Insights and sneak peeks into innovation and IdeaScale.

Four Innovation Lessons You Can Learn from Amazon

Amazon is everywhere, and innovation is why.

Amazon has been one of the key innovative drivers of the twenty-first century. From its beginnings in a garage selling books over the internet, it’s become a technological and social behemoth redefining not just book sales, but commerce, upending entire industries and putting pressure on entire sectors of the economy to innovate or else. But how did it reach that level of innovation, and what can we learn from it?

Innovate Outside Your Edges

One of the ongoing themes of the Amazon story is that it’s consistently rolled the dice on ideas seemingly outside its core competency. The site wasn’t just satisfied to sell books; it quickly expanded to media, and then to small consumer goods, and now sells almost anything you can buy. Its recent moves, in particular, underscore this. Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, for example, brings it to a low-margin, heavily competitive industry and also into the world of brick-and-mortar retail. It’s moving not just beyond dry goods, but beyond its own delivery.

Apply Your Competencies

For a long, long time, Amazon didn’t make money. In fact, Jeff Bezos, the company’s CEO, expounded on the idea of “profitless prosperity,” the idea that even if a company wasn’t technically profitable, it could still grow in other ways. That rather dramatically reversed because Amazon found an unlikely place to become profitable: Amazon Web Services. AWS, as it’s known, started as an internal system for cloud computing to improve Amazon’s retail operations. But it quickly became a consumer product because everybody wanted a website that stored and moved data efficiently. Even if you never use Amazon for retail, and in fact, Amazon tends to lose money on retail to this day, your favorite websites probably use AWS.

And if you pay attention, Amazon has applied this in other ways. Part of the success of the Kindle is Amazon’s mastery of supply chain and buying power; it works with everyone, so it knows where to get the parts it needs at the lowest price.

Amazon constantly innovates outside the edges.

If You Have A Safety Net, Use It

Amazon, for all its acclaim, has failed a lot. It’s repeatedly tried to get into online banking and mobile payments with services like Amazon Wallet, WebPay, and Amazon Local Register, for example, and it’s been stymied every time. Sometimes this is because the company has played follow the leader; Amazon Local Register was one of the many, many attempts to draft off the success of Square. Other times, it just didn’t stand out. But Amazon knew that it could take these bets and lose, and it’s learned something from each of them


Finally, one thing you can’t say about Amazon and its attempts at innovation is that the company is wishy-washy about it. Whenever it attempts to change an industry, it jumps in, feet first, buying companies, leveraging its skills and competencies in clever ways, and pressing its advantages hard. It may win, it may fail, or it may even barely stand out. Amazon Prime Streaming has had some success, but it can’t hold a candle to Netflix. But Amazon still commits, and often that commitment is what wins the day.

Ready to apply the lessons of Amazon to your company? Contact us!

Why Should You Conduct a Supervisor Evaluation Survey?

Supervisor Evaluation SurveyEvaluation and feedback are important factors that contribute towards an employee’s overall growth in an organization. Every employee intends to work harder with each passing day and deliver the best possible results. Employee evaluation is a usual process in a startup as well as a multinational organization. Gone are the days where yearly reviews used to be a top-down approach. These days, most organizations prefer conducting a 360 degree evaluation survey.

Supervisor evaluation is a part of the 360 degree evaluation. Each supervisor would have rated their team members as a part of employee evaluation, but how many of them are rated for their performances? For an elevated progress, an organization would aim at a 360 growth and this includes supervisor evaluation at regular time intervals as well. A supervisor evaluation survey is conducted to understand employee perspectives about questions such as “Does the supervisor recognize your achievements?” or “What is the extent of guidance provided by the supervisor?” or “Is the supervisor’s behavior fair to you and your co-workers?” etc.

It can definitely be a little confusion around the reason of conducting a supervisor research. Surveys, online or offline, are one of the most productive data-collection sources. Online surveys, especially, are tools that gather real-time insights by maintaining anonymity of the respondents which makes them a suitable source to conduct supervisor evaluation.

