Is Innovation Just a Buzzword?

is innovation just a buzzwordI moved to the Bay Area three years ago for an exciting new job with IdeaScale. From the first week in town I was meeting new people constantly—people here really love networking. It was amazing, it was exciting, it was … endless. When everyone is looking for their next opportunity, social gatherings can easily resemble games of buzzword BINGO. Conversations often start with, “Do you work at a startup?” Everyone exchanges mission statements that begin with, “We’re making the world better by disrupting…” or, “We’re the Uber of…” Some of the lingo is helpful shorthand, like B2B and B2C. Other terms are ambiguous and only make the speaker look or feel impressive—“hack” is my personal favorite.

Pretty soon I had developed an elevator pitch (another insider favorite) of my own for these occasions. It included crowdsourcing, SaaS, cloud-based, B2B, ideate and the big one: INNOVATION. This pitch made startup CEO-in-training types drool, but drew eye rolls from everyone else living in or near Silicon Valley and worse yet, blank stares from most out-of-towners and my family back home. Were they right to be bored? Could these terms I’d learned to love and believe in be merely empty promises?

Tepid responses weren’t going to do me any good. A pitch only works if it starts a conversation. I started following up my intro pitch with examples of what my current favorite customers were doing. I got to talk about city governments looking to save money found success by inviting all employees to share ideas like the City of Atlanta or space nerds and NASA working and wondering together about Mars. It turns out, not many people know much about crowdsourcing, because they hated the term but loved the real-world stories.

I love hearing what our customers are doing with our software, what they are making possible, and what they are learning. For me, this is the real answer to, “What does IdeaScale do?” We enable our customers to use crowdsourcing for change and improvement within their organization or beyond. What innovation actually looks like differs from customer to customer, from campaign to campaign, from objective to objective. Innovation is more than a buzzword, it’s the goal—be better than those before you and those surrounding you. Crowdsourcing isn’t just a fad.

  • It’s customizable. Crowdsourcing works best when you bring together a diverse group for a common goal. The crowd can be anyone: customers, employees, followers, experts, enthusiasts, you name it. The goal is whatever topic or challenge you want new insight into.
  • It’s powerful. Wielded properly, crowdsourcing can solve any problem and answer any question. Look at sites like Quora and Wikipedia, both are powered by the crowd. Now imagine what could be possible if you got those minds together to tackle topics and challenges faced by your organization.
  • It’s sustainable. All it takes is a topic, a goal, and an engaged audience. Some organizations run crowdsourced challenges and campaigns on a requiring basis, tapping into new audiences and new advances each time. Some organizations apply crowdsourcing to different areas for improvement and exploration with each engagement.

It’s been three years and these stories about the amazing things our customers are doing are still my favorite part of the job. We help our customers use crowdsourcing as the mechanism to achieve innovation, and it amazes me every time to see it in action. In social and professional gatherings I now see myself as an ambassador for crowdsourcing, because it’s my job to teach the value beyond the buzz.


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 Lindsay Rentz, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale.

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