Insights and sneak peeks into innovation and IdeaScale.

How to Assess Your Innovation Fitness

How to Assess Your Innovation FitnessThere are two types of innovation fitness assessments that you should perform in your organization. Organizational fitness assessments help you understand the health of your innovation strategies as well as whether or not your culture, leadership, employees, and stakeholders are set up for innovation success. Program readiness assessments help evaluate your processes, resources, and goals.

Why Innovation Fitness Assessments Are Important

Innovation fitness assessments can help you understand areas of strength and weakness. Understanding areas where you need improvement is vital to helping you predict the challenges you may face as you help your organization move toward more regular innovation practices. Knowing your organization’s strengths help you focus on solutions, put the right people in the right positions, and send a positive innovation message as you move forward.

Assessments also establish a baseline to which progress can be measured. Once you understand where you are, you can determine if you’re making progress in the areas that provide either positive quantitative or qualitative returns.

Assessing Your Organizational Innovation Fitness

When it comes to organizational innovation fitness, you’ll need to consider:

  • Open Culture: Is your staff willing and used to trying new processes and increasing efficiency?
  • Leadership: Does your organization’s leadership truly support innovation?
  • Employee Engagement: Are employees engaged in innovation?
  • Skills and Mindset: Is your staff aware of your organization’s innovation goals and vision?
  • Collaboration: Do departments work cross-functionally?
  • Emerging Trends: Is there an awareness of the trends within your industry?
  • Innovation Targets: Do you have targets created for core, adjacent, and transformative innovation projects?
  • Accountability: Are leaders and team members held accountable?
  • Implementation: Are ideas implemented?
  • Open Organization: Do you nurture external relationships with stakeholders and potential contributors?

Is Your Program Ready?

Once you’re ready to innovate as an organization, it’s time to make sure you have a program that’s ready as well. Assess if you’re program is ready with these questions:

  • Existing Initiative: Do you have an existing innovation project or initiative?
  • Problem Defined: Do you know what problems need to be investigated or improved?
  • Timeframe: Do you have a timeframe for launching your innovation project?
  • Resources: Do you have a budget for the needed software, team, implementation, and funding? Is it included in departmental budgets or a separate innovation budget?
  • Goals: Have you defined your desired outcome?
  • Workflow: Have you defined your innovation process and workflow?
  • Call for Ideas: Have you created an idea or proposal submission process?
  • Communication Plan:  Do you have a communication plan for your innovation projects?
  • Criteria: Do you know how you’ll evaluate the success of your project?
  • Metrics: Do your metrics evaluate both earnings and learnings?

In any physical fitness program, there’s an initial assessment that lets you know where you’re starting from. It may be hard to face, but honesty and clear-headed thinking is vital to success. The same is true for your organization as you move forward into innovation fitness.

As you consider your innovation health this year, our newest e-book, Innovation Fitness: Compete for the Future, will help you assess your current state and establish plans for the future.

How NASA is Crowdsourcing its Innovation Strategy

It takes millions of minds to get one man in space.

NASA is, to many, a symbol of scientific innovation. The space race touched off an unprecedented “peace dividend” that gave us everything from modern materials science to Tang. Stepping beyond Earth will be something that requires the work of all of us. And NASA has taken one of its first steps into its own new frontier: Crowdsourcing.

The Crowdsourcing Frontier

NASA’s reluctance to crowdsource in the past has largely been a product of its culture. NASA often sees its members come from the military and intelligence communities, not exactly noted for their openness and outreach. That’s begun to shift, however, with the arrival of both private space companies and the rapidly growing ambitions of both politicians and CEOs to touch the stars.

Some of NASA’s biggest crowdsourcing initiatives have been tied to its desire to know more about the Solar System. For example, their lunar instruments crowdsourcing campaign focused on NASA’s desire to better understand the Moon. Earth’s Moon is likely going to serve as a sort of orbiting space station that helps facilitate launches, and NASA needs to know everything from whether the Moon has enough water to make rocket fuel to how human beings will handle being on it for long periods of time.

Similarly, its Mars campaign, aimed at college students, was all about finding resources on Mars. It started with the Mars Forum, which used IdeaScale’s technology to bring in the crowd and develop ideas while answering questions. As it moved forward, college students could build and submit robots that either autonomously performed mining tasks or were remotely controlled by an operator. The robots were tasked with picking up as much of the oxygen-and-water rich Mars dirt (called regolith) as possible and depositing it within ten minutes. In fact, NASA’s up to its seventh competition in this area so far, with new designs arriving every year. But the value of this for NASA is far more than just a few creative approaches.

