business history, from the American auto industry to the current tech industry, you see companies assume nothing could knock from their perches, only to watch them learn the hard way that isn’t true. So, always ask “If we’re the best, how can we be better?” It’s the only question, long term, that truly matters in any business.

If you’re ready to learn about innovation management, take the first step. Contact us.

3 Reasons Why Sustainability & Innovation are Related

sustainability-and-innovation-are-relatedIdeaScale cares a great deal about helping people build sustainable business practices. Certainly we believe in sustainable businesses, because they work to minimize any negative impact on their environment when it comes to community, society, the economy, or planet. However, there is another reason that IdeaScale invests in organizations that build sustainable practices… In short, it is because they are more likely to be successful at innovation. But how can we say that sustainability and innovation are related?

In a few different studies by the Harvard Business Review and by Deloitte, researchers found that organizations that were leaders in sustainability were also leaders in innovation (and specifically with sustainability leading the way for innovation). But why would this be so? Well, the researchers pose a few different theories:

Constraints actually build creativity. As much as some organizations complain about limitations and regulations, there’s evidence to support the idea that working within some boundaries actually makes us MORE creative. So if an organization has to meet some sustainability directives, they’re more likely to be inspired by their limitations instead of bound by them.

The premium placed on new ideas. Because sustainability practices rely on fresh ideas to continuously optimize and find efficiencies, generating ideas becomes second nature to all employees. They are far more likely to think up solutions to other problems (foreseen and unforeseen), as well.

Employees begin to see the whole value chain. When looking for efficiencies, you end up thinking beyond your small domain and into the rest of the company, its partners, and procedures. This expansion allows for ideation that is more comprehensive and valuable.

To learn more about the relationship between sustainability and innovation, download our infographic here.

The Innovative Mentor

the-innovative-mentorMentors see themselves as people developers. They take a long-term view of their staff and see innovation projects as an opportunity to stretch their employees’ capabilities and to help them achieve their aspirations. Depending on the scope of their ideas, innovators’ careers can be significantly shaped by this journey.

The Mentor Role in Innovation 

A mentor enables innovators to focus on their project results while also learning about themselves along the way. Leaders can mentor innovators through any of the practical business steps in the value creation process itself:

  • Connecting to emerging market trends and identifying the most significant opportunities
  • Gaining customer insights
  • Creating strong solutions and business models
  • Connecting to others who can help them create compelling value propositions
  • Learning how best to communicate and pitch their potential projects; and
  • How to implement quickly once approved and funded.

For example, a medical equipment manufacturer helped the engineers with new product ideas with their pitches. Many of the company’s engineers were not comfortable presenting their big ideas to the senior staff. A manager would work with them to develop the business case. Managers often co-presented with the idea champion to the senior staff. This allowed the engineers to focus on the technical side of the equation where they felt most comfortable while gradually building their pitching and business skills.

Mentors can also encourage innovators to look inside themselves, to understand themselves as leaders or project champions. When is it time to stick to an idea, and when is it time to listen to others and change course? When is it time for individual vision and when is it essential to collaborate and build a strong team with a shared vision? Innovators face a wide mix of business strategy and interpersonal challenges on their road to success. Leaders who have experience in these areas can offer timely guidance to help innovators successfully navigate this multidimensional path.

Beyond Typical Mentorship

Mentors don’t simply give information and advice. They ask open-ended questions that force innovators to think about themselves and the business challenges they face. They ask about lessons learned at each milestone as a way of furthering the innovator’s development. Identifying what worked, what didn’t, and why, should be a regular topic of conversation. In addition, acknowledging that learning through failure is valuable helps to build trust, encourage calculated risk-taking, and fosters a climate of innovation.

Playing the role of mentor means you are able to:

  • Use innovation efforts as an opportunity to develop innovators’ capabilities and careers
  • Coach an innovation champion and team through the entire innovation process
  • Ask tough questions and allow innovators to struggle, without taking over the project
  • Accelerate project team learning by encouraging experimentation, risk-taking, and iteration

Good mentors hold frequent development discussions, ensuring the dialogue is as much about the innovator as it is about the innovation. The time spent on mentoring varies from project to project, but is typically a matter of months rather than days. This time frame gives the mentor and idea champion time to explore the innovation journey together and develop opportunities for the learner to try out new capabilities.

