IDEASCALE BLOG

Insights and sneak peeks into innovation and IdeaScale.

Crowdsourcing for Non-Profits: A Look at the Benefits

Volunteers cleaning up a park.

Non-profit engagement is about more than volunteering.

Non-profits are driven by passion. Just like other organizations, however, they can struggle with innovation and change, especially when all ideas come from the inside. Crowdsourcing can be a powerful tool for helping non-profits generate innovative ideas in the long term.

Better Transparency

Non-profit initiatives need to be transparent, and crowdsourcing is, by its very nature, crystal clear. Involving donors transparently in the creation of ideas helps spur greater creativity and innovation for the non-profit. The proper crowdsourcing platform allows non-profit contributors to generate ideas and other donors and volunteers to vote on them and refine them with comments and additional ideas. The non-profit can then provide the tools and organization to draw funding directly from donors. This is especially powerful for small, focused “micro-projects” such as remodeling a building.

Greater Inclusion

The drive to hear every voice is fundamental to non-profit work, but it can be difficult to give everyone inside and outside an organization the tools to be heard. Furthermore, some might not have the confidence to speak up, especially when surrounded by more self-possessed voices. Crowdsourcing offers the power to everyone to suggest an idea, weigh in on other ideas, and vote at their level of comfort, whether they want to openly discuss ideas or simply quietly offer feedback anonymously. While there’s no perfect method of inclusion, crowdsourcing ensures that more voices in the community are heard.

Person writing in a notebook with a calculator close by.

Donors, volunteers, and the communities you serve can all help with crowdsourcing.

Stronger Employee Engagement

One of the values of non-profits is to make a difference, and crowdsourcing allows employees to help drive the conversation at their organization. Profit or non-profit, bringing an idea from an employee’s mind to execution can be a frustrating process. Crowdsourcing streamlines it by introducing tools for employees to take ideas straight to stakeholders, to craft rough ideas into something more effective that fits the organization, and to see an “express lane” for their approaches. Even if the employees don’t have their idea selected by the crowd, they’ll get valuable feedback and learn different perspectives within an organization. Going forward, they can apply that to their concepts and create ideas that are more likely to be accepted.

More Imaginative Innovative Strategies

There are only so many ideas you can draw from any given well. Non-profits often generate ideas internally, but beyond a certain point, even the most creative employee can feel like they’re recycling concepts and approaches. Crowdsourcing digs new creative wells from which to draw. Even better, it pulls those ideas from your stakeholders and allows the entire community to refine ideas. Participants can even offer fresh perspectives on past approaches. Longer term, crowdsourcing yields creative ore that can be refined and turned into valuable new concepts. Further, crowdsourcing strengthens engagement as communities see their ideas put into practice.

Crowdsourcing is uniquely suited to the needs of non-profits. It offers the entire community transparency, accessibility, engagement, and the ability to discuss with each other the ideas and approaches that are most needed. To see how crowdsourcing can help your organization, join our newsletter!

IdeaScale Visits Australia

Australia TourIdeaScale has worked with partners in Australia from the beginning: in government, nonprofit, and commercial organizations and we’re excited to say that we’re growing our presence in this exciting international market. Here’s why we’re excited about Australia:

Resources are Growing. The VC funding market is growing – “the venture capital scene in Australia grew by 12% over the past year to its highest point ever.” And it’s a strong economy (13th largest in the world) so businesses in Australia have some promising resources to test and grow new ideas.

Smart People are Mobile and Global. Australia (like most places in the world) is worried about attracting and retaining talent and the risk of “brain drain.” That’s one of the reasons why crowdsourcing software is so powerful, because it helps insulate companies against this risk as they can communicate and collaborate on great new ideas with people all around the world. And, as immigration laws in the UK and US are becoming more stringent, Australia has a real opportunity to benefit by attracting new talent from everywhere.

Government Attention to Innovation. The Australian government wants to support entrepreneurs by offering incentives and programs, including the Australian R&D tax incentive, the Incubator Support Initiative and others. Some of this has resulted in emerging Australian start-up hubs Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

All of these signal a country that is on the rise and ready to invest in positive change, which is why we’re establishing a presence in Australia. Some of our company leaders will be on site to meet with customers, partners, and collaborators in February and March. And we’re hosting three Open Nation workshop events and speaking at the Brisbane Intrapreneurs Summit (message us for a discount code for registration). We hope you can catch us on tour. Here’s where you’ll find us.