Here are 3 reasons to conduct an effective supervisor evaluation survey:

  • Employees provide empirical information about their supervisors:

Every employee would know the best about their supervisors. Details about a supervisor’s management skills, team motivation to maximize productivity and other such factors. For a supervisor to produce effective results year-on-year, it is important for them to productively work towards improving their managerial skills for the team.

  • Honest responses help a supervisor in growing:

Every individual aspires to progress in their career. Feedbacks and opinions boost an employee’s growth. Supervisors can learn how their team member perceive their efforts and what is the scope for improvement. Honest feedback allows supervisors to progress and be better at what they do!

  • Cultivate a progressive work culture:

An organization’s culture depicts its work and productivity. By conducting a supervisor evaluation survey, the organization can enhance their work culture. A transparent work culture where supervisors work on the feedback provided by employees, will progress by leaps and bounds.

Transparent and constructive opinions about supervisor’s work ethic, bias within team members, how they handle pressures at work, punctuality etc. can be helpful for the betterment of the supervisor’s productivity.

3 important steps to follow while conducting a supervisor evaluation survey:

  1. Step 1: Use one of the survey templates offered by survey softwares such as QuestionPro and customize the questions according to the required supervisor information.
  2. Step 2: Decide the aspects which need to be evaluated, for instance, work ethic, punctuality, job delivery, fairness of work etc. Questions to gain information about such factors can be included.
  3. Step 3: The organization must make the rules and guidelines of the survey very clear to the employees in order to avoid an inappropriate work environment.

5 Brands with Inspiring Sustainable Innovation Stories

Sustainable Innovation StoriesIt doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – one of the key innovation trends is sustainability. That means business practices, products, packaging, etc.  Almost all of our customers have run a sustainability campaign (and if they haven’t yet – they’re planning on doing so soon). But there are a few brands with new innovative offerings that we truly find inspiring so we thought we’d highlight them here:

Lego. Lego created a new line of Lego blocks that are shaped like plants, but they are also made out of sugarcane so are more sustainable than their traditional plastic. Considering it will take about 450 years for a piece of plastic to break down (that means basically every piece of plastic that was ever created still exists…), moving to more sustainable materials is a big move!

Avery Dennison. Avery Dennison is known for its labels and packaging solutions – which is sometimes the hardest part of recycling materials. With its new product called WashOff – it cleanly removes labeling from glass or other containers when submerged in hot water, which means that it will be easier for anyone to recycle materials. When you think about the prediction that “when U.S. recycling levels reach 75% it will be the environmental and CO2 equivalent of removing 55 million cars from U.S. roads each year” – things like this could make a huge impact.

Adidas. Adidas has debuted shoes with biodegradable biosteel fiber. In addition to its new levels of sustainability, it has other benefits like being 15% lighter in weight than other synthetic fibers and is (possibly) one of the strongest natural materials made.

Johnson & Johnson. J&J has made a commitment to sustainable innovation by creating its own award for products in their brand family that are thought leaders in sustainability. Earthwards honors those who “incorporate sustainable thinking across the entire product lifecycle, including design, manufacturing and product use.” One example of a winner was HARMONIC FOCUS®+ Shears with Adaptive Tissue Technology. These Shears reduce product materials and packaging, which  “decreases the hazardous waste of hospitals by six pounds per 100 devices.”

Hershey’s. Hershey’s has made a major investment (half a Billion dollars!) into sourcing sustainable cocoa. This is an important challenge to overcome for companies like Hershey’s, because some people say that we’re heading towards a global cocoa crisis, mostly because cocoa farmers live in extreme poverty and are therefore unlikely to keep farming this crop, which is just as vulnerable to disease and poor cultivation as any other.

Studies have also shown companies that lead in sustainability are 400% more likely to be considered innovation leaders, as well. That’s an impressive correlation. The reason this relationship exists is because thinking creatively about these types of problems often leads to creative solutions in other areas, as well. To learn more about the relationship between innovation and sustainability, download our infographic.  

The Seven Best Practices for Enterprise Innovation Management

Strong leadership is key to enterprise innovation.

