Tag: collaboration

What IdeaScale is Grateful For

IdeaScale is GratefulWell, here in California it’s a predictably lovely fall day (brisk, but not cold with skittering leaves chasing each other down the sidewalk). It’s Thanksgiving in America and we think it’s a great idea to sit down and share our gratitude.

Voting. If you haven’t noticed… IdeaScale loves voting. We love it in all of its forms: in elections, in web applications, on The Voice…. We offer our employees PTO to vote and we even volunteer at the polls on election day. Why? Because it’s a tool that values equality and that makes our jobs easier (at IdeaScale, we prioritize product development based on what people upvote in our community). After all… even animals vote. That is why we want to protect that right and we built it as a fundamental aspect of our tool.

Creators. We can’t help ourselves – we love people who think of new ideas, invent things, improve things, collaborate with others to make things better. Surprisingly, this doesn’t always mean a lone genius coming up with ideas in a vacuum, but usually a group of people who are building something together. We want to celebrate all of you.

Diversity. Companies that report high levels of diversity are 45% more likely to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% more likely to report that the firm captured a new market. And I think it’s unfortunate to start with the business ROI when you can also talk about all the other business  value: like an improved company culture, exposure to new concepts and ideas, and a great deal of laughter and camaraderie (at least in our experience of it).

Our Co-Workers. It’s great to work with so many committed and passionate people with such a variety of interests (from apocalypse planning to party planning). We definitely love the people on our team.

Our Customers. Of course we’re grateful to our community of practitioners – not only do you make it possible for us to grow and experiment with technology, but we also learn a lot from you. That’s why we’ve created our community of practice, and we love everything we learn at our annual customer event: Open Nation.  What we learn drives decision making, company planning, and more.

So that’s what we’re grateful for. What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Research is Collaborative

Research is CollaborativeEarth Science Information Partners (ESIP) is an open, networked community that brings together science, data and information technology practitioners. ESIP is supported by NASA, NOAA,  USGS and 110+ member organizations all working together to collaboratively share research, funding opportunities, and to network with one another. According to ESIP their mission is to foster connection between “the functional sectors of observation, research, application, education and use of Earth science.”

In fact, NASA was one of the founding members of ESIP, because they wanted to invite others to experiment with Earth data for research and commercial purposes. This wasn’t terribly surprising to me, because NASA is one of the government organizations that IdeaScale has written about repeatedly, because of their commitment to collaboration.

But now research is emerging that shows that the more connected an idea is, the more likely it is to be transformative or disruptive to an industry. This is because the amount of information we each contain in our own brain is inherently limited and the more diversity of opinion, insight, and information that you can bring to an idea, the more likely it is to improve. It will serve more people, have deeper relevance, and change from its original idea.

ESIP’s mission naturally aligns to this collaboration best practice as their key goal for all of their members is connection. Say you have a researcher who’s gathered a great deal of data for one of their experiments, they can then connect them to a government agency who can use that data to inform policy.

But all that connection takes time and before using IdeaScale, humans were acting as matchmakers between data, researchers, and projects. Now, with IdeaScale, it is possible to bring those people and projects together in the same place and they’ve made it part of their ongoing process.

To learn more about Earth Science Information Partners and their use of IdeaScale to connect earth scientists, download the full case study here.

9 Ways Bailey’s Irish Cream Can Help You Innovate

Help You Innovate


It’s a cold, wet Spring, so let’s take a moment (and a sip or two?) to reflect on how great ideas become reality. Specifically, let’s consider the invention of Bailey’s Irish Cream and what it can teach us about idea management strategies that can support and amplify successful ideas.

On December 3rd, 2007, Diageo announced the sale of the billionth bottle of Baileys since it was first introduced in 1973. In the decade since, you can estimate that they’ve sold a further 250 million bottles. If we assume that every bottle of Baileys delivered eight generous servings that suggests that over 12 billion glasses of Baileys have been poured since it all began!


But the story of its invention is both informative and fun (highly recommended). But I’ve taken nine portable innovation lessons from it. Here they are:

Lesson One: Instantaneous Ideas Are Really Ideas With Great Groundwork

“The initial thought behind Baileys Irish Cream took about 30 seconds. In another 45 minutes the idea was formed. Baileys was like that for me. A decade of experience kicked in and delivered a great idea. It wasn’t as instant as it seemed.”

At IdeaScale, we provide an environment so that ideas (and idea fragments) have a place to grow, combine, and mature so that there is an actual place where inspiration can happen.

Lesson Two: Ideas Need a Chance!

“Where Hugh was more likely to intellectualise and think through the appalling consequences of dropping cream into Ireland’s beloved whiskey, I was all for doing it there and then.”

Make sure your idea management process is set up to avoid the trap of prevailing assumptions and encourages participants to feel comfortable proposing out-of-the-box ideas.

Lesson Three: Good Ideas Require Experimentation and Refinement

“We mixed the two ingredients in our kitchen, tasted the result and it was certainly intriguing, but in reality bloody awful. Undaunted, we threw in some sugar and it got better, but it still missed something.”