Melbourne:

February 6 – 13

Open Nation | Melbourne: February 14th

Perth:

February 18th – 27th

Open Nation | Perth: February 28th

Brisbane:

March 4th – 8th

Australian Intrapreneurship Summit: March 14th

Canberra/Newcastle:

March 11th – 15th

Sydney:

March 18th – 25th

Open Nation: Sydney: March 26th

If you’re interested in meeting up with us, please message me at [email protected] to set up a meeting. We’d love to hear what you’re prioritizing for innovation in 2019 and how innovation in Australia is different from other places in the world.

Want to help us transform other innovative organizations in Australia? Join our team!

How to Build a Company Culture That Promotes Innovation

Group of people high-fiving.

Your innovation strategy should be as unique as your employees.

Fundamental to any form of innovation in any company is the voices of employees. Your employees know your company, product, and customer base better than anyone else in the world, but getting them to discuss what they’ve learned can be a challenge. How can companies create a workplace that encourages everyone to speak up?

Speak Up Or Stay Quiet?

There are two perspectives on employee culture when it comes to speaking up, and both have some degree of merit. The first is that it depends on the employee’s personality. Somebody who’s disinclined to speak up with ideas in the first place is not going to naturally discuss issues unless they’re directly encouraged, while a more outspoken employee might cheerfully offer up opinions regardless of the company culture. Additionally, companies can encourage or discourage certain approaches. If employees see somebody rewarded for speaking up in public, or even countermanding somebody senior to them, that’s going to keep encouraging the behavior.

And there’s a third factor worth discussing. Other research has found that employees might believe they’re expected to speak up and take risks in some scenarios, but not others. A fount of ideas in a coworker meeting might be utterly silent if the CEO is there, for example. It can even depend, to some degree, on situational cues. If the CEO looks furious over something, people might decide discretion is the better part of valor.

Group of people sitting at a table with desk top computers and laptops.

Collaboration is for more than just meetings.

Balancing The Scales

The trick to encouraging innovation from every employee is to have tools in place that cater to all approaches. For example, an innovation platform that lets employees anonymously submit ideas for consideration, at absolutely zero risk, is more likely to bring out the more shy and those who think they’re not supposed to speak up at meetings. Conversely, to encourage the outspoken, a platform might have an aspect of democracy in it, encouraging people to go out there and drum up the votes to pass their ideas.

In all cases, though, there are a few uniting factors. First, it should be no-risk, all reward. Sometimes this can involve creative prizes, like the division that submits the most viable, fascinating ideas getting a few extra days of vacation for every member. Second, people should have options that fit their personal comfort level; meeting people halfway is a good method to bring them all the way into the fold. This can filter down to even the simplest policies; having an open-door policy for employees to come in and discuss their concerns can encourage your more quiet employees to step forward.

Finally, there should be a way to show the positive impact of the ideas of which you make use. Thank people for their ideas, and show them how those ideas helped the company move forward, solve a difficult problem, or open a new market. You’d be surprised how compelling a little heartfelt gratitude or even just having an opinion heard can be.

Innovation strategy will be a constantly evolving area for any company as it grows and new voices arrive. To learn how Ideascale can grow and change with your company, request a demo.

Top Innovation Conferences for 2019

Group of people listening to a thought leader.

Small presentation or giant hall, innovation conferences can sharpen your focus.

Innovation is a constant process, and often it helps to take a day or two, step outside the boundaries of the problem you’re working on, and see how others innovate and refine their ideas. These five conferences will both refresh your sense of innovation and serve as a bit of educational fun at the same time.

The Consumer Electronics Show, January 8th to 11th, Las Vegas, NV

CES has long been a trade show where innovation from the brilliant to the weird is shown off. Last year had everything from an air-hockey table trying to make Pong real to a health wearable from L’Oreal, of all companies, that tracks your UV exposure and that might soon be on your fingernail. The conference also happens to feature nearly a thousand panels of leaders, innovators, and dreamers speaking on almost every topic imaginable. CES is where innovation finally arrives on the market, and it’s worth checking out at least once to better understand how an idea becomes a real product.

The Future Festival, Multiple Dates And Locations

This touring festival of innovation has long been where big and small companies alike go to recharge their creative batteries. It starts in January and tours the globe, with American stops planned at NYC, Orlando, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Seattle, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago before the half-way point of the year. The festival offers plenty of opportunities to get involved in workshops, see thought-provoking talks, and witness demonstrations that show off a specific vision of the future. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong, but it’s always fascinating.

