Insights and sneak peeks into innovation and IdeaScale.

Common IdeaScale Use Cases

IdeaScale Use CasesIdeaScale recently spent some time talking to our customers about how and why they’re using IdeaScale and we found that those interviews highlighted a few common IdeaScale use cases in the process and we decided to share four of them here. Of course, these are just a few of the ways that IdeaScale customers utilize IdeaScale. Others will use it for sustainability ideation, employee quality of life, business model innovation, social change, and more, but these were some of the key use cases that IdeaScale sees over and over again.

Product Innovation: Georgetown University talked about how student and staff ideas have been used to spur new projects at the University. Those projects could be new offerings for students or new ways to engage with content, but either way – they’re empowering change at the University.

Knowledge Sharing: the US Coast Guard discussed the challenges of sharing ideas with such a broad and diverse workforce. An innovation management program allows great ideas that are succeeding in one area to surface and be applied elsewhere throughout the organization.

Process Innovation: The Wonderful Company highlighted that they were able to workshop and improve new ideas that would better serve the company, but they were also able to identify those changes collaboratively instead of in isolation. Those process improvements sometimes even generate measurable results like time or money saved.

Customer Experience: The United Way shared how they’re sourcing new ideas that will enhance their offerings for their customers (their donors) and that by doing so they are giving those customers an enormously positive impression of the organization – as one that listens and cares deeply.

You might have seen that we’re already discussing successful customer funnels and how they work, but if you’re interested in trying them for yourself, just click the links above to see some common workflows that are already working to solve these problems.

To learn more about the problems that are being solved by IdeaScale customers, watch this video.

Where to Get New Ideas… How About the Romanian Food Festival?

where to get new ideasOur family had so much fun at the Smithsonian’s Military Invention Day three weeks ago, we decided to hit the town again and join up with fellow IdeaScale colleague, Matt Paulson, and his family and head to Potomac, MD for the Romanian Food Festival.

Matt spent two years in Romania with the Peace Corps. It’s where he met his wife Sara (also a Peace Corps Volunteer), and he still has fond memories of and relationships from what became his second home. Therefore, this Romanian Festival was a trip down memory lane for Matt and his family. The Romanian Food Festival offered traditional food and drinks, live music and folk dance performances, among with other fun activities. I tried mititei, which is traditional summertime barbecue fare, along with sarmale and mamaliga, two traditional Romanian foods served at almost all special occasions. Of course we had to try the palincatraditional plum brandy in Romania (although my wife wasn’t a fan!)

A highlight for me was getting to finally hear Matt converse in Romanian. It’s great to experience the diversity of your colleagues outside of the work environment. I highly recommend it, because it can be really inspiring. 

But this entire process reminded me of the importance of diversity in ideation. A lot of innovators wonder where to get new ideas, but a whole new body of research is emerging about how organizations with higher levels of diversity report higher returns, new revenue growth, and more. We know there’s a relationship diversity and innovation and the Romanian Food Festival reminded how much I have to learn from people around me who can take ideas that I have and make them new or more powerful. That’s what happens in IdeaScale when I get to collaborate with my colleagues, but it’s also what our customers experience when they do this work at scale and invite in even more voices.

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

3 Reasons Healthcare Needs Idea Management

Healthcare Needs Idea ManagementIt’s hard enough to keep up in a complex industry like healthcare. But just wait till healthcare is disrupted as dramatically as retail or music has been over the past decade.

Clearly the healthcare industry has long been a competitive vertical (on numerous fronts: from patient services to technology and edge disciplines), and its complexity makes it harder to disrupt than others, but there is no denying that the challenges have accelerated. Unity Stoakes, in his What’s Now conversation earlier this Spring painted a persuasive picture of the accelerating forces driving what he sees as an exponential growth curve in the industry.

Much of this impending disruption has the potential to deliver wonderful benefits to individuals, organizations and society at large. In fact, an argument could be made that the more radical the change, the greater the potential benefits…. However, when it comes to managing change at your healthcare organization, how can we all stay on our toes and make the most of these accelerating changes?

At IdeaScale we’re working with a diversity of healthcare organizations from hospital systems to research and development institutions and medical technology companies. While some are working to increase knowledge sharing between traditionally siloed departments, others are focused on saving millions of dollars a year and still others are focused on accelerating product development.