Enterprise products are a complicated sector of any industry. An enterprise product not only must be all things to all stakeholders, it must also meet exactingly high standards, which can vary widely from industry to industry. Creating an innovation strategy that lets you push your industry forward without leaving clients behind needs several pieces to be effective.

Choose A Starting Point

To start with, there needs to be a “bedrock.” While any enterprise product will have wildly different users, usually your clients buy your product to do one of a small number of things. What is that bedrock concern—the one thing the majority of your clients use your product for, or at least start using it for? Just as importantly, what do your clients want your product to do right now, or in the near future, and what’s happening in your various divisions to deliver that?

Know Your Goals

Another question that needs exploring is where your company wants to go with this innovation. Remember that goals are to be reached for, and you don’t get there in one stride, but a careful consultation of your business strategy will offer some drivers for your innovation strategy.

Select A Leader

Innovation on the enterprise level needs a leader, one person who can marshal the whole process and keep it moving forward. Innovation strategy here needs to be strongly focused and needs a shoulder behind it to keep it moving. This also helps in that if somebody has a “big idea,” they know exactly who to take that idea to, and that person has a responsibility to listen.

Innovation is about more than ideas.

Develop A Focus

Innovation leaders should be gathering ideas with a specific focus. A suggestion box is great for small changes, but on an enterprise level, there simply are no small decisions. Enterprise-level innovation is as much about choosing an overall direction to head in as a goal itself. Often, flexibility and innovation will be needed to figure out certain steps. So rather than a free-for-all, your innovation leader should be looking for specific ideas about the future.

Design A Refinement Process

No idea pops out perfectly formed, and that’s particularly true at the enterprise level. Any idea, no matter how brilliant, will need to be carefully examined by the many different stakeholders to ensure it’s workable, and to address small issues before they become bigger challenges. A balance does need to be struck between care and speed; one struggle in any innovative process is the battle between innovation and “the way we’ve always done things.”

Plan For Execution

The final step, once your innovation has been winnowed, refined, and considered, is to begin executing it. With enterprise innovation, this means far more than just building it. For example, rolling out a feature might need to take a phased approach where some clients help beta test the product, or some simply get it earlier than others because the product will need to be tweaked for some industries. There’s only so much planning you can do, of course, so look to an execution that’s quick, but flexible.

And don’t forget; your company can’t focus on just one innovation. This process should be happening in multiple places where you see opportunity for possible disruption. To learn more about enterprise-level innovation strategy,  contact us.

Are Digital Transformation and Innovation the Same Thing?

Digital Transformation and InnovationSome companies have an innovation strategy. Some companies have a digital transformation strategy. Are these the same thing? The short answer is “no” but both efforts are important and here’s a brief explanation and an example of each of them.


Innovation is the introduction of any significant, positive change. This can be changes in public policy, small improvements to a company’s processes, totally new, disruptive product offerings, and more. Global Innovation Management Institute’s describes the distribution of innovation possibilities into one of five categories: business model, production, offering, delivery, and market innovation. And those innovations can be either small, incremental changes that improve an existing concept to huge, transformational that shift the foundation of an organization. It is a pretty inclusive term for progress (sometimes maddeningly so since it covers progress in both range and scope).

An example of a workplace production innovation was a new sick PTO policy co-created by NYU employees. In an online employee conversation about a sick time buy-back process improvement, employees began to think of other ways it might benefit workers and instead decided to create a PTO donation policy for co-workers in need. Employees then shared shared suggestions about how to create this new program and identified best practices from institutions with similar programs.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is not just moving all processes into a digital format, but fundamentally shifting thinking to accommodate the digital environment into all products and processes (online and offline). In this way, a lot of digital transformation can be innovation, because it can improve products or processes incrementally or have more sweeping changes (like fundamentally changing a company’s business model).

Porsche demonstrated digital transformation thinking by not only launching “Car Connect” (an app which handles everything from navigation services to real-time traffic information, reading out news to selecting music), but it has asked for feedback and invites co-creative commentary from its entire employee base. Car Connect and other systems gather customer data that help optimize experiences over time, but also help to report on product performance.

Does your company have an innovation or a digital transformation strategy? Both? Neither?

