Tag: collaboration

Innovation: Ancient, Ageless, and Diverse

Innovation DiverseDid you attend that start-up incubator networking event last week? Did you know that that start-up incubator mentality isn’t the new revolutionary concept many believe it to be? According to the Harvard Business Review it dates back to 15th-century Italy. During the Renaissance, master artists in Florence were committed to sharing their talent with up-and-coming artists in hopes that new techniques would emerge. This collaboration would mostly occur at a “bottega” or workshop where many others would join to share insights and discuss revolutionary ways of working together.

Much like today in our 21st century startup incubators and quick-pitch investor sessions, the 15th century bottega was a place for artists, businesspeople, politicians, and economists to come together and revel in new value creation; turning ideas into action through diverse dialogue. This diverse dialogue has been considered time and time again to be a critical factor in fostering new value, however, until recently it has been difficult to prove. The Harvard Business Review highlights this here and found research to validate this claim. This study found that companies which proactively focus on hiring employee with both inherit diversity and acquired diversity were 45% more likely to see a growth in market share over a previous year, and 70% more likely to expand into new markets.

So why I am referring to the 15th century Renaissance to make a point about diversity? Because those artists, businesspeople, politicians, economists, and others (as mentioned above) represented a group of individuals that had both inherent and acquired diversity, ranging from educational backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds, and experiential backgrounds from around the world. Diversity in innovation is ageless and will never go out of style. This level of diversity allowed for transformational innovation in the 15th century, just as it now allows for transformational innovation in the 21st century.

Organizations are no longer viewing diversity as separate from other business practices, and recognize that diverse perspectives will differentiate them from competitors.

A diverse workforce is necessary to drive innovation, foster creativity, and guide business strategies now more than ever. Competition is strong and access to information is easier than ever before. Involving diverse thinkers will encourage out-of-the-box thinking leading to new ideas, new offerings and the ultimate competitive advantage.

Five Tips for Cultivating Creative Thinking on Your Team

Creativity is the great untapped resource on any team.

How do you bring out the creativity of your team? It’s one of the harder questions to answer in innovation management, but it doesn’t have to be. With some smart thinking and careful decisions, you can bring out the best in your team.

Be Open

Creativity is encouraged, or discouraged, by leadership. In some cases, company leaders have discovered they’ve got brilliantly innovative employees with smart ideas, but nobody bothers to ask them what they think, and they’re not willing to come forward at risk of looking foolish. Set up channels of communication so employees can talk to you and know that they’re being heard, and make sure they follow your example by talking with customers and others their work touches. With that, you’ll see the gates open for ideation.

Encourage Cross Competencies

One of the toughest problems with creativity is that it can be difficult to get perspective outside the daily grind. If one team is customer-facing and the other is handling the back end, they may not understand each others’ challenges. Make sure that every team that “touches” each other has cross competencies and communicates so they can see their work from a different perspective.

Promote Accountability

Creativity can lead to explosive success, or it can fall flat on its face. It’s a difficult call to make because even brilliant ideas can be hamstrung by unexpected factors. Putting yourself out there, let’s not forget, is a gamble not just at work, but with your sense of self. If people think their careers are on the line or think they won’t get credit, they won’t bother with innovation. So, set standards to reward success and to limit the pain of failure. Innovators should get proper credit for their ideas, and if an idea doesn’t work, the blame game should be strictly off-limits; instead, set the standard that the entire team parses what went wrong and applies that to the next idea.

All a great idea needs is a spark.

Create Incubators

It’s easy for an established business to go on “autopilot.” If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right? But that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment and innovate. Creating small pilot projects and other incubators in your most established businesses will allow you to foster innovation and give your team room to toy with ideas. If one doesn’t work, you can set it aside as a learning opportunity and try the next one. When employees understand that creativity is low risk and high reward, you’ll see far more of it.

Discourage Complacency

Humility is an important aspect of creativity, and there’s no hubris greater in business than deciding your place as an industry leader is assured. Again and again in business history, from the American auto industry to the current tech industry, you see companies assume nothing could knock from their perches, only to watch them learn the hard way that isn’t true. So, always ask “If we’re the best, how can we be better?” It’s the only question, long term, that truly matters in any business.

If you’re ready to learn about innovation management, take the first step. Contact us.