Mentors can act as a sounding board to test and explore new solutions and options, and give advice based on their understanding of the organization and experience with other innovation projects. Since it’s also helpful when the mentor can coach the innovator through the tough challenges that inevitably show up, they need enough time working together to ensure they confront obstacles that will test the innovator’s skills.

A good mentor can cover the wide range of topics needed to enhance the growth of the individual and the results for the business. Often a mentor will play the role of a barrier buster. Playing the role of barrier buster means you are able to:

  • Provide the necessary time, space, tools, and data for your staff to innovate
  • Guide projects along the path of least resistance and avoid political pitfalls
  • Adjust policies, procedures, and organization practices to facilitate new idea implementation
  • Talk your peers through the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that often comes with change

Common Barriers to Plan For

Being a barrier buster requires you to be able to negotiate skillfully in tough situations with both internal and external groups. Innovation means change, and change can be quite disruptive and emotionally charged. Being able to gain concessions without damaging relationships is a valuable skill. Innovation leaders help new ideas mature and create paths of least resistance so projects can navigate the political, economic, and cultural obstacles. There are countless organizational barriers to innovation that cause it to be slow, inefficient, costly, risky, and frustrating. Being aware of some of the most typical obstacles can be helpful:

  • The organization lacks the enterprise-wide methods (concepts, practices, tools, language, or skills) for innovation.
  • There is not enough funding to form and facilitate innovation projects.
  • The organization is overly consensus-oriented, and any dissenting vote can bring an innovation project to a halt. Champions and sponsors give up or leave the company because it is too hard to get everyone onboard with ideas.
  • The organization’s relentless commitment to operational excellence prevents anything new and disruptive from being tried and tested. This is a classic example of a strength becoming a weakness.
  • Past success has robbed the organization of its willingness to take risks. Leaders play it safe and settle for “me too” strategies just to keep up with the pack, rather than boldly investing in a better future.
  • The organization lacks proper incentives for innovation. Idea champions are rarely recognized and rewarded for their efforts.
  • People are overworked and simply don’t have the bandwidth to take on their innovative ideas.
  • Organization silos prevent cross-boundary collaboration and limit the scale, speed, and impact of innovation.

Barrier busters must be politically savvy to meet these kinds of challenges. They need sensitivity to know how the specific people and their organization are likely to react. Barrier busters help their idea champions or project teams maneuver through complex political situations effectively because they can anticipate the organizational “landmines” and how to avoid them.

Persistence in the Face of Obstacles

Barrier busters are also determined. They don’t stop at the first signs of resistance and refuse to accept “no” for an answer whenever there is hope for success. They are resourceful, looking for the support and resources wherever they can be found. Barrier busters know the difference between the market saying “no,” and an organizational obstacle saying, “no.”

A leader might have learned from the VC role to let go of struggling projects, where customers don’t respond as expected or where the market does not respond positively, in order to move the resources to fund innovation winners. However, as a barrier buster, this same leader knows that organizational protectiveness does not mean the project is struggling in the market. The barrier buster fights for the opportunity to let customers decide which product or service is the business of the future.

History is full of examples of innovators who were told their ideas would not work, but who ultimately found ways to find the support and resources they needed. Consider what would have happened if these innovators had not persisted in the face of obstacles:

“Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”

—Dr. Lee De Forest, “Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television.”

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

—Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

—Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”

—A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found FedEx.)

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy!”

—Response from the drillers Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859. (quote source)

With innovation, mentorship goes beyond career path improvement. You must incorporate a variety of techniques to move both the innovator and invention forward. Download the complete chapter of Leading Innovation Ten Essential Roles for Harnessing the Creative Talent of your Enterprise for the full text on mentorship. In our next installment of the Leading Innovation series, we’ll review the Networker role. If you’d rather not wait, download the entire chapter today.