At the core of what they’re all doing is building an idea management processes to ensure they get all hands on deck to stay competitive as the pace of change accelerates, and disruption increases. Here are a few key reasons your health organization wants to do the same:

Attract and retain top talentIf Unity is right about the current tide of talent transforming the healthcare sector (and he makes good arguments about how much increasing VC capital is attracting, then now is the time to make sure your employees are engaged and feel positive about workplace well-being. Attract talent in the next 5 years, don’t lose it.

Transform and deliver faster. Be more agile. The faster you can process new ideas, the more able your organization will be to identify and take advantage of new opportunities. This means you’ll have to be both ruthless towards ideas but generous about failure because testing is the best way to learn.

A well oiled-machine weathers the storm better. Deliver consistent process improvement throughout your organization and that will keep the engine purring no matter what influencing factors are creating change. When engineers design airplanes they take turbulence into account by focusing on the structural integrity of the airplane. If the next decade is bound to be a turbulent one for healthcare, leveraging your whole company to help optimize your processes will help improve operations, reduce errors and improve organizational integrity in a more predictable fashion. 

Learn more about the state of innovation in the healthcare industry in our white paper.

What Does a Chief Innovation Officer Do?

What does a chief innovation officer do?We continue to see more and more Chief Innovation Officers at the enterprise level. In this survey from 2015, researchers report that 43% of large companies have some sort of top innovation executive in place, which was up from 33% in 2011. But what does a Chief Innovation Officer do? Well, here are a few of their responsibilities. A Chief Innovation Officer:

Builds Purpose. This purpose comes from two different places: the overall organization’s mission, but also giving purpose to innovation activities. A Chief Innovation Officer can look to an organization for guidance and principles, but they also have to create meaning and excitement around change. What big problem will they solve together? How can innovation help employees build their skill sets and careers? After all, many people are afraid of change (particularly at such a rapid pace), but when it aligns to their sense of purpose, it gains a lot more meaning and pleasure as a continuous practice.

Align Needs to Resources. This means offering focus to innovation efforts. After all, constraints breed creativity and although totally blue sky ideation has its value – solving strategic challenges not only creates change that you can act on, but builds validity for an ideation program. We find that organizations that align their change efforts to a business need are more likely to implement ideas than their counterparts who can generate ideas, but struggle to act on them.

Fosters Connection. Between individuals. Between departments. But most importantly, between ideas. After all, “successful innovation is the combination of creative ideas and sustainably profitable business models.” So a Chief Innovation Officer needs to be an advocate for collaboration and scaling communication across an entire network of people.

Fosters Innovation Skill Building. After all, innovation is a great professional development skill to invest in. It helps individuals build their careers, but it helps organizations gain an edge that they wouldn’t have otherwise. According to experts, there are a balance of eight innovation skills you need to maintain to have a healthy and innovative company. How are you nurturing them and training them up across the entire employee network?

Obviously, organizations that don’t have a Chief Innovation Officer can still work on all of these initiatives, but we find that organizations that have assigned at least one champion to innovation efforts within a company are more likely to succeed, change, and maintain a competitive edge. What other responsibilities should a Chief Innovation Officer have?

Military Invention Day

Military Invention DayTwo weeks ago, my wife and I looked at the weekend weather report – more rain.  If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, then you’ve experienced record breaking rainfall recently. On top of that, our nine month old is like a bull in a China shop right now. So in spite of the weather, staying inside our house all day is not an option. But where would we go to stretch our legs? 

Fortunately, the D.C. area is full of amazing museums which can serve as a fun family indoor activity. And It just so happened, The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation was having a special event last Saturday – Military Invention Day – showcasing examples of today’s leading-edge military inventions. We got to meet scientists, engineers, and even some IdeaScale customers…

We got to meet Petty Officer First Class Kevin Spratt of the US Coast Guard who was showcasing his invention, “The Hammer Hook.” His idea was proposed in IdeaScale to weld a hook to the head of a maul, combining two tools frequently used on a buoy deck. The Hammer Hook reduces clutter on the deck and makes it easier for crewmembers to switch between tools. This type of innovation is a great example of process innovation which looks for new efficiencies that will save time, money, or other resources. 