Expert Interview Series: Jennifer Riggins of Happy Melly On Growing Your Brand Using Collaboration And Innovation

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Jennifer Riggins is the marketeer at Happy Melly, a virtual global business network dedicated to making happiness at work the new norm.

Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Happy Melly is set up with the belief that happier employees are more productive, better able to achieve goals and be successful. To start, how does the happiness of each component of a team contribute to the whole working effectively?

Don’t love the word “component” kicking off the first question – we aren’t talking about Ford’s pieces on an assembly line that have mostly been replaced by robots, we’re talking about human beings, usually working in knowledge and creative-based jobs, albeit toward a common goal.

Happy workers aren’t just more productive, but they are more loyal to team and business, more innovative in an environment that lets them feel safe to experiment and risk failure, and they are more collaborative. Bringing a group of these happy individuals together toward a common goal makes them more likely to achieve or surpass those goals.

Happy Melly also allies with social entrepreneurs, to increase the cooperative impact, as well as giving value, attention, and credibility to each component of a partnership. To start, can you talk a bit about what you mean by social entrepreneurs? How do you decide on who you’re going to work with?

A social entrepreneur is anyone who works toward affecting social change, solving problems – macro and micro – and making a difference in at least one life. One doesn’t have to own her or his own business – it’s anyone who wants to affect this change and disrupt and improve, even within the confines of a large corporation.

Anyone is welcome to join Happy Melly as a supporter – all we ask for is a small annual fee based on the resident country’s income. For a Happy Melly funder, which involves a much more significant financial and time commitment, we do have requirements, which are evaluated by current funders. Funders come from businesses that have a clearly defines purpose that aligns with Happy Melly’s own vision of happiness at work, and that looks to expand their products or services globally and transparently. Of course, these funders want to become an active part of invigorating our growing community with experiments and feedback.
How can creative collaboration help “value, attention, and credibility” to the parts of a partnership? What have been some particularly successful collaborations you’ve seen or taken part in?

I can’t talk too much about collaboration among supporters – all we know is that 55 percent of conversations within our more than 600-person Slack community happen in private message which we think implies a lot of collaboration. In the shared Slack channels, we also see a core group of members constantly openly sharing experiments and offering feedback. One supporter collaboration that has come out of our community is the Agile Uprising which looks to build a community around the agile mindset and includes four Happy Melly members as founders.

One area where we see truly visible collaboration is among our Funders. This much smaller group acts as a sort of startup incubator. With a similar general goal of increasing happiness at work, there is a lot of support and overlap, with Lisette’s Collaboration Superpowers for remote working, Jurgen’s fourth book Managing for Happiness and the Management 3.0 brand, Jason’s Lean Change Management book and workshops, and Learning 3.0’s books and workshops, among our long-term funders, each bouncing ideas off each other and sharing experiences. And then the customers of these brands are then able to pick and choose from the array of the solutions that work for them.

One area where I’ve seen the most successful collaboration among Funders is Sergey. I’ve seen him spending the last couple years traveling the world, bouncing ideas off of members, until he found a void in workshop management software. Because of this, he was able to build his own company Workshop Butler which solves this problem and three of the other funders were some of its first customers, providing candid feedback in return for helping to steer the product roadmap.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once joked, “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” Can you talk about how collaboration can help test an idea, and how it can help make an idea superior to the first iteration?

At Happy Melly, we’re first and foremost about feedback – and certainly it’s true that two heads are better than one. Most of our interaction is in a massive Slack community with more than 100 topic-related channels, ranging from agile and lean change to remote working to more personal ones like family, vulnerability and general pursuits of happiness. Members usually choose a channel where they’ve gained confidence with the members to talk about obstacles they are meeting at work, broach their first idea of how to overcome them, and to ask for advice. This sort of working out loud allows ideas to mature, experiments to go on, and then other feedback cycles to continue as updates are shared.

We also hold Weekly Happiness Challenges, which has one or two members leading an experiment and discussion around a specific topic a week. They can be smaller challenges that run throughout the week, like on remote working or personal branding, or they can be big undertakings that can take longer than a week, like abstaining from negativity on social media or gratitude journaling.

Happy Melly have a bunch of thought and workplace experiments listed on your website, regarding productivity, collaboration, and workplace happiness. What are one or two experiments someone might try to start steering their workplace towards a more collaborative environment?