Rockets fly on crowdsourcing.

Why NASA Crowdsources

How NASA uses crowdsourcing is instructive. NASA’s crowdsourcing efforts aren’t just about finding the best robot, but also getting some of the best talent the country has to offer to NASA and see what the space agency is all about. It’s no secret government agencies can have trouble getting the best and brightest, and these competitions offer a look at some of the best talent out there.

Another factor is that this lets NASA try dozens of different ideas at once to sort through what works and what doesn’t to come up with a better robot. If you think about it, NASA has the kind of challenge that would make even the greatest manager cringe: Get humanity beyond the sphere of Earth and exploring our solar system — and on a budget controlled by politicians no less.

That often means they get only one shot at building something, and adding to the pressure, if that device fails, the lives of astronauts could be on the line. So crowdsourcing lets them look carefully at ideas, both conventional and unique, and lets them narrow it down to the one that works, every time.

There’s a lot we can learn from NASA’s crowdsourcing. It’s far more than just a way to get ideas: Innovation strategy can shift an organizational culture and help you find better employees. If you’re ready to reach beyond the expected with crowdsourcing, contact us.

How do you Create an Annual Innovation Strategy?

annual-innovation-strategy-screenshotIt’s a brand new year, which means it’s time for a brand new annual innovation strategy for your organization. Perhaps you’ve been working on your annual strategy since before we entered this new year, or perhaps you just now have the bandwidth to really confront it. Either way, there are some core guidelines that will help you develop a thoughtful and successful innovation strategy.

As with many situations when one must move forward, it’s important to examine from where you have come. Think about and evaluate each of the strategies that you used the previous year. Consider the results versus the expectations, the obstacles and roadblocks you encountered. Then, when you think about all of the things that were less successful, make sure you think about and record all of the things that went right. The better you know the things that went wrong, the easier to avoid them in the future, and the better you know the things that went right, the easier to replicate them.

Once you’ve evaluated how your previous year in innovation went, think about tangible, specific goals that you can accomplish with this year’s innovation. You should think through what impact you’d like to have on your customers, and how you can support the overall strategy and mission of your organization. Perhaps most importantly, create a system to maintain last year’s innovations. Like any good and successful resolution, you don’t abandon it as soon as the new year begins. You look for ways to continue to incorporate it, in conjunction with your new resolutions.

Think practically about what kind of innovation is right for your organization. Many companies focus on incremental change, slow development. However, return on investment has been proven to be higher for transformative change. Still, just because there’s a higher ROI on the surface does not mean it’s the right innovation style for you to pursue. If your organization does not have the infrastructure to support drastic change, if incremental change is the only way that you can functionally innovate, then that is the right decision for you. The ROI is only higher if that method actually results in innovation, which it cannot do if you don’t the arrangements in place for it to succeed.

You’ve considered some of the things that went wrong in your previous year’s innovations, so now it’s time to take some of that knowledge and think through some potential roadblocks for the upcoming year, both internal and external. Do you know of a competitor who is releasing a product similar to one that you were hoping to work on? Are there immense changes happening politically, socially and nationally that may affect your business? Although there will always be things outside of your control, the more you brainstorm and prepare for potential obstacles ahead of time, the better prepared you were be. After all, if even half of the obstacles you encounter are ones that you foresaw in some capacity and prepared contingency plans for, you’re going to be in a much better position than you would have been otherwise.

Now that all of that big picture thinking is done, it’s time to get down to brass tacks and estimating resources needed for potential innovation projects, so you can actually plan out how many of those you might be able to pursue. Planning is easier in stages, which you can learn more about in the recent annual innovation white paper here.

For more tips and detailed information about creating an annual innovation strategy for your organization, download our annual innovation strategy white paper here.

Be the Architect: Designing an Integrated Innovation System

Be the Architect: Designing an Integrated Innovation SystemIn a turbulent marketplace, when complexity can add even more confusion, it is important to have a simple and straightforward innovation system. Shared and easy-to-use innovation practices and tools can enable everyone in a company to work together to develop ideas that deliver compelling customer value.