This blog post is part of the Leading Innovation series authored by Laszlo Gyorffy, MS. Laszlo is president of the Enterprise Development Group, an international consulting firm specializing in business strategy and innovation. He also is an accomplished speaker, certified instructional designer and trainer, and co-author of Creating Value with CO-STAR: An Innovation Tool for Perfecting and Pitching your Brilliant Ideas and The Global Innovation Science Handbook. Laszlo recently developed the One Hour Innovator a cloud-based toolkit that teaches people how to successfully generate and champion bigger, bolder, and better ideas.


How do I know if someone will be successful at innovation?


0f71c74As part of our innovation strategist team, I get to speak with a lot of first-time innovators. Developing an innovation program for any organization is no easy task and certainly should not fall on any one person. Part of my role is to help those who want guidance on where to begin and put them on the road to success. But how do I know if someone is going to succeed with their innovation program?

Here are the three things I look for:

  • Clear goals and tangible outcomes: start at the end. The most successful innovation plans begin with a clear end goal – this is your light at the end of the tunnel. Having a clearly defined outcome will help you clearly define milestones that you’ll need hit in your journey towards your outcome. As they say, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else.”
  • Measurable Milestones: Here’s the bottom line: if what you’re measuring doesn’t bring you towards your end goal – if it doesn’t move you towards your desired outcome above, then it doesn’t matter. Put all your KPI’s to this test. Don’t waste your time tracking KPI’s just because you can. Track what matters.
  • Transparent Communication: In a recent Gartner report, crowdsourcing is the most impactful digital innovation technique. It’s also the least used according to the report. You may have heard our founder, Rob Hoehn, say, “The crowd is your most powerful ally…” So make sure everyone is heard. Communicate with them. Communicate your desired outcomes. Communicate your progress towards reaching your milestones. A conversation is a two way street: if you want your crowd to communicate with you, make sure you communicate with them. I promise they’ll love hearing from you!

IdeaScale’s innovation management software has tools to help you organize your innovation program, track milestones, and communicate with your crowd. What outcome are you looking for in 2017? Let us know! We’d love to help you find a better way to get there.

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 Jeff Wong, Customer Success Operative at IdeaScale.

Innovation Management Award Spotlight: City of Calgary

calgary-coverAt IdeaScale, we host the annual innovation management awards in order to honor the accomplishments of some truly groundbreaking organizations, but also so that some of our smartest clients can share their best practices with others. This year, we honored the accomplishments of the City of Calgary, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and the National Cancer Institute as well as runner’s up.

We  invited our winners to answer a few interview questions and we’re pleased that the City of Calgary had some great advice and answers to share:

IdeaScale: Why is innovation vital to your organization?

City of Calgary: There are three reasons. First, given the current economic environment, there’s no better time to focus on ways to work together, improve existing City services, and better meet the emerging needs of Calgarians.  Building upon previous programs dedicated to cutting red tape, it is believed that innovation will help us be less risk averse, more entrepreneurial, more creative, and promote Calgary as a great place to make a living and a great place to make a life.

Secondly, technology is changing the game for cities. Entire industries are being disrupted and local governments are not immune if they wish to remain relevant and competitive. The gap between citizen needs and the ability for cities to meet them will only widen as the pace of change increases. Our team recognizes this and feels an innovation practice is vital to sense and adapt to emerging trends and technologies.

Thirdly, Calgary is a diverse city. The knowledge of our citizens and staff is a vast and invaluable resource that is vital to helping solve some of our biggest challenges. It is important that we find new ways of reaching our staff colleagues who work ‘on the ground’ as well as citizens who bring new insights and connections into our communities.  Innovation is an important tool to uncover new ideas, to collaborate, and foster a culture where finding better, easier ways of doing things is explored and celebrated.

IS: What’s the most important piece of advice that you can give to someone launching an IdeaScale community?