One run by Agile Coach and Supporter Josh Briggs. He challenged us to be vulnerable via the following experimental options:

    • Before heading into the office or a meeting, encourage yourself to let go of worrying about what others think of you and to share one genuine thought you have.
    • When someone ask you how you are doing, tell them how you are actually doing. Do not respond with the canned, “I’m fine and you?”
    • When you need help, let someone know you’re struggling and ask for it.

Trust and vulnerability are intrinsically linked – you can’t build trust with your teammates until you are vulnerable yourself. I think this is why Josh’s experimental week just this December sparked the most discussion we’ve ever had on our Slack community that continues today.

How can collaboration help workers feel more engaged, and more a part of a company and a community? What difference can that make, both for the employees and the company?

Working in silos is proven to be unsuccessful. If we are just cogs in a chain, sure it may work, but if you want to create a productive environment that’s constantly innovating and improving, we have to work together. Collaborating toward a common goal does make us feel more engaged and a part of something bigger than ourselves. As talked about before, it makes us feel more likely to experiment. Also only 12 percent of people change jobs because of money – while 80 or so percent of HR reps believe that’s the reason – that means creating a sense of loyalty through collaboration is key to your company’s growth and success.

Collaboration offers many different viewpoints from lots of different people. This can offer unique insight into what people really need and want. Can you talk about how crowdsourcing can be a source of ideas for future projects?

For sure crowdsourcing ideas is valuable. Many of our members are coaches and team leaders, so they will present a challenge and ‘idea-source’ solutions, which then other members will also test out. And on a team, we are more and more moving away from the top-down mandate of the Waterfall method of massive project management.

Instead, everyone is responsible for her or his smaller piece, which contributes to the whole. Similarly, everyone can express ideas and opinions, which can then be either used at the moment or put on ice for future experimentation. As organizations become increasingly collaborative and flat, ‘idea-sourcing’ becomes revenue driving.

Likewise, how can having a concrete goal help a company become extra streamlined and efficient? What could be some results of this new efficiency?

Concrete goals and idea-sourcing aren’t mutually exclusive. A company can and should have goals that creates a sense of unity and transparency, but then crowdsourcing ideas can be used to help achieve that goal. But certainly goals don’t make companies more streamlined and efficient – people and processes do. However, offering attainable shared goals is one way of motivating people to work harder.

Even if a company doesn’t already have a huge customer base, there’s still a lot of ways to crowdsource ideas and inspiration. Do you ever monitor social media and the web to keep a finger on the pulse? What are some methods a company might use social media or automated alerts to monitor new industries or trends?

Sure, we use tools like Google Analytics and Hootsuite to monitor mentions of our brand. And certainly social media is a great way to crowdsource ideas for blogposts and experiments. And of course drawing on real life contemporary events via the news for examples of old school versus innovative companies always gives us things to talk about within our community.

But if you have a small customer base, you need to just be out there – online and in person – to find out who your perspective customers are and asking them what problems they are looking to solve. Social media is just one place you can ask these business-saving questions.

Crowdsourcing and collaboration is a great way to spread the word on a brand, without being pushy or spending tons of money on questionable advertising. How can a great crowdsourcing campaign help get the name out there, even more so than traditional advertising or marketing? And what are some of the benefits of the philanthropic nature of spreading the word via doing good deeds?

First, it’s about creating valuable content that makes want to share it – it’s the basis of social media success. And then it’s about making the ask – having the guts to say we need something and we were wondering if you would share it. Of course, that means prioritizing sharing first other people’s work before you start asking them.

Want to connect and collaborate with you workforce? Start your own IdeaScale community today!

Five Product Innovations that Evolved Over Time

Five Product Innovations that Evolved Over TimeThe product innovations that generate the most excitement and public interest are the disruptive innovations. They could be a new way to call a cab, drive a car with little need for gas, or a completely new way to look at medical science, technology, or entertainment.

However, these innovations aren’t that common. The most successful, innovative companies strike a balance between core, adjacent, and transformational initiatives. A 2012 study found that companies that allocated about 70% of their innovation activity to core initiatives, 20% to adjacent ones, and 10% to transformational ones outperformed their peers.