The Value of an Integrated Innovation System 

Leaders have the responsibility to ensure effective, innovative architecture is created, understood, and widely shared throughout their enterprise. An integrated innovation system covers the full end-to-end innovation process and ensures the practices and tools are aligned and flow easily from one to the other. Clear and shared innovation architecture ensures employees have the methods and tools to:

  1. Explore opportunities: To discover emerging market trends and connect with customers to understand their needs
  2. Generate breakthrough ideas: To create and contribute their ideas
  3. Optimize value: How to develop their ideas into strong value propositions and business plans, how to work together with others to optimize the value of these over time
  4. Select and fund the best: To understand the process for competing for approval and funding
  5. Mobilize for results: If their projects are selected, innovators understand where to get needed support for implementation or for taking their projects to market

Innovation Processes  

Too often the processes, organizations use to pursue innovation can erode their capability to innovate. In an effort to reduce risk, leaders over-engineer the process so it becomes burdensome and bureaucratic, limiting the potential for breakthrough thinking and deflecting attention from the customer experience. Other times, by limiting responsibility for innovation for a specific department, organizations underutilize the creative capabilities of other employees.

One example of a tool that cuts through the bureaucracy and enables employees at all levels to develop their innovative ideas is CO-STAR. By answering six basic questions, CO-STAR can turn an inexact concept into a well-honed value proposition. CO-STAR stands for Customer–Opportunity–Solution–Team–Advantage–and Results. These six elements are central to crystallizing the business value of an idea. It is a vehicle for enhancing innovative ideas through constructive dialogue and a process for focusing attention on the fundamentals that make an idea valuable.

CO-STAR guides innovators to answer the following questions about their idea:

  • Who are your intended Customers and what are their most important unmet needs?
  • What is the full potential of the Opportunity?
  • What is your proposed Solution for capturing the opportunity and satisfying customers?
  • Who needs to be on your Team to ensure your solution’s success?
  • What is your competitive Advantage over alternatives?
  • What Results will be achieved from your solution? (As well as the Rewards to your customers and the Revenue or Return to your team and company?)

Every element of a CO-STAR value proposition is essential for an idea “to grow up” to deliver value. The continued insight and passion of an innovation champion and team is necessary to turn an initial idea into a value proposition worthy of investment. Value propositions, then become the new currency of innovation, rather than only raw ideas. Venture capitalists have been using methods like this for years to reduce risk and maximize returns on their investments.

Scale: Tapping the Genius of the Entire Enterprise

Social media and crowdsourcing have introduced a new era of collective brilliance. The latest technologies break down traditional silos and allow for open innovation with large numbers of employees, as well as with suppliers, alliance partners, and even customers.

Pioneering companies employ online innovation platforms to harness the genius of the group far beyond teams that meet in the same place or at the same time. For example, a web based application like IdeaScale enables innovators to share their ideas utilizing the CO-STAR framework online. It allows you to gather feedback from any group anywhere in the world. In addition, companies can run targeted innovation campaigns in a small amount of time while collecting hundreds of ideas from employees. Participants submit value propositions online, provide feedback, and vote for the ideas of others. “The wisdom of the crowd” drives the highest ranked value propositions to the top, along with comments or links to additional information and resources for each one. A real-time dashboard makes it clear how ideas, activities, and decisions are progressing through the pipeline.

Just as a good surgeon, engineer, or artist would insist on using the right equipment to get the best results, leaders now have powerful online innovation tools to support their disciplined practices. There is no reason for companies not to scale their innovation activities to match the size of the problems they are tackling or the opportunities they are chasing.

Innovation Architecture for Quick Wins versus Big Game-Changing Ideas 

Innovation is often slowed or inhibited altogether when new ideas go to managers, who then determine whether the ideas can fit into the next quarter’s or next year’s budgets. The budgeting process can slow the speed of putting new ideas into practice. An effective innovation architecture offers alternative routes for approval, funding, and implementation for a range of projects of various size, scope, and disruptive potential:

  • For ideas that fit within the boundaries of their own departments, managers can set aside an innovation budget for ideas they expect will arise between budget cycles.
  • For ideas with an impact across departments or divisions that would still be relatively easy and quick to implement, leaders can set up a type of Quick Wins innovation panel. A small group of innovation leaders from various disciplines to review ideas and give rapid responses for approval and resources.
  • For bold new ideas with big commercial potential, leaders often set up Venture Boards, specifically tasked with evaluating and investing in larger and more disruptive proposals.  These “high growth” ideas can come from within or outside the enterprise. Venture Boards have innovation leaders from multiple disciplines or divisions of the organization, and may include external experts as needed. These groups often fund proposals in sequential stages. Initial smaller amounts of funding to enable innovators to complete their business plans, prototypes, or initial customer testing. Larger amounts of funding become available as projects show signs of success and need resources to scale their solutions.