Think, February 12th to 15th San Francisco, CA

Before Apple, before Microsoft, before even the digital computer, IBM was the original innovator. In fact, this conference is named after founder Thomas Watson’s notorious command to his employees. But this is less about issuing orders and more about exploring the industrial side of technology and innovation. This year’s speakers include sports celebrities Joe Montana and Tony Hawk, robotics researcher Kate Darling, and IBM’s blockchain expert Bridget van Kralingen.

Conference audience.

Conferences open the door to learning.

SXSW 2019 March 8th-19th, Austin, TX

Long famous for its artistic side, South By Southwest (SXSW for short) is also one of the biggest conferences for innovation and thought leadership on the planet. Over eleven days, speakers such as the California Clean Energy Fund’s Ryan Kushner, SquareTrade’s Ahmed Khaishgi, and LDR Venture’s Maxine Kozler Koven will discuss everything from the shifting landscape of gender in entrepreneurship to frequent flyer miles and how to get the most out of them. Especially for smaller companies looking both to network and to learn from people who took a small company and made it gigantic, it’s must-visit.

Open Nation October 24 – 25th Berkeley, CA

Every year, IdeaScale hosts its annual community of practice conference – inviting innovators from around the globe to present lessons learned and new best practices when it comes to crowdsourced innovation. You can learn about engagement strategies, innovation processes, new metrics and more. We hope to see you there!

To learn more about innovation and how to build it in your organization, join our newsletter!

Three Inside Stories of Innovation in Government

Crowdsourcing reaches the citizens unable to make meetings.

Democracy thrives when everyone participates, but it’s difficult to reach some communities through traditional means. Governments are increasingly turning to crowdsourcing and open innovation to encourage citizens across the spectrum to weigh in with ideas, opinions, and perspectives. Here are a few ways technology is enabling smarter, more democratic policy.

City Of Atlanta

Atlanta is one of the most rapidly growing cities in the world, and like any quickly growing entity, there are growing pains. The city government wanted to cut down on waste, limit the amount of red tape in day-to-day functions, and save taxpayer money. So it turned to its own employees, with CityIdeas.

Employees could submit an idea, how much it would save, and a department to champion it. The heads of each department picked ten ideas and took them to the mayor, and six won out. Among other approaches, the city implemented a “pay-as-you-throw” waste management system that billed individual departments for trash, instead of paying a flat fee, and created a new program from inmates that had them clean up and shut down abandoned and blighted property in the city.

The Department Of Labor

One of the toughest employment segments is workers with disabilities. They fight discrimination across the board, from employers who think they can’t do any job to workplaces that aren’t designed for them to get around in. The Department of Labor wanted to support workers with disabilities, but it also didn’t want to have the abled dictating to the abled about what the disabled needed.

So they created ePolicyWorks, a platform that allows workers with disabilities to offer innovative ideas and to help the abled better understand what the disabled need to thrive in the workplace. It also helped illuminate the barriers some workers in this segment face, and how to better take them down.

Voting isn’t the only way to engage with democracy.

The City of Huntsville

Urban planning is a complex discipline, not least because often what seem like great ideas on the page can frustrate citizens in real life. The city of Huntsville wanted to avoid that, so it turned to some different ideas to deliver for its citizens.

Essentially, they created an online town hall and a campaign to promote it called The BIG Picture. Citizens were encouraged in all sorts of ways, from newsletters to social media posts to business cards, to sign on, offer ideas, and to engage with the ideas posted by other citizens. This led to in-person planning meetings on a number of different subjects surrounding the town’s plans, letting citizens who don’t usually log on take a look and offer their ideas as well.

One of the most important lessons learned was that education is a key component of any urban plan. The city’s employees found that many of their own citizens didn’t understand precisely why things were a certain way, and helped employees embark on educational campaigns to clarify various aspects of how their city works.

Citizens can forget their governments are there to serve them, and that they need to share ideas with governments in order for that process to run smoothly. Crowdsourcing helps reengage citizens, and ensures they’re invested in the places they live. To learn more about crowdsourcing and democracy,  contact us.

What to Do After Your First Year of Innovation Management

first year of innovation managementThis is one of the most common questions that Account Managers at IdeaScale address with our customers at the one-year mark. Our customers have run their first campaign, they’ve delivered on some community ideas, they’ve built some trust with their community and are wondering where to go from here. Here are a few steps to help you refresh and re-launch after your first year of innovation management.

Gather Feedback. Find out what your community thinks of your progress to date. Ask for direction, test their awareness of the progress that you’ve made, and more. If you’re not sure where to start, download our infographic on measuring innovation sentiment. This feedback will help you identify paths for improvement in the coming year.