To illustrate how this can happen, it’s helpful to look at innovations that evolved over time. Sometimes, you have the perfect solution already created. You just need a different perspective, and opportunity to look at it in a new way.

Listerine – From Surgery to Your Bathroom Counter

Listerine is well-known today as a mouthwash, but it didn’t start that way. This product innovation initially had an entirely different use, in operating rooms.

In the 1860’s, an English doctor named Joseph Lister was inspired by Louis Pasteur’s work on microbial infection. Lister was able to demonstrate that using carbolic acid on surgical dressing dramatically reduced rates of post-surgical infection.

Inspired by Lister’s discovery, American Joseph Lawrence developed a surgical antiseptic that was alcohol based and included eucalyptol, menthol, and other compounds. Lawrence named his creation “Listerine” in honor of Dr. Lister.

A licensee realized the potential of Listerine extended well beyond the operating room. With aggressive marketing to dentists and common Americans, Listerine became a runaway success in the 1920’s as a treatment for chronic bad breath. In seven years, the company’s revenue rose from $115,000 to more than $8 million.

Avon Skin So Soft – From Moisturizer to Hiking Companion 

Some product innovations aren’t created by the company at all. Instead, the innovations are brought out by customers who discover a new way to use a product. This is why including various sources of input is so vital in innovation projects!

Avon’s Skin So Soft bath oil was long considered by customers as a useful bug repellent. The company points out that the product wasn’t intended as a bug repellant, but Consumer Reports found that it worked to repel some mosquitos and ticks for up to two hours.

Two hours isn’t as long as most bug sprays, but it is something. For many of its fans, the oil has a pleasant scent and a positive effect on the skin. Avon responded to the product’s popularity by creating a Skin So Soft Bug Guard, a similar product designed as a bug repellent.

By listening to customer’s reviews of its products, Avon was able to innovate within its product line and create something new in response to consumer demand.

WD-40 – From Bombs Away to Squeaking Hinges 

There’s a joke that anything can be fixed as long as you have both duct tape and WD-40. What many people don’t know is that WD-40 was among many product innovations that initially had a totally different purpose.

When it was developed in 1953, WD-40 was intended to be used by Convair to protect the Atlas missile balloon tanks from rust and corrosion. The name means “Water Displacement, 40th formula”, which gives you some insight into how difficult it was to create.

WD-40 was later found to have a wide variety of household uses, and became available to the general public in 1958. While the product isn’t glamorous, the company has grown steadily, especially in foreign markets.

This simple innovation has caused WD-40’s stock to grow 200% in the last ten years, while the S&P Index has grown 70% in that time. The company positions the product as a multi-use item, allowing the flexibility in marketing and store placement, as well as ongoing profitability.

Minoxidil (aka Rogaine) – From Blood Pressure to Bald Heads 

Medical product innovations often come from alternate uses that are discovered over time. Minoxidil was tested to treat ulcers, which did not work. However, it was found to be powerful in widening blood vessels. As a result, minoxidil initially approved by the FDA as a blood pressure treatment medicine named Loniten.

Unfortunately, Loniten had an unpleasant side effect – it caused excessive hair growth on both the head and other parts of the body. Patients who were balding were glad to have additional head hair, but it could also affect the arms, legs, chest, and back.

Researchers jumped on this side effect, seeing a big market in treating baldness. In 1988, the drug was approved for treating baldness in men, and was released under the name Rogaine. Now available in a dropper, foam, and spray, Rogaine has been available without a prescription since 1995.

Slinky – From Stabilizing Ship Instruments to a Favorite Toy 

In 1943 a naval mechanical engineer named Richard James was working on creating springs that would support and stabilize sensitive equipment on ships. The equipment would often get damaged or lose calibration on rough seas.

As he developed one spring, he accidentally knocked it off a shelf. He watched it as it “stepped” in a series of arcs across the room. He realized that if he adjusted the steel and tension, he could make a spring that would walk and become a great toy.

His instincts were correct, and in 1945 he was able to demonstrate and sell the toy Slinky in the toy section of a Gimbels department store. The first 400 units sold out within 90 minutes, and the toy continues to be a children’s classic.

Not all product innovations have to be dramatic and transformative. Of course, you can’t avoid disruptive innovation, but having a balanced approach, focusing on all three types of innovation is key. Transformative innovations can change your organization’s trajectory, but incremental improvements are equally vital.