Organizational Alignment 

Leaders architect not only the innovation process itself, but each element of the organization that influences innovation as well. Organization designs that promote innovation include:

  • HR practices to reinforce innovation such as recruiting, hiring, orientation, training, development, performance evaluations, rewards, and incentives.
  • Finance ensures funds are available for developing ideas and innovation projects, and they may also create the metrics by which innovation is monitored and evaluated.
  • IT supports online innovation, collaboration, and knowledge management tools.
  • Legal offers intellectual property protection, as well as support for collaboration and partnering.
  • The Facilities department designs environments for inspiring and enabling innovation and collaboration.
  • Communications keeps innovation visible and celebrates successes.

Essentially, any element of the organization can play its part in making innovation possible and probable. In a large enterprise, each of these functions in the organization likely has its own set of leaders, so the Architect role requires building a leadership coalition that fully commits to and enables innovation.

As Arthur Jones said, “All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they get.” Highly innovative enterprises are specifically designed and directed by their leaders to be capable of delivering increasingly better results, both from continuous improvements and from major breakthroughs that create new markets.

Architecting an integrative innovation system is critical as your program grows. But you’ll need to be a good evaluator and savvy investor to get the ball rolling. In the next installment of the series, we’ll dive deep into funding with the venture capitalist 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.

5 Trends that Will Impact Your Innovation Strategy in 2017

2017 offers new frontiers in innovation.

Innovation stops for nothing, and often changes everything. But innovation and change are not simple cause and effect: Often trends can affect how, in what industries, and where we innovate. What are the trends that will impact your innovation strategy in 2017?

Anti-AI Sentiment

Human beings have never liked robots all that much, as a visit to the movie theater can tell you. But now that chatbots and AI concierges are becoming more common in both industrial and consumer applications, we now have to figure out how to encourage humans and robots to get along. Expect this to drive innovation in user interfaces and AI design in 2017, especially with consumer-facing companies like Facebook and Apple.


As the internet of everything expands, it’s increasingly becoming a security risk. A recent attempt to attack the backbone of the internet turned thousands of cheap internet-connected devices into a zombie spam army, forcing Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology to recall thousands of products and improve their security. Expect, as we wire everything from flowerpots to medical devices for internet connectivity, for security to be a key point of innovation; the company with the securest products wins.


Facebook and Google have had enough of propaganda websites and fake news pushers, and are working to shut them out of their ad networks. But that creates a tricky problem: How do you sort malicious propaganda from satire, differences of opinion, and alternate interpretation? Expect a lot of innovation in the area of “truthspotting,” creating algorithms and methods that sort out intellectual garbage from genuine debate and differing opinions. Expect this to be especially highly prized on social media sites and publishing organizations in 2017, as they have the most to lose from malicious sites.

What new innovation will 2017 hold?

Data Science

The sheer torrent of data we’re collecting is beginning to verge on the improbable. Fitness trackers, GPS devices, music streams, consumer purchases, social media likes, and more data is streaming in and piling up, with no real way to sort out the important signal from the ocean of noise. Innovation in 2017 will find itself focused on how to parse data and come to useful conclusions.

Innovation Is More Local

Like it or not, the current political climate is tilted in favor of homegrown innovation and nations competing against each other instead of working together. This will likely have both positive and negative effects, but one of the more likely ones is that nations turn to their own talent to solve problems and create competing solutions. It’s also likely to tilt innovation towards sourcing from more local areas for components, talent, and other assets, as we may see more trade disputes and squabbles from government officials, making it harder to source elsewhere.

This may not be a bad thing, for innovators. Short-term, it likely means more reliance on stable, tested technologies that are easy to manufacture, and will demand more innovation strategy out of companies that used to say “We’ll have someone else engineer it.” More thought going into engineering is no bad thing for a modern innovator, and it will make for an exciting 2017. Get started by creating an IdeaScale community.

IdeaScale Accelerates and Enhances the Web’s Capacity for Real-World Problem Solving

democratization of the web
We are at the vanguard of the web’s capacity for problem-solving and improving the human condition, but many barriers still remain converting ideas into real-world solutions. IdeaScale removes those barriers, catalyzing and democratizing the forces of the web to help people identify and develop solutions to issues in their communities.