Renew Your Goals. What were your goals last year? Getting community members to sign in? Finding one great idea? Well, (after you’ve reviewed some of your feedback), try and set some new targets. Maybe you want to delight more community members, maybe you want to improve your ideation rate? And, of course, this means that you’ve got to recommit to tracking, measuring, and improving on last year’s progress.

Scan the Horizon. With the accelerated pace of technology and shifting consumer expectations, there are always new emerging trends that are impacting your business. See if you can address something new that’s cropped up in the past year. If you’re not sure where to start, see if any of these emerging trends are impacting your business.

Find Someone to Help. Is there someone else at your organization who is already trying to solve a problem? Try and align your innovation efforts to this energy. Not only will you extend your program’s longevity and solve a new problem, you’ll start to see more progress as your ideation aligns to new business needs.

Experiment. Try something new. You’ve got some experience now with your communications plan, your process, your incentives. Try a different subject line, test out a new ideation funnel, seek out a new KPI.

But above all, keep delivering on new ideas and communicate that progress back to your community. Implementation, after all, is what separates an idea from an innovation.

To find more ideas for your next innovation campaign, download our infographic on the subject.

Emerging Trends Impacting the Financial Sector in 2019

This is, believe it or not, a picture of a financial revolution.

The financial sector is often seen as stodgy and slow to innovate, but the arrival of financial tech, or fintech for short, has forced change management and innovation strategy to the forefront. What trends in innovation will affect finance in 2019? Here’s a look at what’s ahead.

Crowdsourcing And Open Innovation

Part of the financial industry’s conservative nature is down to what’s at risk if there’s a mistake. As a result, crowdsourcing ideas and approaches faced slow going in this sector as institutions have worked out the boundaries between what customers can weigh in on and what needs to be tucked away in the vault. But those borders are becoming increasingly clear, so expect to see crowdsourcing on consumer-facing matters such as charitable giving, branch features, and other areas where customer opinion truly matters. In areas where there’s a bit more control, expect companies to ask everyone, not just one department, for their opinions.

Security

Every time there’s a data breach, people rush to the bank, or its app, to change their passwords and security questions. The Experian breach, in particular, was seen as an enormous violation of trust and saw a cascade of credit freezes, panicked calls to customer service, and increasing scrutiny of the security of every company that handles money. The financial sector should be investing not just in the usual approaches, but start exploring innovation in security. Many apps, for example, are using the biometric sensors that turn up on phones as an extra layer of security, helping to protect client accounts.

Which trend will pull away from the crowd?

Big Data

Everybody talks about big data, but fintech has an advantage in that it’s been working with data for decades. Creative approaches to data are going to be particularly important, and innovation strategy will be key. Asking employees what they see in the data can lead to new approaches and ideas.

The flip side of this will be questions of privacy. People still want to keep financial matters private, as much as they can, and may view any big data work you do as intrusive. You’ll need to get a sense of what customers are most willing to engage with, and what controls they want.

Transparency

That brings us to the final trend, and possibly the most important one. There’s an overall demand for accountability and transparency from every corporation and institution, and that leaves the financial industry facing a tricky dilemma. Where does transparency matter to customers, and what form of transparency remains within the laws protecting privacy? Make no mistake, customers will be asking what instruments every financial body has its money in, and how secure those instruments are, and the company with the most thoughtful way of discussing this while pleasing all stakeholders will likely be the big winner as this trend takes further hold.

Finally, of course, you should get ready for surprises. As technology picks up even more speed, and as social trends ebb and flow, there are a host of changes that are going to arrive on your doorstep. A smart, flexible change management strategy that embraces open innovation and creative thinking will be what keeps any company on top. To learn more, request a demo!

Selling A Rejected Idea Back to Them: The SoulMUCH Story

soulmuchCompanies come to IdeaScale for a number of reasons. One of the reasons that they want a software solution to collect employee ideas is because they’re afraid that they’ll miss a great idea that comes from someone in their workforce. Of course, this means that a company needs to have the capability to recognize and act on great ideas when they arrive, as well.

This was not the case for Reyanne Mustafa and Krissy Krugman’s employer when they saw a problem in their restaurant. They noticed that a lot of perfectly good, unserved food went to waste at the end of the night and they proposed utilizing this rice and quinoa and turning it into a flour that could be used for cooking. The restaurant dismissed this idea and so Krissy and Reyanne decided to start their own company that processed that flour and turned it into baked goods: SoulMUCH.