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.

One More Week to Submit to the Innovation Management Awards

innovation-management-deadlineAs we wrap up this election cycle, another deadline is right around the corner – the deadline for submissions to the 2016 Innovation Management Awards!

If you’re still debating whether you should submit, or if you’ve already submitted your organization and are awaiting the results, here are some of the lessons that we’ve learned from past Innovation Management Award winners that you can take to heart for the future.

Have a Plan

When it comes to having an effective, efficient innovation campaign, arguably the number one most important aspect is having a plan, and have that plan developed prior to beginning the campaign. This means thinking through all aspects of engagement, moderation, enactment, tracking, rewards if applicable. How are you going to get your employees and/or consumers involved in the campaign? How are you going to sift through innovation ideas once people start suggesting them? How are you going to decide on winning idea(s)? How are you going to track the implementation and enactment of ideas, to see exactly how effective they are? How are you going to reward participants for their participation? These, and many more, are all questions that should be considered and answered before you even start a campaign. As we’ve seen, when you have strategies in place from the start, you’re helping yourself succeed.

All three of our winners from the 2014 Innovation Management Awards had exemplary plans in place for their campaigns, specifically with relation to social media outreach and engagement. The Department of Labor thought through three specific phases of their campaign, and the latter two phases including utilizing social media as a way of examining the accessibility of that media. The Department of Energy used their Twitter account to garner approximately 11% of the Sunshot Catalyst campaign’s members. Scentsy used social media to promote successfully completed ideas, in turn encouraging the community to get involved and be involved in the future.

Make It Easy

Another important facet of having a successful campaign is how easy you make it for your community to participate. This goes somewhat into having a plan – if you’ve thought ahead well enough, you will hopefully have thought about the path of least resistance for those that you would most like to hear from. If you’re attempting to engage employees, perhaps set aside a half an hour every day specifically for employees to create and share ideas. If you’re hoping to engage a wider community, maybe make a “cheat sheet” of step-by-step instructions for participation. If you have satellite locations for your organization, create easily shareable communications for them to pass along to their individual communities. Innovators are more likely to be involved if they can spend their actual time innovating and surfacing ideas rather than struggling with the logistics of being involved.

Focus on Inclusivity and Transparency

As in many areas of life, we seem to be striving more and more for inclusivity and transparency, perhaps related to our continual struggle to remedy past inequities and prevent them in the future. Whatever the reason, it’s a step in the right direction. This focus is a commonality amongst our winners, and is a good indicator that you might be a powerful candidate for the Innovation Management Awards. All three of our 2015 Innovation Management Award winners focused on these two important attributes for their campaigns. Both the Making All Voices Count and Innovate Your State campaigns were looking to engage citizens in ways that could make their experiences better, specifically in ways that could increase representation and government accountability and transparency. The Western Australia Police found that the transparency during their process increased participation, even when that transparency involved constructive criticism.

So if you have a plan, make it easy, and focus on inclusivity and transparency, you’re a perfect fit. Be sure to submit your organization to the 2016 Innovation Management Awards by Friday, November 18. You can find more information and enter your submission here.

Who Knows Your Campus Best?

crowdsourcing at collegeAs crowdsourcing becomes more acceptable and common, it is also becoming more prevalent on college campuses and among college students. Some students utilize crowdsourcing in order to find out how other students have felt about certain classes or professors. Others may use crowdsourcing in order to confirm an assignment or textbook. Recently, following almost two decades of construction and renovations, Washington State University used crowdsourcing to map the facilities and utilities on campus.

These are just small examples of ways in which crowdsourcing can be useful on college and university campuses. What it ultimately comes down to is that students, faculty and staff are part of the community, and are thus most familiar with the space and quirks of a university, and are best equipped to present common problems and provide possible solutions. Even beyond the institutional knowledge, crowdsourcing also helps students to feel invested and heard in the community.

One of the most significant ways in which crowdsourcing is being utilized on college campuses today is with university IT help desks. Such was the case for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), which recently completed its pledge to have 100 IT wins in a year. When incoming CIO Curtis Carver was getting ready to begin his position at UAB, he set a goal of delivering 100 IT wins in his first year. In order to accomplish that goal, he initiated the SPARK initiative—utilizing IdeaScale—in order for community members to engage. The program was especially effective because it gamified the system, providing badges as a motivator for participators. This gamification and badging of participation has been proven as a tried and true method for getting higher engagement.