You may remember hearing a funny story a few years ago about a viral video showing people tripping over the same step at a New York City subway station.  A filmmaker had observed that everyone in his neighborhood stumbled over one particular step at his station. He compiled footage of people tripping into a humorous montage and shared the film on Vimeo. The movie resonated with New Yorkers and people around the world, gaining hundreds of thousands of views.  New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority happened to be in the audience and quickly sent a crew to investigate and fix the problem.

democratization of the web

While the broken subway step story is a classic example of the power of the web to help solve real-world issues, not everyone has the time, creativity, social media and video editing skills–not to mention pure dumb luck–to produce a viral video that grabs the attention of stakeholders who can solve your problem. The subway step video filmmaker himself recognized the fleeting nature of the spotlight he had generated and lamented that he had not focused on “something bigger”. But here’s where IdeaScale helps: healthy IdeaScale communities don’t need users to produce a viral-hit video to champion a cause.

In fact, successful ideas submitted to IdeaScale don’t even need to be fully formed. IdeaScale is an incubator for growing ideas: our software helps users frame, develop, debate, refine and collaborate around submissions ranging the gamut from the most detailed and well-engineered plan to the most outside-the-box daydream. City government engagement programs run on IdeaScale have grown nascent ideas from citizens into successful projects, ultimately generating millions of dollars in savings.   One city used IdeaScale to funnel top-voted ideas submitted by citizens to city officials for additional rounds of refinement, budget analysis and implementation. Another state government optimized their tourism marketing from an idea submitted to their community. And outside of civic engagement, enterprise organizations have used IdeaScale as part of their product-development lifecycle; submissions to IdeaScale communities have matured into top-selling new products.

Moderators for an IdeaScale community for the city of Huntsville, Alabama noticed a pattern in idea submissions they dubbed “happy hour ideation”: a bump in submissions on Friday afternoon near the end of the work day, when people were ostensibly feeling more playful, optimistic and creative. IdeaScale allowed Huntsville tap into that well of optimism and creativity, ultimately helping the city exceed project goals for its citizen engagement program. Imagine if that same New York-based filmmaker had access to an IdeaScale community: he might have multiple great ideas to submit off the top of his head, at considerably less cost than creating a viral video for each one. People are hungry to engage with and contribute positively to their communities and IdeaScale provides a low-cost, low-barrier mechanism for creating that engagement.

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

This post is by Alex Rivadeneira, Associate Developer at IdeaScale.


Election 2016: Do We Need to Change Our Process?

election 2016However you felt about the results of the 2016 election, one thing is clear: our nation is still demonstrating a fierce divide. Only four times before in our nation’s history has our winner reflected an electoral selection but not the popular vote. There’s a lot being written about this phenomenon and I don’t pretend to have enough wisdom to set it all in context, but I do know that there was a smaller, less talked about story that took place on election day that makes me think we might be able to build some better bridges between one another in the year’s to come.

Over the last year, Tim Draper’s Fix California Challenge solicited reform ideas from around the world. Innovate Your State ran the Challenge using IdeaScale’s crowdsourcing platform. 500+ ideas, 1,100+ comments, and 8,000+ votes were submitted and one made it to the state ballot this November.

The winning idea was Proposition 54: The California Legislature Transparency Act was submitted by Sam Blakeslee (former California Senator and Assemblyman) and it was created in the spirit of making government more accountable to citizens. The proposal amended the California State Constitution to require each bill to be in print and posted online for at least 72 hours before it can pass out of either house or the Legislature. It also required that the Legislature make video recordings of every official public legislative meeting available within 24 hours.

It was a popular suggestion (particularly among the civically engaged) and on November 8th, Californians voted in favor of Prop 54 (64.9% and counting!) and now have improved transparency and access to state proceedings on their behalf.

As far as we know, this is California’s first crowdsourced ballot initiative and its success asks some important questions in a divided country: can we do more to build towards consensus in advance of voting by crowdsourcing solutions to some of our most pressing problems? Can we more predictably anticipate change at both a state and federal level if we are involving the crowd in solutions throughout the campaign process?

These are simplified questions in a world of complex problems, but the Innovate Your State model certainly offers a renewed model for citizen engagement that is worth taking a look at.

To learn more about the Fix California Challenge and Innovate Your State, read the full case study here.