City of Calgary: While IdeaScale is a powerful tool, consider resisting the urge to incorporate every feature right from the start. Keep the initial barriers to entry low, and allow your process to adapt and grow along with the experience and sophistication of the community members. We’ve found that sometimes the process can be messy (in a good way) and there may not always be a 1:1 relationship between an idea and an outcome. The idea may be part of a broader theme, or it is in the interaction between ideas that the true insight arrives. Also, it is never too early to test your overall assumptions about what people think your community is about and what they think they can do. Based on these learnings, adjust your written copy as well as the site’s ‘languages and strings’ to create a better fit with the audience.

IS: What are you most proud of in your innovation program?

City of Calgary: To date, it has been extremely gratifying to connect staff from across the various departments of the City and it has enabled them to understand campaigns (we call them ‘challenges’) as a new way of working together. Small ideas when viewed individually become big opportunities when viewed collectively. I would consider our work internally with the staff community as a ‘proof of concept’ and we’re now looking forward to citizens joining us in these conversations and this new way of working.

It has also been great to receive some of the thoughts and insights from our colleagues on the efforts to date – here’s one example:

“I LOVE, the new site.  I was a big fan of the Cut Red Tape initiative out of the Mayor’s office and this Innovation site takes it to the next level. Just a phenomenal idea, and the site looks to be a great execution of that.  Really well done, I can’t wait to see where it goes!”

Another colleague who is new to the organization expressed that the innovation program has helped him feel connected to The City as an organization and suggested this program will help recruit new talent who would have otherwise not considered The City as place to make a career.

Learn more about our award winners here.

Innovating for Social Good

innovating-for-social-goodMany employees desire purpose in their work beyond earning a paycheck. And many businesses want to make a difference as well. When you innovate for social good, you not only create an external impact, but you help your employees fulfill their desire for meaningful work.

What is Social Good?

Social good is defined as “a good or service that affects the largest number of people in the largest possible way.” When companies focus only on shareholders, they affect a small number of people relative to society. Consequently, this type of company is not necessarily engaged in doing social good. However, by shifting the focus beyond shareholders and profitability, your company can have an impact that extends beyond the walls of your organization.

There are many ways that your company can create social good. Helping provide clean water, building schools, or helping to create clean air in large regions are just a few examples. Social good goes beyond just raising money. It’s about having a social impact that enhances people’s lives in a real way.

Standard Bank’s Water4Africa Challenge is a great example of crowdsourcing for social good. They received hundreds of entries during the challenge and selected winners that met their six criteria.

How Does Social Good Relate to Social Responsibility?

Social responsibility is closely related to social good, but they are not the same thing. Social responsibility is the idea that businesses should balance, making a profit with activities that benefit society. For example, having a program where you encourage employees to volunteer is a way to practice social responsibility, but it’s not the same as creating social good as part of your company’s operation.

However, there are places where social responsibility and social good overlap. Organizations that have giveback programs that help humanitarian agencies generate social good are an example of how they overlap. A company that commits itself to “running green” to help the environment, and encourages others within the industry to follow suit, is doing so as well.

Innovating For Social Good with Crowdsourcing

If you’re looking for the best way for your company to participate in producing social good, what better process is there than asking society at large? Crowdsourcing allows you to ask your community – or even the global society – to suggest innovative ideas that your company could implement to affect a large number of people in the best, and largest possible way.

Crowdsourcing requires some planning. Here are some important tips to make crowdsourcing work for your organization:

  • Use the Right Technology. Having a system that allows you one single place to gather ideas, evaluate them, and determine how best to execute them is vital. IdeaScale is one platform that gives you that capability.
  • Pick the Right Rewards. People love to compete and win. To encourage contributions, pick rewards that appeal to your crowdsourcing base. This doesn’t have to be monetary. It could be an impactful donation to an organization of their choice, for instance. In IdeaBuzz, participants get rewarded with donations to their favorite charity in exchange for participating.
  • Follow Up With Action. Nothing is more frustrating to a group excited about making a difference than to see no action taken on great ideas. If you do this, you’ll hurt morale both within your organization and within your idea community. Be prepared to implement!

Mobilizing the Masses

If you want to make a big impact on the world, you often need a large group of people to do it. Don’t limit the ideas to your own leadership or staff.  Instead, look to the community around you, and the community around the world for ideas on innovating for social good.