5 Things We’re Looking Forward to at Open Nation 2018, Berkeley

Open Nation 2018 BerkeleyWe’ve talked about 2018’s innovation learning priorities already and how they will inform the agenda at this year’s Open Nation 2018, Berkeley, but I would love to reiterate that I think those themes of engagement, implementation, and innovation ROI are some of the most interesting and complex problems to solve in the innovation space so the content should be stellar. But I thought I’d share some of the other things that have got us revved up for Open Nation 2018!

70% of Open Nation’s Presenters are Women. We all know that women play a crucial role in innovation, but it’s great to see it take center stage this year at Open Nation as these women talk about some of the most intricate and exciting challenges and solutions when it comes to crowdsourced innovation.

Take-Something-Home Workshops. This is the first time that Open Nation has included these hands-on working sessions. In a forty-five minute working group you can either develop a new innovation process that you can upload and use in your IdeaScale community that day or you can create a communications plan to guide outreach in your next campaign. We’re excited to see the results that you’ll be able to use right away.

The Wolters Kluwer Presentation. There are tons of great presentations scheduled (check out the sessions), but I think that the one I’m most excited for is the presentation by Alison Meyerstein of Wolters Kluwer entitled  “From Ideation to Implementation: Managing an Innovation Pipeline as a Team of One.” An unspoken, but common trend in the innovation management space is that innovation champions are often launching these programs on their own and managing them by themselves. Making this program easy-to-manage and automate and still add value is going to speak to a lot of attendees – it’ll be awesome to see Meyerstein approach innovation management from this angle.

Fictiv and Cloudflare Tour Locations. We’ve got some truly innovative companies hosting us this year: Fictiv has been described as the “AirBnB of Manufacturing” where you can rapidly prototype using 3D printing and agile together. And Cloudflare is the leader in online security. Come see the offices of these companies who are at the top of their game.

Innovation you can eat. I don’t want to say too much here, but suffice to say that an idea that started out in an IdeaScale community is now something edible. You’ll be able to sample this delicious treat when you attend.

Register here. Looking forward to seeing you there in just a few short weeks!

Values & Communication for Nonprofits

Values and Communication for NonprofitsToday we continue our discussion of the opportunities presented for innovation in the nonprofit sector, by looking at two other ways to influence innovation capabilities.

Promote innovation as an organizational value

Making innovation one of the primary concerns for the organization would be very beneficial for keeping up with the demands of the ever-changing scenarios nonprofits face on a daily basis. Placing innovation as a prime focus and not as side responsibility or allowing it to fall on a second plane is vital as teams that are dedicated to innovation have seen much better results in their innovation processes. There is a tendency in business to assign the innovation tasks to someone who already carries a lot on their plates, leading to innovation falling behind in both funding and importance.

Creativity cannot be forced, however when the organization and the people get themselves in the right mindset; the frame is set for a truly innovative experience where there is a real exchange of ideas to find imaginative solutions. Looking back at last week’s post, I discussed how passionate people with a shared interest could be beneficial for the organization. Adding people who believe in the cause and want to improve the organization will be most helpful to introducing innovation in the organization since working alongside someone who is passionate, friendly, and driven is much more pleasant. In this video, the United Way innovation team speaks about their innovation process, showing how important it is to have innovation as an organizational value. 

Clear communication within the organization

Communication, whether written or spoken, is the basis of any activity within the organization, ranging from planning, ideating, or implementing. Communicating effectively is essential for organizations as they seek to promote unity among all parties involved in the nonprofit. Nonprofits often act internationally or over an extensive geographical space and struggle with effective communication. The lack of clear communication is a generator for many significant problems that could pop up in an organization like uncoordinated action and ineffective operations. On the other hand, excellent communication will increase the organization’s productivity, decrease employee turnover, and improve the atmosphere in the workspace. Keeping a transparent and open stream of communication within the organization will help keep people connected, and will improve the attitude because an informed worker tends to have a better position than an uninformed one. A good example of this can be seen with the DREAMS innovation challenge case study, where the challenge acted internationally and was lead by a partnership between many organizations still managed to be successful in creating a good crowdsourced list of great ideas. 