Other event highlights included the Army’s demonstrations of new Augmented Reality concepts and the Evolution of Night Vision Technology which have some pretty amazing military applications. One of the more fun family-friendly demonstrations came from the Naval Research Laboratory – showing how to generate Energy from Seawater.

According to the event’s website, the daylong festival celebrates the crucial role of invention for the United States, explores the changing relationship between military research and commerce, and gives visitors an opportunity to envision how advances in military technology will impact their daily lives in the future.

Big thanks to the Lemelson Center for putting on such a wonderful event and congratulations to all those representing the innovation and creativity of our armed forces.

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

Corporate Challenges to Innovation – How Do You Keep It Going

Keep Innovation GoingThis article is part 6 of a 5 part series, originally started on the Ever Evolving website, where we are taking a deep dive into the 5 common challenges to innovation that an organization faces. And, I admit, that is some funky math. But considering this is a special article written in collaboration with our friends at IdeaScale and the fact that I’m an innovator and not a math whiz, I’m allowing it.

Elementary School Math aside, when the IdeaScale team approached us about doing a joint marketing effort, I got excited. And not the Jessica Spano type of excited, but much more of the Jonah Hill type of excited. With the reason being that we at Ever Evolving, LOVE this tool and their team. They are as passionate about Innovation as we are…which we weren’t sure was even possible. AND, they compliment the value that we provide our partner clients, meaning, we have an opportunity to work collaboratively with them often. Which is awesome!

But, I digress. The focus of this article is on the challenge(s) beyond that final frontier of Innovation or Idea Management. There are plenty of challenges when it comes to just getting an Innovation program up and running. But innovation isn’t a one-time thing. The REAL challenge is, how do you build a program that makes innovation repeatable? How do you build a program that makes innovation perpetual?

 “Innovation is immortality.”

Steve Palmer, Ever Evolving, Inc.

Like a New Year’s Resolution at the start of Spring…

Implementing a cultural change is similar to a New Year’s Resolution in the fact that deciding to start one is easy. The difficulty comes in when you try to prevent the regression to the norm.

I’m notoriously terrible at resolutions. I’m one of those people, that the first week of January I’m at the gym 5 days a week. But by early February I’m happy to be there twice a week. And by March I need a GPS just to find the gym.

But the thing is, there is no reason for me to regress. Plenty of people start their day, everyday, at the gym. So, why can’t I?

Well, when it comes to sticking to a plan, it comes down to two things. One, how serious are you about the goals you are setting? And two, what reinforcement is your environment giving you?

If I was being honest with myself when I set these resolutions, I’m not taking them very seriously. There isn’t a burning desire that, if these resolutions go awry, I’ll have major issues. Instead, I’m OK when I return to bing-watching Game of Thrones…assuming it EVER comes back for that final season!

And two, what support are you giving yourself? People take classes at the gym or go to CrossFit to be around people and use their motivation to persevere in moments of weakness. And I…don’t.

Not All Resolutions are Created Equal

But sometimes changes ARE required. And if your organization isn’t serious about committing to continual innovation, that’s one that needs to be made today!

Did you know that the average lifespan of a business has been cut in half, and is continuing to trend downward? That is, at least partially, due to the fact that the productivity gap between frontier firms and their “competitors” is increasing. And that is evident in a McKinsey & Company survey that showed only 6% of corporate executives are satisfied with their firms Innovation performance.

But, deciding that a change is necessary only gets you so far. To make sure that “resolution” sticks, you need to establish a plan to make it happen.

The good news is, even if you don’t know it, you already have two-thirds of the People / Processes / Technology pyramid needed to implement that plan.


Let’s start with the obvious. IdeaScale handles the heavy lifting when it comes to technology. If you have a subscription with them, you already have the Technology part of the equation under control.


Let’s tackle People next. We start with the premise that, “you probably already have many of the right people on staff.” You couldn’t have grown a successful business without these people.

Now, you may need to augment your staff with a one or more strategic hires. To do this, we recommend hiring full-time staff instead of bringing in outside consultants. Peter Thiel, a well-known entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and author of the book Zero to One states that “…anyone who doesn’t own stock options or draw a regular salary from your company is fundamentally misaligned.” And we couldn’t agree more.