“We went back to the store, searching the shelves for something else, found our salvation in Cadbury’s Powdered Drinking Chocolate and added it to our formula. Hugh and I were taken by surprise. It tasted really good. Not only this, but the cream seemed to have the effect of making the drink taste stronger, like full-strength spirit. It was extraordinary.”

Good ideas hardly ever arrive fully formed. How are you tracking updates, improvements, and allowing others to build themselves into the process?

Lesson Four: Good Ideas Need Champions

“Over the years I have come to the conclusion that the real heroes of ideas are not the people who have them – they are the people who buy them.”

“Whatever we were doing, no matter what he thought of the taste, he knew what we were aiming for. Just a nod, that’s all he gave us. Not a yes but better than a no. Mac would be the man who would have to run with this. And he did.”

Good ideas need to exist in a marketplace where leaders and people with authority can learn about them and then take a chance on and invest in good ideas. How else are they going to discover them?

Lesson Five: Ideas Need to be Marketed

“Names can be tough and often really easy to reject with a comment like “I just don’t like it”…Being words, not graphic designs, they are within everyone’s purview so anyone can reject them. Getting to Baileys as quickly as we did was unusual. Indeed, as I discovered in later years, it was incredible.”

But it’s not just about the name, everything with a new idea needs to be packaged!

Lesson Six: Rapidly Prototype

“The next step was packaging, and we needed a bottle. Not being confident enough in the overall idea to suggest spending money on a new mould which could have run to several thousand pounds, we looked around for an existing bottle and Tom found one for an Irish whiskey brand that the company distributed called Redbreast. We decided we’d use that.”

Turn your idea into a potential reality as quickly and easily as possible so that your audience can have a better chance at understanding and contributing to your idea. Feedback starts the moment you’ve left the blank canvas behind.

Lesson Seven: Involve Others

“I wrote out a design brief and asked Amy to show it to him and get him to submit some designs as soon as he could…. A couple of days later Bob delivered… he had sent about 20 for us to choose from. Amy laid them out on our table and Tom, Hugh and I looked them over and immediately lit on one.”

“There was a huge buzz seeing an idea begin to assume a physical form. I was no designer so depended on other people to perform this magic.”

Good ideas become great ideas when you build a team around them.

Lesson Eight: The Role of Feedback

Feedback and validation is, of course, critical to the selection of an idea but the lesson here is to make sure you know what feedback you’re looking for. When Baileys finally had a potential bottle, label and name, the team took it to a bar for some market research. They served it to a group of men who declared it to be a “girly drink”. While it seemed like this could be a disaster for their new idea, they paid attention to all the feedback this group produced:

“After this what man was going to openly lay claim to liking “a girl’s drink”? It was an absolute no-no. But when we looked at their glasses every one of them had been drained. It might not have been their kind of drink, but there was nothing wrong with the taste.”

It was this keen observation that helped give the Bailey’s team the confidence they needed to take their prototype to Dublin and present it to executives.

Lesson Nine: The Best Ideas Take On Their Own Life

“No matter how well an idea is received, it is a complex entity and changes are inevitably made. The Baileys team now had to make its own imprint. The first thing they did was to remove the word “chocolate” from the description Irish Cream Chocolate Liqueur.”

Here’s why it matters, “As soon as they started making an imprint on this strange new idea they began to assume ownership. And once they owned it they would commit to it.”

Cheers to great ideas!

IM Award Lessons: Know Your Innovation Audience

This year, Amway won the Innovation Management award for best innovation engagement strategy. They won this award, because of the global reach of their community and their tactics for bringing people on board (including creating cool videos like this one). So we asked Amway a few questions about their program and here’s what they had to say:

IdeaScale: Why is innovation vital to your organization?

Amway: Collaborative Innovation is vital to Amway because it keeps our direct selling opportunity and products competitive and relevant for our Amway business owners. Our focus on this collaboration  has led us not only into a new era in engagement with our business owners, but also a new era in global advancements in digital solutions, social responsibility and product development.

IdeaScale: What’s the most important piece of advice that you can give to someone launching an IdeaScale community?

Amway: Know your audience and your end objectives prior to setting up your community.  Amway is a global direct selling company with millions of active business owners around the world.  In order to create one global community where business owners and employees could effectively share ideas and collaborate, a great deal of planning went into setting the platform up in a way that would allow for effective translation and governance of ideas.  Taking the time to plan ahead, will save time in the future.

IdeaScale: What are you most proud of in your innovation program?

Amway: We are most proud to be Amway’s only digital innovation platform that is able to reach out to our business owners from around the world to collaborate and ideate with them on new and better ways to improve and support their Amway businesses.  To make this global collaboration possible, we’ve engaged in a large team of translators and processes to help us maintain our diverse community by supporting multiple languages.  We are proud of this commitment and look forward to future enhancements as our platform continues to grow.

To learn more about Amway’s award-winning efforts, download the case study today!

A Deeper Look at the Psychology of Innovation

Anyone can think innovatively!