Innovation in nonprofits is hard, but the very nature of the problems faced demand it. As we have seen in this series, nonprofits face important challenges that are in constant change and require innovation. At the same time, nonprofits, due to their complexity, have inherent issues with innovation. As innovation is a necessity, there are many ways of promoting it to solve the most pressing challenges within the organization.

This blog is part of a three-part series focusing on opportunities for innovation in the nonprofit sector, authored by our Accounts Fellow, Aaron Shildrick. Read the previous blog posts, which discuss the problems to be solved in the nonprofit sector as well a other best practices for innovation success in the nonprofit sector. 

What Makes Switzerland a Leader in Innovation?

Switzerland a Leader in InnovationSwitzerland takes the first place in the rating of the World Intellectual Property Organization on the level of innovation development. This is the sixth time that the country has achieved the top five. This year, Sweden takes the second place, while Great Britain takes the third one. How have they achieved these results? Here are five reasons for their success

They are a nation of inventors

Switzerland is a global leader due to their level of scientific knowledge and their ability to launch technologies into consumables for the market.  Switzerland has a commanding lead on the number of patents of inventions in relation to population. There were 873 patent license applications per million of inhabitants in Switzerland back in the year 2015. The Netherlands took the second place (419/1 mln), Sweden took the third (392/1 mln).

Switzerland has some world class R&D establishments

Swiss universities appear to be some of the leading institutions on a regular basis. For example, Lake Of Zurich High Technical School appeared was the fourth place University right behind Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London in Times Higher Education World Reputation Ranking rating back in the year 2016.

Switzerland also offers an opportunity to develop research and development, innovation centers and technoparks throughout the country, because there is constant collaboration between educational institutions, universities and the private sector.

Transnational corporations provide sources of venture capital

Swiss pharmaceutical giants as Roche and Novartis are some of the biggest in Switzerland research and development centers, spending huge budgets for R&D aims. Keeping and developing close contact ties between business, authorities, venture capital, small and medium-sized business, innovational startups, universities and R&D establishments, Roche and Novartis appear to be the leading drivers of innovation development both in Switzerland and in the world.

Focus on green economy

A solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 Swiss plane recently attracted the attention of the whole world. When asked what it was needed for, project managers answered that “the plane was built to get a very simple but very important message across peoples’ mind: the resources of our planet are limited. In the future, humankind is going to need other power technologies of high quality … Clean technologies and power production should become a part of this solution.”

A solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 Swiss plane is just one example from a range of projects targeted at the development of power technologies of a new generation. The majority of Swiss technology companies place a great deal of focus on issues connected with the development of renewable energy resources. There is even a special reward in order to encourage innovations in this area in Switzerland called WattD`Or. However, all these advanced technologies should, as a result, take on a form of products, outlets and technologies, commercially successful and in-demand.

Educated workers

Switzerland ranked high for: knowledge-intensive employment. Perhaps this a result of their dual education system and the pull of Switzerland itself for highly qualified workers.

If you liked this post, you might want to learn how to bring the Silicon Valley magic to your organization. 

This is a guest post by Melisa Marzett, who is a freelance author living in Phoenix, Arizona and currently working for Smart Essay Rewriter. Also, she has been a ballerina, a singer, and a piano player. She does her writing best in coffee shops. SShe believes that women are as good at writing as men are and deserve to be worldwide famous and awarded with literary prizes.

Workplace Environments that Inspire Innovation

A great deal of thought has been given to office design. Company leaders are constantly trying to create a workplace that improves employee happiness, productivity, and creativity. To add fuel to that fire, in a recent survey of over 2,500 U.S. professionals, “Eighty-two percent of participants said that a workplace must exhibit innovative design in order to truly foster a culture of innovation where they can do their best thinking.” In that same survey the three most requested attributes of a workplace hospitable to creativity were natural light, creative imagery, and reconfigurable spaces with varied furniture. In short, your cubicle with standard issue rolling chair isn’t going to cut it anymore. So what are some examples of workplaces that are delivering on a great workplace environment?