Innovation Roundup: The Top Innovations in 2016

top innovations2016 has been a year of crazy ups and downs. We’ve lost some amazing celebrities, had one of the most unique presidential campaigns in history, and experienced incredible innovations as well. The top innovations of 2016 have not only impacted this year, but will continue to impact business and technology for years to come.

By taking a look at the top innovations of 2016 in a variety of industries, you can see what others are developing and gain insight and inspiration for your innovations in the coming year.

Top Technology Innovation of 2016: Augmented Reality Gaming

If you saw people driving very, very slowly through parks and walking around staring at their phones even more than normal, you probably were looking at Pokémon Go players. The free-to-play location-based augmented reality game was released on July 6, 2016, and immediately became a runaway hit. It uses the GPS and camera on mobile devices to allow players to locate, capture, and battle virtual creatures that appeared on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the players.

Financially, Pokémon Go generated revenue by offering in-game purchases of items that helped players advance in the game, not unlike other mobile games. The game was so popular and made so much money that it earned five world records in its first month. As of the end of 2016, some believe the game was a fad that had passed, but the company is still making incredible profits from Pokémon Go.

The big takeaway from Pokémon Go is how augmented reality games can be used to boost small business revenue, gain profit for the creator, and create a national conversation – simultaneously.

Top Automotive Innovation of 2016: Driverless Cars

Do you ever wish you could commute in your own vehicle without having to pay attention, drive, and avoid problems on the road yourself? You’re not alone, and one of the top innovations of the year can help.

In response to this common desire, Google has developed a driverless car. They aim to make it easier and safer for people to travel, while also giving aging and disabled Americans access to transportation. The self-driving cars have been tested in a variety of cities, and are currently being tested in Mountain View, CA, Austin, TX, Kirkland, WA and Metro Phoenix, AZ.

Driverless car technology has expanded beyond Google as well, with Uber and Tesla are developing automated driving options, and a startup named Otto aiming at creating a self-driving system for trucks on highways.

Top Beauty Innovation of 2016: Supersonic Hair Dryers

In September of 2016, Dyson released its newest innovation – supersonic hair dryers. Available at retailers across the country, the hair dryer boasts a variety of innovative features that required over 100 new patents.

The top innovations are the very small, light digital motor located in the handle, and the intelligent heat control that makes it almost impossible to overheat your hair. Because heat damages hair, having a dryer that produces enough heat, but not too much is vital. The motor is much quieter than traditional hair dryers, which often cause users to be able to hear nothing else.

The Dyson product is currently $399, but it is more powerful than traditional hair dryers and leaves hair looking smoother, sleeker, and shinier. The styling nozzles snap in place with magnets, making them easy to use.

While most day-to-day consumers may be hard-pressed to spend $399 on a hair dryer, the product is definitely innovative in a market where design hasn’t changed for decades. The supersonic hair dryer is also likely to impact the direction of the industry overall.

Top Environmental Innovation of 2016: AirCarbon

The release of CO2 into the atmosphere has been an environmental concern for many years, but one of 2016’s top innovations is changing that. AirCarbon by Newlight Technologies is a material that captures CO2 that would otherwise end up in our atmosphere.

AirCarbon replaces oil in many commercial applications, allowing users to rely less on oil while also creating products that sequester more greenhouse gasses. AirCarbon can be used in a wide range of ways, including in products currently using fossil fuel-based polypropylene, polyethylene, ABS, polystyrene, and TPU. It can be used in extrusion, blown film, cast film, thermoforming, fiber spinning, and injection molding applications.

A variety of manufacturers have begun to use AirCarbon as part of their effort to create products in an environmentally friendly way, including Dell Computers. The ability to almost create plastic from air is an innovation that will dramatically impact manufacturing and our environment for decades.

Top Health Innovation of 2016: Harnessing the Microbiome

One of this year’s top innovations lives inside all of us. The microbiome is the gut bacteria that is abundant in all humans. Recent discoveries have uncovered that microbes have incredible power to treat and prevent disease. As a result, the harnessing of the microbiome topped the list of top innovations at the 2016 Medical Innovation Summit.

Your gut is a gold mine of various microbes, and it’s been discovered that these organisms act independently. They emit chemicals that affect how food is digested, how medicine is absorbed, and how diseases progress.

Biotech companies have begun to focus on the potential of the microbiome to develop new diagnostic processes, treatment therapies, and probiotic products to keep us healthy from the inside out. In the next year, microbes could prove to be healthcare’s most promising new frontier.

