This year, the US Coast Guard won the annual Innovation Management Award for organization that could demonstrate the best and most repeatable innovation process. That process surfaced numerous valuable ideas that will lead to lives saved in future Coast Guard operations. So we asked the Coast Guard a how innovation maximizes mission performance and here’s what they had to say.
IdeaScale: Why is innovation vital to your organization?
US Coast Guard: The Coast Guard has eleven statutory missions, ranging from protecting living marine resources like fish to chasing drug smugglers. There’s never enough time, money, assets, or people to get all of those missions done to the level we’d like. It’s extremely important for us to benefit from our the creative and intellectual capabilities of our workforce in order to really maximize our mission performance. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve, and the Innovation Program provides leadership for that constant renewal.
IdeaScale: What’s the most important piece of advice that you can give to someone launching an IdeaScale community?
US Coast Guard: Have a few good research questions in the can before you launch. Have a diverse set of challenges, ones that are broad and ones that appeal to specific communities. Use your challenges to grow participation, and always keep your radar on for some problem in your organization that could benefit from crowdsourcing. Often you’ll hear leadership wondering what to do about an emerging issue. Offer them the collective wisdom of the organization to at least begin to look for solutions.
IdeaScale: What are you most proud of in your innovation program?
US Coast Guard: Our program has become the Coast Guard’s Swiss Army Knife in terms of thought leadership; people come to us for help on a myriad of issues, many of which are on the “solving world hunger” level of difficulty. It’s extremely fun and rewarding to offer some techniques like crowdsourcing and human centered design to get discussion of the ground. I’ve seen the organization grow and mature in certain areas based on our work.