Process is what separates frontier firms from the pack. This process is what allows them to routinely takes in new ideas and develop them from conception to completion.

So, ask yourself this. Does your organization have a process that continually drives your innovation engine?

If the answer is no, don’t worry. That’s where our InnoSpecting Framework can help. We coach organizations on how to use our framework as a baseline, and then tweak it so it fits the way they do business.

Our framework is built on a three-phase process. During the Phase One, the organization goes out and solicits new ideas from sources both internal and external to the organization. This is where tools such as IdeaScale are key, as they help manage and drive this initial round of idea submission and management.

During Phase Two, executives choose which of those new ideas are most intriguing and move forward with experimenting with their highest priorities on a small scale. Of those experiments, the ones that perform well become candidates for further refinement or for being developed and released as new process or product offerings.

While phases one and two are about adding new capabilities, Phase Three is about getting rid of older capabilities before they become an emotional or psychological drag on your organization, its employees, and/or its customers.

This framework, when coupled with regular reviews (what we call Innovation Pulses) and regular promotion (through our 4 Pillars of Continuous Innovation) provides an organization with a roadmap to make innovation repeatable and perpetual.


As I wrap up my guest blog posts, I want to emphasize how close your organization is to being one of those frontier companies. If you are already investing in IdeaScale, then you probably already have two of the three necessary components. Don’t make the mistake of spending money on a tool or set of tools, only to have it sit idle six months into your “resolution.”

To become a company that emphasizes innovation may require a change in culture. And culture changes are notoriously difficult.  But, you don’t have to make that change alone. And when the alternative is going belly-up or being forced to merge with a competitor to compete (with the latest example of that being the Sprint / T-Mobile merger), the path forward is obvious.

You were right to make the purchase. Innovation is necessary to drive your company forward. Innovation is worth investing in. Innovation is immortality.


This is a guest post authored by Ever Evolving, Inc. Ever Evolving, Inc. was founded on the principle that “Today was great, but tomorrow can be better.” We provide coaching and training services to organizations to help them make innovation management repeatable and perpetual. If you are interested in hearing more about our services, you can schedule a time to speak with one of our team members.

The next chance to hear our team speak will be at the Project Summit Business Analyst World Conference in Arlington, VA on June 18th, 2018. You can get your tickets here.

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The Metrics of Public Sector Innovation

Public SectorLast month, leaders in public sector innovation gathered to discuss ways of crowdsourcing new solutions to longstanding problems at IdeaScale’s Open Nation DC.

In advance of the event, we asked registrants to select the topics that they were most interested in learning about and remarkably the topic selected most often was “innovation metrics and ROI.” For that reason, we asked our speakers to share any insights and best practices that they had developed in their innovation programs around metrics and measuring ROI and some interesting themes emerged.

Beware Vanity Metrics. What are vanity metrics? Data that shows activity, but doesn’t show movement on the actual end goal: real results. In an IdeaScale community, that might be a high degree of page views or new ideas, but no movement on the real problem (whether it’s policy making or workplace improvements). Make sure you’re reporting on what really matters.

Progress on Objectives. Every organization has different objectives and different departments even have different objectives internally, but that’s where the real success of a program is measured. Are you making new policies? Are you improving the lives of citizens? Are you retaining more employees? What are you trying to move the needle on? Measure that.

Measure Outreach. When it comes to crowdsourcing, you have to know what it is that gets people into an ideation community and inspires them. In the United Way’s presentation, they talked about a campaign that they designed specifically to re-engage people over the course of months, bring them back, and get them to share more thoughts. But how did they know it was working? They measured every part of that campaign.

Tell a Story with the Data. This was a point that was made over and over and it’s perhaps even more true when we’re talking about nonprofit or government work. We’re not talking about zeros and ones. We’re talking about how people report their position in an emergency, we’re talking about delivering renewed services in communities that need it, we’re talking about changing the lives of those who are trying to get work or live with disabilities. How do the numbers illustrate that truth?

To learn more about public sector innovation, you can view the presentation recordings and download the slide decks on our Open Nation DC resources page.