It’s easy to assume that the great innovators of history are nothing more than geniuses who win the intellectual lottery. But really, innovation is about psychology, not IQ. In order to be more innovative, it’s a matter of how you learn, how you listen, and what you do with both.


First, no innovator is an island. Often if you dig into the history of an innovation, it’s really a collection of many different ideas that culminate in a breakthrough. The computer started as a “difference engine” for navigational calculations, Charles Babbage paired that with the punched cards that, at the time, were directing industrial looms. That inspired a string of special purpose devices – analog computers – before the Navy ordered its scientists to invent one small enough to calculate how to hit a moving target with a torpedo. Nobody sat down one day and created the modern computer out of whole cloth. Being open to other industries, other disciplines, and other ideas changed our world completely.


To overcome a challenge, you have to separate yourself from your emotional investment in it. It’s easy to get emotionally invested in our work, to the point where all we can see is what we’ve committed to a problem. The science of chemistry was uncovered not by brilliant people seeking to change the world, but alchemists who spent their entire lives chasing dreams like turning lead into gold or discovering the philosopher’s stone. They were so focused on the impossible; they never noticed the amazing things they were achieving and left it to others to realize what they’d done and build on them. Be the chemist, not the alchemist.

The lightbulb is just the start of innovative thinking.


One of the most important aspects of innovation is being able to see an issue from multiple perspectives. It’s not just that you need to understand what people think about the issue, it’s that you need to ask yourself how the issues you’re considering will affect them. Great innovators are often very good at listening and paying attention to what they’re told, both directly and indirectly. Nobody is perfectly empathetic, of course, but being able to understand not just what people are telling you, but why they’re telling you it, will help with your innovation.


As we’ve mentioned before, the greatest innovations tend not to come from lone thinkers with one brilliant idea, but more often from a team working together to come up with solutions, prototype devices, and push innovation forward. This ties into empathy and how none of us have perfect empathy; the best way to fill that gap is to have a team who has that perspective. This can range from team members from different social backgrounds to members of different departments in your organization, but the right collaborators will help you refine, and redefine, ideas.

There’s a lot more to innovation, of course. Gathering data, refining ideas, idea management, and your approach to the above will define how you innovate, where you innovate and why. But by cultivating the mindset, you’ll be better set to find brilliant ideas. Ready to get started? Join our newsletter.

The 4 Dynamic Stages of Collaborative Innovation – Number 2: Idea Refinement

Nothing is built without collaboration.

Ideas are simple to find. But, as we all know, good ideas are exceedingly rare. It’s much like finding gold. It rarely comes whole out of the ground; it’s often bound up in rock, various other minerals, and other “scrap” you have to separate to get at the gold you want. Ideas are much the same way. So, how do you build an effective refinement operation from the ore you gather by collecting ideas?

Build A Team

The idea of the lone innovator, striving to invent something in his garage on nights and weekends, or the turtlenecked CEO announcing the next big thing, can be true. But, by and large, innovation happens thanks to a well-picked team. You hear a lot about Steve Jobs, but far less about Steve Wozniak, who had some brilliant approaches to computers that gave Apple its first successes, or Jony Ive, the designer who created the distinctive curve of the iPhone and designs, to this day, how Apple’s products are used and engaged with down to the last detail.

So, you need teams around ideas. Your teams should be built much like any other project. All the stakeholders, from any department the idea touches, should be involved, with an aim towards refining the idea so it works for them. Often many different perspectives help spot problems before they reach the production line, and the more invested everyone is in an idea, the better that idea becomes.

The Refinement Process

In many ways, idea refinement is applying what you do as part of a company project to creativity. You need workflow, process management, and accountability. Goals should be clear and milestones should be set but make them loose, within reason. People who are excited about an idea should be part of the team, but they should understand they’re committing to a project, not just sitting around talking.

One of the downsides of refining ideas is that after the blue-sky process of gathering ideas and thinking about the future, you have the practical problem of actually building the future. NASA, for example, uses incredibly complicated mixed-reality headsets to send tourists to Mars, but behind the scenes, they use it to solve the problem of figuring out where to place boxes on a spacecraft. Sure, they get to build the spacecraft and explore Mars, eventually. But first, they have to ensure they can attach the bolts!

Working together is core to innovation.

The process should build up to some form of presentation or prototype as the end goal. The team should make clear why they refined ideas the way they did, what stakeholders had input where, and what the projected effects of your innovation should be. Think of it as a sales pitch to take an idea from abstract thought to physical reality.

Keep in mind that part of innovation is discovering what you don’t know and that learning involves what doesn’t work. Sometimes, a good idea that seems achievable isn’t. But you should have learned why it’s not workable, what the challenges are, and that in turn can open the door to more innovation. Gasoline was just useless trash to oil companies until it was realized it could power a combustion engine, for example. Gold, as those old-time oilmen can tell you, is often where you decide to make it.

But, of course, just as often you discover a fully refined idea that opens your mind. So what comes next? Find out by joining the IdeaScale community.

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

Expert Interview Header (91)

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.