Take some time to think of ways your organization can help make a big difference to a large number of people. To discover how others are innovating for social good, download the DREAMS Innovation Challenge case study today.

Expert Interview Series: Jennifer Riggins of Happy Melly On Growing Your Brand Using Collaboration And Innovation

Jennifer Riggins is the marketeer at Happy Melly, a virtual global business network dedicated to making happiness at work the new norm.

Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Happy Melly is set up with the belief that happier employees are more productive, better able to achieve goals and be successful. To start, how does the happiness of each component of a team contribute to the whole working effectively?

Don’t love the word “component” kicking off the first question – we aren’t talking about Ford’s pieces on an assembly line that have mostly been replaced by robots, we’re talking about human beings, usually working in knowledge and creative-based jobs, albeit toward a common goal.

Happy workers aren’t just more productive, but they are more loyal to team and business, more innovative in an environment that lets them feel safe to experiment and risk failure, and they are more collaborative. Bringing a group of these happy individuals together toward a common goal makes them more likely to achieve or surpass those goals.

Happy Melly also allies with social entrepreneurs, to increase the cooperative impact, as well as giving value, attention, and credibility to each component of a partnership. To start, can you talk a bit about what you mean by social entrepreneurs? How do you decide on who you’re going to work with?

A social entrepreneur is anyone who works toward affecting social change, solving problems – macro and micro – and making a difference in at least one life. One doesn’t have to own her or his own business – it’s anyone who wants to affect this change and disrupt and improve, even within the confines of a large corporation.

Anyone is welcome to join Happy Melly as a supporter – all we ask for is a small annual fee based on the resident country’s income. For a Happy Melly funder, which involves a much more significant financial and time commitment, we do have requirements, which are evaluated by current funders. Funders come from businesses that have a clearly defines purpose that aligns with Happy Melly’s own vision of happiness at work, and that looks to expand their products or services globally and transparently. Of course, these funders want to become an active part of invigorating our growing community with experiments and feedback.
How can creative collaboration help “value, attention, and credibility” to the parts of a partnership? What have been some particularly successful collaborations you’ve seen or taken part in?

I can’t talk too much about collaboration among supporters – all we know is that 55 percent of conversations within our more than 600-person Slack community happen in private message which we think implies a lot of collaboration. In the shared Slack channels, we also see a core group of members constantly openly sharing experiments and offering feedback. One supporter collaboration that has come out of our community is the Agile Uprising which looks to build a community around the agile mindset and includes four Happy Melly members as founders.

One area where we see truly visible collaboration is among our Funders. This much smaller group acts as a sort of startup incubator. With a similar general goal of increasing happiness at work, there is a lot of support and overlap, with Lisette’s Collaboration Superpowers for remote working, Jurgen’s fourth book Managing for Happiness and the Management 3.0 brand, Jason’s Lean Change Management book and workshops, and Learning 3.0’s books and workshops, among our long-term funders, each bouncing ideas off each other and sharing experiences. And then the customers of these brands are then able to pick and choose from the array of the solutions that work for them.

One area where I’ve seen the most successful collaboration among Funders is Sergey. I’ve seen him spending the last couple years traveling the world, bouncing ideas off of members, until he found a void in workshop management software. Because of this, he was able to build his own company Workshop Butler which solves this problem and three of the other funders were some of its first customers, providing candid feedback in return for helping to steer the product roadmap.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once joked, “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” Can you talk about how collaboration can help test an idea, and how it can help make an idea superior to the first iteration?

At Happy Melly, we’re first and foremost about feedback – and certainly it’s true that two heads are better than one. Most of our interaction is in a massive Slack community with more than 100 topic-related channels, ranging from agile and lean change to remote working to more personal ones like family, vulnerability and general pursuits of happiness. Members usually choose a channel where they’ve gained confidence with the members to talk about obstacles they are meeting at work, broach their first idea of how to overcome them, and to ask for advice. This sort of working out loud allows ideas to mature, experiments to go on, and then other feedback cycles to continue as updates are shared.