Workplace Environments that Inspire Innovation

Selgas Cano’s offices in Madrid are a great example of an office that brings in natural light – not only that – but other studies have suggested that views of nature are calming and beneficial. This looks like a great office to go to every day.

Viacom NY


Viacom in New York commissioned artist Shantell Martin to paint an intricate and sprawling mural that leads employees from reception to conference room with images and messaging.

Red Bull London

When it comes to flexible workspaces – employees feel invited to be mobile in the workplace – work on a bean bag, at a standing desk, on the floor… The Red Bull Office in London has the feel of a lounge more than it does a workplace where the top floor plays open host to reception, a bar, a café, flexible and closed meeting areas and a main boardroom. No assigned seating necessary.

Other important workplace trends that help to make for a better office environment that can attract and inspire top talent include adding aspects that encourage health and movement (standing desks and gyms, but also attractive staircases and moveable walls). Still others want to include creative artifacts or materials (like floors made of tires or meeting rooms that look like hot air balloons). Seeing these things out of context can sometimes spark creativity.

What other things make a workplace environment more creative and engaging for employees?

Nonprofit Solutions for Innovation

Nonprofit Solutions for innovationIn the last post from this series, we talked about the nonprofit situation and how the nature of nonprofits leads to inherent problems. At the end of the post there were some solutions bullet-pointed, and today the first two of them will be visited and explained in more depth to offer more valuable insight.

Harness the shared interest among all participants.  

What sets nonprofits from other organizations? Well, at its core, a nonprofit works toward a greater good, following a mission itself and not seeking profit as a primary concern. Donors, volunteers, staff, stakeholders, government officials, and even people who benefit from the work of the organization, all contribute to an active community with a shared interest, generating momentum and knowledge. And it’s of great value to offer a sense of purpose in the workplace: people feel more engaged, have better job satisfaction, and even perform their tasks with more accuracy. Having a way to harness that diversity of insight and perspective could be vital to implementing new ideas into existing work practices. Organizations like these attract many people who are aligned with the mission the organization has in the form of employees, volunteers, donors, and stakeholders, all seeking to have an impact towards finding a solution to the large-scale problems they tackle. All of these people, in general, have a genuine motivation for putting in the hard work that has to be done. It is said that any company’s best asset is the people that work there, and in this case, people who work for nonprofits tend to have higher motivation and put more effort into achieving the goals of the organization.

This shared interest is vital because if harnessed, it represents a strong surge of motivation leading to increased productivity, better workplace environments, better coordination, and a smoother path to implementation. The Salvation Army is a great example of how nonprofits have the potential of leading the way in one of the most crucial sectors of them all – motivation and productivity. With the personal feeling of satisfaction in one’s actions as payment, the salvation army has made a massive impact in American society.

Leverage the manager’s influence

Use the authority of a manager to break down internal barriers and use available resources collectively for sparking new ideas. Several times in nonprofit organizations internal conflicts arise because of the diversity of stakeholders. Good leadership can use authority to break internal barriers and promote shared values and communication within the different sections of the organization. Transparency in innovation is essential for a more productive process, and the manager can be a vital piece for getting rid of all internal barriers and problems that occur within the organization and its departments. Many times the only people that have a holistic view of big nonprofits are the managers and other leaders because employees are tasked with small tasks and only focus on their part. A manager has the power to connect different people in different places in the organization and generate a better understanding of the organization as a whole, leading to new ideas and new conversations occurring. Besides this, the empathy created for others that are trying to achieve the same mission can be very helpful as it fosters better relationships within the organization. The DREAMS innovation challenge does a magnificent job with this. This video portrays the call to action from good leadership, being inclusive with all parties.

Find these ideas interesting? Next week we will tackle two new solutions for nonprofits. Keep yourself posted and check back in to read more about the solutions you can try today!

This blog is part of a three-part series focusing on opportunities for innovation in the nonprofit sector, authored by our Accounts Fellow, Aaron Shildrick. The following blog posts (released every Thursday) will be focused on the solutions, providing a better insight into each of these solutions mentioned.