Now just one year after launching their business, they are at 57k in revenue, 6,000 pounds of food waste avoided and they’ve got partnerships with numerous major brands like PF Changs and Starbucks. They’re even looking to move into their first commercial kitchen space with help from their crowdfunding campaign. But the real kicker is that they’re now selling their product the processed flours and the cookies back to the restaurants that failed to act on their idea in the first place.

If their employer had made a space for new ideas and had a process for evaluating and testing new concepts, then that restaurant chain could have grown their own revenue instead of having to pay for a new product developed by their former employees. It underlines the importance of making an investment in your employees and their ideas. Having a place and a system for managing innovation is what helps a company to keep pace with change.

To learn more from top innovators, view and download the presentations from Open Nation 2018 here.  

Align Innovation Incentives to Goals

align innovation incentivesA lot of crowdsourced innovation programs will tell you to offer incentives to your community of participants in order to drive engagement – but sometimes that’s a challenge for organization either because of budget restrictions or company regulations. But it’s entirely possible for an organization to find ways to incentivize participation even with little to no budget.

For example, at the most recent Open Nation, the FDA discussed their approach to innovation incentives with little to no money spent so that they could reserve those resources to implement ideas. Instead of offering cash prizes or gift cards to the participants or winners, they would offer valued experiences, like the ability to leave the office four hours early on Friday or the invitation to have coffee with the executive sponsor. If you’re looking for more non-monetary rewards to incentivize engagement, you can download this tip sheet.

What was even more powerful about the FDA’s approach to engagement, however, was that they would align innovation incentives with their goals for the campaign. For example, if their main goal for their innovation campaign was to gain a high degree of input and visibility from a wide audience they would align their incentives with participation (so if the entire group hit their goal participation rate, then everyone in their office would get to leave one hour early on a Friday) whereas if they wanted to prioritize idea quality, they would reward the individual (perhaps offering that individual a prized parking spot for the week).

Of course, there are other things that you could incentivize, as well – including moderator activities, groups with high implementation rates, ideas that generate the most conversation, but the important thing is to think through your incentives so that they align to your overall program goals.

To learn more from top innovators, view and download the presentations from Open Nation 2018 here.  

What is an Employee Satisfaction Survey?

employee satisfaction surveyAn employee satisfaction survey is a powerful tool that the Human Resource department in general and managers in particular use to understand the level of satisfaction of the employees associated with the respective organization. It’s a closed form of crowdsourcing that can inform your internal innovation strategy.

This survey provides management with a direction that is useful for them to make informed decisions based on the information and data obtained and the probable measures they will need to take if the responses to the survey and not quite appropriate.

As an organization, if you want to grow your business then, you must understand that your organization is not a square where employees will come, work and leave. You are not training robots, you have employed human beings and they have a certain level of emotional quotient. Each person in your organization will react differently to the things happening in the organization.

Therefore, it is important for you to collect information that is not only accurate but also up to date. The best way to measure, analyze and gain insights into this emotion is through the employee satisfaction survey. The most important attribute of this survey are the questions that are asked. These survey questions will determine the kind and rate of response. Make sure the questions are accurate and to the point.

Learn more: FREE Employee Satisfaction Survey Questions Template

Top 5 Employee Satisfaction Survey Questions

Following employee satisfaction survey questions will help you collect information and data related to the levels of satisfaction in your organization:

  1. Considering your overall experience with the organization, on a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend the organization to your family and friends?

The most powerful question that you cannot afford to miss is the employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) question, this question not only helps understand the satisfaction level of your employees but also measure their loyalty towards the organization.

  1. Is it clear to you what your role is in meeting the organization’s objective?

Is it important to understand if an employee is in tandem with the organization’s objective and his/her role in achieving it?

  1. Do you enjoy being a part of this organization?

If an employee enjoys his/her tasks at work and is happy to be a part of the organization, then work is carried out with ease and efficiency.

  1. Do you struggle to obtain relevant information from your team members?

It is essential to ask this question as it is important to know if there are any roadblocks that an employee is facing and if that is hampering his/her motivation and satisfaction level at work.

  1. If something unusual comes up do you know, whom to approach for the solution?

When an employee has the clarity about whom to approach for a solution and suggestions half the task is done. It is important organizations have a transparent culture that will help employees seek proper guidance.

Last but not least, implementation plays the most important role. If you are deploying a survey and employees are responding to that survey, you are bound to collect a lot of relevant data. But if you are not going to implement the suggestions and address employee grievances, then the entire purpose of conducting these surveys is defeated. The key here is, obtain information, implement suggestions and increase satisfaction.

Learn more: Hacker’s Guide to Culture Management