Tag: Competition

Five Questions that Spur Innovation in the Workplace

A smart look at hard data can yield brilliant innovation.

Any type of innovation can be traced back to a simple question of some sort. More often than not, that question boils down to “Why?” But just like “coffee” describes a host of different flavors, colors, and styles, it’s how, precisely, you ask “why?” that matters to innovation strategy.

What Would You Change?

One of the biggest struggles of innovation strategy is getting people to put themselves out there. So before you do anything else, make it clear that coming to anyone with a question or an idea is low-risk and worth doing. Make sure that doors, and minds, are open, so anyone with an idea can take the shot.

So, what would you change with your company’s products or services? The message should be that you are willing to entertain any and all changes if they are innovative and supported by the right data.

Is There Another Way To Use Our Product?

One of the most common stories of innovation is an unexpected use for a product with an entirely different intent. Petroleum jelly was originally used as a topical ointment that rig workers put on their skin to protect burns and cuts, for example.  Now, it used to cure chest colds, diaper rash, nosebleeds, nail fungus, and is a cosmetic staple for many.

But with any product, it makes sense to sit down and review what your product does and ask yourself if there are other uses for it, outside of the ones you intended. And remember, your customers might have beaten you to it; if you see a large peripheral market, it’s worth asking “why.”

What Does Our Product Pair With?

In the culinary world, the most groundbreaking innovations come from seemingly unlikely pairings. Fusion cuisine is popular because all cuisines share the elements of sweet, acid, salt, and fat, and as long as you keep that balance, seemingly wacky ideas like combining hummus and Thai curry or turning tandoori chicken into a burger can blend to find new tastes.

So ask yourself: What factors do you have to balance for a successful product? What unlikely pairings work well together? As you get a sense of the proper balance, especially if your customers have specific needs, you’ll be able to come up with innovative ideas.

How can you innovate in the workplace?

What Can I Change?

Too often we treat the story of innovation as one person having a bold idea that changes everything. But it’s often the little accumulations of ideas that lead to enormous breakthroughs. That makes small changes and rapid iteration particularly useful for innovation, especially when it can be done at low cost and low risk.

The true master of this was NASCAR’s most beloved cheater, Smokey Yunick. Yunick, working to get an edge on other racers, also happened to invent a host of luxuries we enjoy on cars today, from variable ratio power steering to the extended tip spark plug. Yunick’s small changes made a big difference, and the same can be true of your product.

Can I Change Contexts?

One of the most important shifts any product can make is its context. What’s a failure aimed at one market can be a gigantic hit aimed at another. Virtual reality is a case in point; it’s been heavily hyped as a consumer product, but its most significant successes have been in training, military, and industrial applications. Change the context of the product, and you can find new markets and new places to innovate.

There are many more questions you can ask, of course. But start with these. Understanding your product from more than one perspective can unlock ideas and approaches you may never have considered. To learn more about innovation strategy,  request a demo of Ideascale!

Nine Actions You Can Take Today to Make Your Company More Innovative

Innovation strategy is often about direction and momentum. But in order to have either, you need at least a small amount of mass to get started. And as we all know, whether it’s a boulder or a bureaucracy, inertia keeps objects at rest from moving. So how do you get up some speed? Try these methods.

  1. Focus on small innovations. Big innovations often grow not out of big ideas, but a thousand little ones that come together at the just the right moment. What’s a little problem you can solve that makes either life at your company or life for your customers just a little easier?                                                                                                   
  2. Keep the focus on your core business. Think of the Swiss Army Knife. Yes, you can get truly ridiculous variations with a hundred tools. But how many of those tools will you use? And how many of them are genuinely useful? One useful “boring” feature that supports your core business is worth a million useless flashy ones.
  3. Embrace failure. Much of science is literally failing, learning from that failure, and failing again until you succeed. For every brilliant work of art, there’s an embarrassment a genius burned in the fireplace. If people fail and don’t get in trouble, it’ll embolden them to keep trying.
  4. Go where your employees are. Visit their departments and workspaces to talk with them. Sometimes a roadblock to innovation, or a better way to understand the innovation they’re proposing if you can’t quite see the value, is literally right there in their space.
  5. For each innovation or approach, appoint a leader, a stakeholder who understands the issues well and can make calls quickly. Also, ensure this leader can get every group of stakeholders on the same page.
  6. Have leaders create a small team with a short deadline to solve a problem. Time pressure helps people think, and small teams don’t get bogged down in getting approval and consent from everyone.
  7. Make your trust and respect clear, and make that a policy for everyone in a leadership role. People don’t speak up because they’re afraid of being wrong. Make it clear it’s OK to make a mistake, and with smaller innovations, and thus smaller stakes, it’s more important that they learn something useful. And similarly, don’t hesitate to step in to protect a good idea.
  8. Don’t imitate your competitors, but understand why they present the innovations they do. Is an odd new feature they’re proposing some sort of brilliant innovation, driven by data? Is it a prelude to shifting to another segment of your industry, or even out of your industry altogether? Or is it a wild swing in the dark based on a hunch?
  9. Keep one eye on the deck and one eye on the horizon. One of the most powerful tools human beings have in any organization is the power to work together to achieve goals, but that means every one of us has a small bit of work to do, and we can focus on that work to the exclusion of all else. So take a breath and look up towards your ultimate goal, and make sure the rest of your team does the same.