We also hold Weekly Happiness Challenges, which has one or two members leading an experiment and discussion around a specific topic a week. They can be smaller challenges that run throughout the week, like on remote working or personal branding, or they can be big undertakings that can take longer than a week, like abstaining from negativity on social media or gratitude journaling.

Happy Melly have a bunch of thought and workplace experiments listed on your website, regarding productivity, collaboration, and workplace happiness. What are one or two experiments someone might try to start steering their workplace towards a more collaborative environment?

One run by Agile Coach and Supporter Josh Briggs. He challenged us to be vulnerable via the following experimental options:

    • Before heading into the office or a meeting, encourage yourself to let go of worrying about what others think of you and to share one genuine thought you have.
    • When someone ask you how you are doing, tell them how you are actually doing. Do not respond with the canned, “I’m fine and you?”
    • When you need help, let someone know you’re struggling and ask for it.

Trust and vulnerability are intrinsically linked – you can’t build trust with your teammates until you are vulnerable yourself. I think this is why Josh’s experimental week just this December sparked the most discussion we’ve ever had on our Slack community that continues today.

How can collaboration help workers feel more engaged, and more a part of a company and a community? What difference can that make, both for the employees and the company?

Working in silos is proven to be unsuccessful. If we are just cogs in a chain, sure it may work, but if you want to create a productive environment that’s constantly innovating and improving, we have to work together. Collaborating toward a common goal does make us feel more engaged and a part of something bigger than ourselves. As talked about before, it makes us feel more likely to experiment. Also only 12 percent of people change jobs because of money – while 80 or so percent of HR reps believe that’s the reason – that means creating a sense of loyalty through collaboration is key to your company’s growth and success.

Collaboration offers many different viewpoints from lots of different people. This can offer unique insight into what people really need and want. Can you talk about how crowdsourcing can be a source of ideas for future projects?

For sure crowdsourcing ideas is valuable. Many of our members are coaches and team leaders, so they will present a challenge and ‘idea-source’ solutions, which then other members will also test out. And on a team, we are more and more moving away from the top-down mandate of the Waterfall method of massive project management.

Instead, everyone is responsible for her or his smaller piece, which contributes to the whole. Similarly, everyone can express ideas and opinions, which can then be either used at the moment or put on ice for future experimentation. As organizations become increasingly collaborative and flat, ‘idea-sourcing’ becomes revenue driving.

Likewise, how can having a concrete goal help a company become extra streamlined and efficient? What could be some results of this new efficiency?

Concrete goals and idea-sourcing aren’t mutually exclusive. A company can and should have goals that creates a sense of unity and transparency, but then crowdsourcing ideas can be used to help achieve that goal. But certainly goals don’t make companies more streamlined and efficient – people and processes do. However, offering attainable shared goals is one way of motivating people to work harder.

Even if a company doesn’t already have a huge customer base, there’s still a lot of ways to crowdsource ideas and inspiration. Do you ever monitor social media and the web to keep a finger on the pulse? What are some methods a company might use social media or automated alerts to monitor new industries or trends?

Sure, we use tools like Google Analytics and Hootsuite to monitor mentions of our brand. And certainly social media is a great way to crowdsource ideas for blogposts and experiments. And of course drawing on real life contemporary events via the news for examples of old school versus innovative companies always gives us things to talk about within our community.

But if you have a small customer base, you need to just be out there – online and in person – to find out who your perspective customers are and asking them what problems they are looking to solve. Social media is just one place you can ask these business-saving questions.

Crowdsourcing and collaboration is a great way to spread the word on a brand, without being pushy or spending tons of money on questionable advertising. How can a great crowdsourcing campaign help get the name out there, even more so than traditional advertising or marketing? And what are some of the benefits of the philanthropic nature of spreading the word via doing good deeds?

First, it’s about creating valuable content that makes want to share it – it’s the basis of social media success. And then it’s about making the ask – having the guts to say we need something and we were wondering if you would share it. Of course, that means prioritizing sharing first other people’s work before you start asking them.

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