In addition to exceeding their goals by over 200%, there were also a number of unintended benefits, including positive feedback about the method of communication and prioritizing solutions.

As CIO at UA Birmingham Curtis Carver said, “[Crowdsourcing] gets us out of the business of saying ‘no’ and into the business of facilitating solutions. Within IdeaScale, everybody can be an agent of innovation.”

To find out more about how the University of Alabama at Birmingham is using IdeaScale to crowdsource fixable problems, click here to download and read the recent white paper.

Why Should the Public Vote on the Ideas of Government Employees?

texas hhsThese days, it’s easy to feel apathetic and frustrated by politics and government in general. It often feels as though your voice is not heard, that special interests and corporations are more important than the citizens at large. But luckily, there are factions of the government that are realizing the futility folks are feeling, and are working to make the government work for the people again.

One of the ways this is happening is with public engagement on the ideas of government employees. A few short years ago, the state of Texas enacted legislation that requires any state agency with 1,500 or more employees to provide a process by which an employee may submit suggestions and ideas for cost savings and allow the public to vote on those ideas. Who doesn’t love cost saving? And who doesn’t love their voice being heard on cost saving ideas? What a win-win scenario.

The Texas Health and Human Services System selected IdeaScale as its platform, and has been actively promoting and engaging with citizens to find areas to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Since the program was started, there have been over 1,400 ideas, with over 1,100 citizens logging over 16,000 votes. Now that’s a response!

Initiatives such as this serve a dual purpose of not only reducing costs, but also of engaging citizens in decisions that have a real impact on their lives, and allowing them a voice. After being involved in such a process, it wouldn’t be surprising if those citizens are more likely to participate in other civic situations where they might have previously been discouraged.

To read more about the Texas Health and Human Services initiative for saving money for their citizens, click here to download the recent case study.

A Distributed Workforce Collaborates

wapol 4.19.16Social media platforms. Email. Video messaging. These days, long distance communication is easier than ever before. This ease of crossing the void has allowed folks with a common aim and a like mind—even if they are separated by distance—to come together. This is true of fandoms, like Whovians or Hamilton superfans; it is true of news events, like the Supreme Court upholding marriage equality; it is true of political and social movements, like those in relation to the 2016 Election. It is also true of governmental agencies who span a wide area but are working to maintain cohesiveness and efficiency.

The Western Australia Police are an exemplary case for using an online platform in order to improve legislation and the quality of life, not only for the citizens they protect but also for the police jurisdictions themselves. In fact, the Western Australia Police were awarded a 2015 Innovation Management Award for Best Engagement Strategy.

The Western Australia Police jurisdiction is responsible for policing the world’s largest single geographic jurisdiction; not just Australia’s largest geographic jurisdiction, the world’s largest. Their territory covers over 2.5 million square miles. That’s quite a spread! As a result of this widespread coverage area, as well as rate of growth, it was becoming more important to the WA Police to examine and reevaluate all aspects of policing services.

In response, they implemented Frontline 2020 using the IdeaScale platform. By providing an online community for WA Police in which they could recommend improvements and collaborate on new ideas, Frontline 2020 helped bridge the physical gap between these public servants. WA Police also discovered that internal engagement increased when every participant received personalized responses, even if the suggested idea was not implementable for practical reasons.

When examining such a massive machine, efficiency (both monetary efficiency and manpower efficiency) is everything. Consider these wins which have already been produced as a result of the Frontline 2020 initiative: a legislative change saved 46,000 frontline hours each year; streamlined reporting procedures, which saved 8,000 hours annually; and changing the rules regarding warrant service that saved thousands of hours in travel time. Perhaps an even greater landmark, the initiative included over 60% of the workforce participating in the process, across distances, in pursuit of a common goal.

To find out more about how the Western Australia Police are using IdeaScale to improve their own lives and the lives of their citizens, click here to download the recent case study.

Why Process Efficiency Is Integral to Business

process efficiencySometimes in the business world, it’s all about the money.

Other times in the business world, it’s all about the efficiency.