Top innovations occur at a variety of speeds and in all industries. No matter what industry you are in, there are advances available to you and innovative ideas you could develop. These innovations could not only help your organization bring in profit; you could shape your industry and help millions of people.

If you’re ready to set up an innovation plan for your organization, we’re here to help. Download the Annual Innovation Strategy whitepaper to get started.

Transforming workplace culture with your innovation management program

workplace well-being

Defining and achieving concrete improvements in organizational culture and employee performance is a challenge for organizations of all types. This is an acute reality when an organization is facing a clear mandate or opportunity for this type of change.

Even when a solution, tool or methodology is introduced, it will likely face some internal resistance and shoulder heavy expectations. Those in charge of managing this change are often pushed to justify their efforts and expenditures in a fashion that doesn’t align with the type of gains that are being sought.

The challenge is that so-called “soft” outcomes have indirect paths onto the balance sheet and can be difficult to articulate in a strategy or in terms of ROI potential. Not being quantitative doesn’t mean however, that there aren’t theoretically rigorous approaches to creating positive outcomes.

In fact, the rest of this post should help you both better articulate what it is you’re trying to achieve (workplace well-being) and introduce empirically validated theories for you to use when developing a rigorous approach towards achieving these goals with an Innovation Management program.

Workplace Well-beingwhat we’re striving for

workplace well-beingAt a high-level, what we’re talking about is building organizations where employees are productive, personally fulfilled and able to respond adaptively to the dynamic work environment of a 21st century organization. Often this set of characteristics is referred to as “organizational and employee well-being” and is considered “a fundamental element of successful organizations.” It’s manifestations are numerous and include high performing teams, reduced turnover, avoidance of burnout, higher rates of learning and professional development, accelerated knowledge sharing, reduced risk-aversion among middle management and increased organizational citizenship.

While well-being is clearly important, it is also a subjective status and complex concept. For example, Gallup has broken it down into five essential elements and their research is useful for thinking about various aspects of your organization at this stage.

Achieving Workplace Well-being with Innovation Management

When it comes to Innovation Management, there are two key concepts, “Autonomy Support” and “Job Crafting” that you can think of as building blocks of workplace well-being. They have been developed through empirical research and are supported by our experience here at IdeaScale.

Building Autonomy Supporting Environments

workplace well-beingAutonomy support refers to the empathetic and empowering context cultivated by acknowledging and understanding employee perspectives. When achieved it “provides employees with opportunities for volition over what they do and how they go about it, encouraging employee initiative, and remaining open to new experiences.” (link)

In one of the defining studies on the subject, Moreau and Mageau conducted research on almost 600 health professionals in 2011 and found that “perceived autonomy support predicts health professionals’ work satisfaction and psychological health.

It’s not hard to see how an Innovation Management program would help manifest an autonomy supporting environment. By simply introducing this type of program, you’re moving away from a more controlling context towards one that has been proven to increase autonomous motivation and self-determination.

However, there’s far more to gain by making autonomy support a specific objective of your innovation management program and a variety of ways you might do this. For example, you might approach it very directly, by launching a campaign that solicits ideas for how to create a more autonomy supporting environment. Also, when designing the architecture of your program, it’s important pay close and careful attention to how and by whom the ideas are reviewed, improved and selected. Additionally, focus on your capacity to implement top ideas that involve the idea submitters and contributors in the manifestation of their solutions.

Perhaps the most important way in which innovation management can drive the creation of an autonomy supportive context is through the involvement of peers. The health professional study mentioned above found that the role of peers in creating autonomy support to be equal in importance to the contributions of managers. It follows then that you should invest in engagement strategies that not only produce ideas but also drive wide and supportive engagement through voting, commenting and other team-building and refinement methods.

Job Crafting

workplace well-beingIn addition to creating autonomy supporting workplaces, innovation management programs–when fully integrated into an organization–can help employees shape the very nature of their work. This process is referred to as “Job Crafting”.

In more precise terms: “Job crafting… is a method by which employees might create a better fit between themselves and the demands of their jobs.” Through this process “employees can essentially reshape their job such that it becomes more closely aligned with their motivations for work, as well as their individual skills and preferences…”  and in so doing, “cultivate a personal sense of efficacy for meeting [the] demands of their job.