The State of Innovation in Education

State of Innovation in EducationI was surprised to read the findings of a recent survey in which researchers found that only 38% of graduates reported that their educational establishment was at the forefront in adopting innovations. And yet, I hear employers say all the time that the reason they’re excited to hire folks right out of college, is because not only do they come on board with a wealth of new technological savvy, but they’re also considered to be more creative.  But with our educational institutions stumbling a bit in the face of new technology and change making, what is the state of innovation in education?

If you think about it, universities and educational institutions are almost always breeding grounds for new ideas, prototypes, and creative thinking. After all, universities are the birthplaces of new discoveries: like the accelerating universe, the founding of Zipcar, the identification of new planets, and myriad other things. So which this disconnect between what graduates perceive to be happening and the seeds of so many promising ideas.

The problem is that everything from new business models to new technologies are being discovered and nurtured  in separate pockets of the campus across separate disciplines. Even when innovation is close at hand, there isn’t always someone who is up-leveling, surfacing, and distributing that information so that others gain visibility into that project, as well. That’s one of the key reasons that Entangled Solutions wrote about the rise of the Chief Innovation Officer in the education sector. Sourcing and sharing knowledge is one of their new key objectives.

We’ve been looking at the efforts to introduce innovation into higher education and have noticed a few key idea campaigns that universities always seem interested in running. These campaigns are some of the opportunities for campus-wide learning on which a Chief Innovation Officer could begin their strategy:

Sustainability. Almost every business, school, and individual is thinking about opportunities for going green. Odds are that everyone from your facilities team to your student base has ideas about how to make an impact. Ask them. Diversity. This is one of the most crucial (but also most challenging) subjects to tackle, because it impacts everything from facilities, to admissions and provides the backbone for culture at your institution.

Budget Strategy. Almost every university is looking for ways to become more efficient and people are finding new ways to save money all over campus. Now what if they could share those strategies with everyone else?

Process Improvement. What about new ways for students to access services? What about new career development opportunities for faculty? There are always processes that can be updated and optimized.

10-Year Vision. Don’t make your strategic vision in a vacuum. Find out where others think that you should go. Post your ideas, get feedback on them, or start with a blank slate and have your community tell you what the future holds.

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

A Successful Process Improvement Workflow

Successful Process Improvement WorkflowLast week, IdeaScale introduced a proven customer experience improvement workflow that is being used by our highest performing communities. This week, we’re going to look at a high-performing process improvement workflow (by far IdeaScale’s most common use case). This workflow has been used to find new time efficiencies, save money, and more. Organizations like this gather ideas from employees and empower those employees to implement those ideas with the help of the crowd.

Suggest (using the Ideate stage): This stage is open to anyone who wants to make a suggestion that would make a process better. This could be something that could improve operations, it could be something related to your supply chain, your team member cooperation. But the goal is to gather ideas that make things better, faster, or cheaper. Oftentimes, administrators will ask community members to state how the idea will impact one of those three categories (better, faster, cheaper).

Explore (using the Refine stage). In this stage, idea owners and community members fill in additional questions about the problem to be solved, what audience it is being solved for and why it matters. Only leadership can see these answers and those that seem worthwhile are moved into the proposal building stage.

Build Proposal (using the Refine stage). In this stage, idea owners answer key questions about the solution that will help prepare it for potential implementation. Questions include the resources that will be necessary to implement, but also practical questions about estimated positive impact and the associated costs of launching this solution.

In Development (using the Ideate stage). After reading the proposal, leadership moves approved ideas into this stage (with voting turned off) so that all community members can note the progress of an idea.

Results (using the Estimate stage). Idea owners validate their initial predictions by reporting on the savings or earnings that they predicted in the proposal stage, as well as the costs that it actually took to implement ideas.

Implemented or Archived (using the Archive stage). Once a process improvement’s results have been recorded, it is moved into the implemented or archived stage so that people can see the entire history of the new idea. If the reported results weren’t monetary, then the moderator tags the idea for the intangible benefits like lessons learned or experiential impact at this stage so that they can still view large scale themes and intangible wins across the community.

Are you using IdeaScale for process improvements? Let’s launch this new workflow in your IdeaScale community today!