In fact, those two things are related. Because as we’ve all been told, time is money, and efficiency equals time. When organizations are working towards particular financial goals, it can be difficult to think about taking the time to consider what processes could work better in order to increase efficiency. However, as a company that is specifically geared towards safety and protection, Mine Safety Appliances (MSA) found it important to do just that.

Founded in 1914, MSA is the global leader in the development, manufacture and supply of safety products that protect people and facility infrastructures. Recently, they took stock of responses from an employee engagement survey, and discovered that there were any number of inefficiencies and bureaucratic red tape which were preventing employees from quickly solving problems that they encountered. Realizing that more time could be spent on the job of developing and supplying safety products if these processes were streamlined, the MSA created a community using IdeaScale technology. The program was called [email protected] (WTF standing for “What to Fix,” of course) and encouraged employees to submit their ideas. One of the biggest focuses of the MSA was on keeping the initiative transparent, open and easy.

The massive, widespread participation and the staggering number of participators—leading to an almost unheard of 99 percent participation—proves exactly how much a program like [email protected] was needed. The program crowdsourced 50 ideas, generated hundreds of comments and recorded 4,000 votes from 700 pilot users. And this was over only a four-week period!

Three of these ideas were elevated for evaluation, but Douglas McClaine, Senior Vice President, Secretary and Chief Legal Officer at MSA believes this program is exactly what MSA needed “at a time when we want to drive innovation and outside-the-box thinking.”

To find out more about MSA and their [email protected] program, click here to download the recent case study.

Innovation is About More than Ideas




“We are what we repeatedly do. Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”

– Aristotle

Aristotle was a wise man for many reasons, not least because of that quote. In order to become really good at something, the formation of habits and processes are essential. We at IdeaScale noticed that, regardless of type of business or organization, there were certain similarities among all those who were engaging in innovation programs; we noticed that there were a few key processes in every program in order to help transform the idea into a reality. Which is why we created Stages, which is mirrored after those universal activities.

There are seven main stages in moving an idea into a fully-formed, implemented innovation. The first, of course, is actually getting the idea. We have found that two things are especially important at this stage: one, that all voices be heard. You’re going to be able to winnow down to implemented ideas best if you cast the widest net to begin with. And two, that incentivizing your idea pool participants works in soliciting innovative ideas. Idea quality has been shown to go up by 40% when incentives were introduced.

The second stage is team building. After all of the ideas have been gathered, and the community has had a chance to weigh in on the ideas which seem the most viable, teams should be built around the most likely ideas. This stage helps to realize whether a particular idea is realistic in the long run. For example, if an idea sounds good, but then cannot find at least one champion to help it along, perhaps it’s not the idea that makes the most sense for implementation. Likewise, an idea may seem good on paper, but after doing more research, perhaps its not feasible financially or perhaps there’s already somebody in the market doing the same thing better than your organization would be able to do it.

This question of feasibility is directly related to the third and fourth stages of refining and estimating respectively. Once teams have been built, they will do more research in the refinement stage into the competitive landscape, the feasibility, the necessary resources in order to adequately evaluate whether or not the idea could or should actually be implemented. And while research can get you pretty far, the estimation stage can act as a double check on information that has been gathered. In the estimation stage, experts and the crowd in general are consulted to help validate the knowledge that the teams have learned in the refinement stage. Research has shown that crowd knowledge is actually more effective than that of experts, using the example of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: during the game, experts were shown to be right 65% of the time, while the crowd was right fully 91% of the time. Crowd knowledge is a powerful thing.

The fifth stage considers all of the information that has been gathered by the team, and affirmed by experts and the crowd, and assesses whether the idea is in line with set business objectives and business plans. One of the most important things to think about at this stage is financial cost; although there will certainly be other costs involved in implementing an idea, financial cost is often the most revelatory. The sixth stage deals specifically with funding. 46% of startups fail because of a lack of funding, and 80% of businesses overall fail because of inadequate capital. Making sure that your organization is financially solvent enough for the entire realization of an idea is incredibly important.

Last but not least, as with many things, it is important to celebrate victories! Not only do you get to revel in the joy of having seen something through from beginning to end, celebrating ideas that have been seen through from beginning to end is by far the best way to encourage continued and future engagement. After all, who doesn’t want to be part of a winning team?

To find out more about Stages, click here.