While it’s a nice-sounding idea, “A growing body of research has found that job crafting enables individuals to strike an equilibrium between the demands of their jobs and the personal resources they have to manage them… which helps buffer against stress and increases engagement.” (link)

Here again, there are many ways in which you can go beyond the basic benefits that the implicit job-crafting nature of an innovation management program provide by using job crafting as a objective to develop your program. Similar to Autonomy Support, you can approach it directly by having department managers run campaigns to facilitate specific job crafting processes as described in this paper, or in the very well done Job Crafting Exercise put together by the brilliant folks at the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations.

You might also consider simply integrating innovation management processes into more granular team operations with short ideation sprints rather than large organization or division-wide campaigns. With these smaller engagements, be sure to utilize functions where employees can help shape the parameters of their upcoming projects like IdeaScale’s “fund” function where employees can allocate tokens or hours to an idea they support.


While workplace well-being is a complex and somewhat nebulous objective, our hope is that the concepts of Autonomy Support and Job Crafting can can empower you to better define and articulate the qualitative impacts of implementing and nurturing an innovation management program. If you’re interested in diving deeper into what this might look like at your organization, shoot me an email at [email protected] or [email protected]

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 Devin McIntire, Senior Innovation Technology Adviser at IdeaScale.


Announcing the 2016 Innovation Management Award Winners


Having received some fantastic entries, we have officially chosen and are extremely pleased to share our winners for the 2016 Innovation Management Awards. And because we got so many great submissions, for the first time ever, we have also selected runner ups for each category!

City of Calgary—Best Engagement Strategy

The City of Calgary is the winner of the Best Engagement Strategy for their myCityInnovation campaign, an internal program which is part of the broader City innovation program Civic Innovation YYC. In order to increase engagement, the City launched a multi-channel campaign to inform employees and get them involved. This campaign spanned all methods of communication, including social media, newsletters, events, emails and more. Furthermore, this push for engagement and communication continued throughout the entirety of the campaign, rather than focusing exclusively on the start of the campaign. With regular messages sent to the internal community, the City was able to keep potential innovators interested and aware of the campaign, and greatly exceed their target numbers for ideas submitted and engagement reached. Click here to find out more about the city of Calgary and their myCityInnovation initiative.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory—Best Moderation Strategy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the winner of the Best Moderation Strategy for their JUMP campaign. JUMP stands for Join the discussion, Unveil innovation, Motivate transformation, Promote technology-to-market. Oak Ridge is the largest science and energy national lab in the Department of Energy system, and the goal of JUMP was to broaden the pool of people from whom the DOE seeks ideas, and to move the ideas to marketplace faster. Jump crafted an incredibly detailed plan for moderation of submitted ideas, starting with a five phase schedule, the development of five roles within the community, the screening of ideas for applicability and appropriateness, and criteria for the evaluation of ideas. Click here to find out more about the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and their JUMP campaign.

National Cancer Institute—Best Innovation

The National Cancer Institute is the winner of Best Innovation for their Cancer Research Ideas campaign, in support of the Cancer Moonshot proposed by President Obama in January 2016. The Cancer Moonshot was proposed with a goal of accelerating progress against cancer by a decade in just five years. The Cancer Research Ideas community brought together the research community and the general public to submit ideas on how best to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. The result of the campaign was a final report which presented 10 transformative research recommendations for achieving the Cancer Moonshot’s goal, including recommendations for improving patient quality of life as well as suggestions for most useful research areas. Click here to find out more about the National Cancer Institute and the Cancer Research Ideas campaign.

Congratulations to our winners! To read more about each of our winners, and to find out about our runners-up (Dick’s Sporting Goods, Department of Labor, and Standard Bank), visit our 2016 Innovation Management Awards page.

What We Learned

Two trends that are common among our three winners are clearly articulated goals from the outset, and active participation from moderators to reach the best conclusions. All three of our winners entered their innovation campaigns with specific outcomes in mind. As a result, they were able to frontload the planning of the engagement and moderation of their campaigns, leading them all to exceed the quantitative expectations they had set for themselves. Additionally, all three of our winners found that active participation from moderators meant the best possible ideas at the end. By engaging innovators at all levels of idea suggestion, by soliciting conversation amongst the community, by asking clarifying questions to further develop ideas, by developing plans for engagement of potential innovators not already part of the community, moderators were able to elevate the discourse and the value of presented ideas.

When possible, winners in each category receive an Apple Watch, a 5% discount on their 2017 subscription, a VIP pass to IdeaScale’s 2017 Open Nation Conference, a free IdeaBuzz challenge, and a promotional PR packet.

What might your organization do to be more engaging, have better moderation, and implement the best innovation?