To learn more about innovation strategy and innovation management, join our newsletter.

The 2017 Innovation Management Awards Are Open

For the fifth year in a row, IdeaScale is hosting the Innovation Management Awards. This annual contest is open to all IdeaScale customers who have a story to share. Particularly if that story demonstrates innovation thought leadership when it comes to engagement strategies, innovation processes, or idea implementation.

And this year (as every year), IdeaScale offers the winners in each category the following awards:

An Apple Watch

5% discount on the 2018 IdeaScale subscription

One Free 3-Month IdeaBuzz Challenge

VIP Open Nation Invite

Promotional PR Packet

Past winners have included Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Yale University, the Department of Energy, Ushahidi, Innovate Your State, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and many others (you can see a full list of IdeaScale’s case study library on the IdeaScale resources page). And those winners have demonstrated innovation sophistication in everything from energy & sustainability to financial technology and government services. But best of all, they represent best practices from real life innovation practitioners who have succeeded in repeatably delivering value in their innovation programs.

This has always been one of IdeaScale’s primary focuses: creating community when it comes to innovation. The Innovation Management Awards, Open Nation, online webinars with customer guest speakers, all are efforts towards building a community that supports one another cooperatively as we collect and manage ideas.

All IdeaScale customers are welcome to participate in this open call. They simply have to answer some survey questions and tell their story by November 10th. Learn more about the Innovation Management Awards and how you might participate today.  Obviously, customers that can rigorously demonstrate their program’s success with metrics and data will have an advantage, but IdeaScale wants to hear all your stories regardless of how you measure success.

Entry forms must be completed in a single sitting. To request a copy of the entry form in advance, please contact [email protected].

4 Ways to Promote Innovation Without Crowdsourcing

The crowd you source from doesn’t have to be outside the company.

Crowdsourcing is just one facet of innovation strategy. For some, it may not be the most workable. Perhaps there are legal concerns that make it impossible. Maybe your industry is so specialized you just don’t have that big a crowd to source from. Or perhaps there’s just institutional skepticism to deal with. So, if crowdsourcing doesn’t work for your specific issue, here’s how to bolster innovation without it.

Look Internally

Clearer, more open lines of communication all up and down your company is important in a number of contexts, but particularly when it comes to innovation. Members of your team should be able to put a problem out there in the company for everyone, as much as possible, to consider. Fresh eyes are useful for any problem, no matter what it is, and just as important, it involves stakeholders across the board. They’ll be able to spot problems, offer suggestions, or just give a different perspective that’s useful and that may ensure, as your work comes closer to release, a smoother, simpler rollout.

Listen To Your Customers

Any company worth its salt has a good relationship with its customers. Customers always have ideas and suggestions. They might ask if there’s a feature in the works, or say they’d love to use your product elsewhere in their business, except for one thing. Ask your sales team about what they’re hearing, and take a look at what’s workable.

Similarly, understand how your customers are using your products. The micro plane is a great example. They’re common in the kitchen now, but ten years ago, you could only find them in hardware stores. They were designed to grind down hardwood and metal. You can still use them for that, of course, but micro plane manufacturers quickly discovered home cooks were using their rasps as more effective, precise graters, so they began putting their products in kitchen stores. Learn how your product is actually used, not just how you intended it to be used when pursuing new ideas.

Tap your company’s internal genius.

Encourage Internal Experiments

Innovation is a situation where we only hear about the successes. Everybody likes to talk about the iPhone, but nobody mentions the decades of work Apple put into portable, connected computing, from the Apple Newton to a landline with a liquid crystal screen that was basically a proto-iPhone. There needs to be room in your organization to experiment, to engage in small projects, and test out ideas. For every great invention from a brilliant inventor, there are dozens of others that fail miserably, but they often build upon those failures to achieve their successes.

Follow The Competition

There are plenty of ways to legally and ethically keep an eye out for what your competitors are developing. Pay attention to their press releases, who they’re hiring, and what areas of your market they’re penetrating. Don’t copy their moves. Rather, ask yourself why those moves are happening and what they might say about the overall direction of your industry. That will point you toward new ideas and ways to upgrade and innovate.

Innovation is a process driven by every member of a company. Crowdsourcing can be incredibly useful to your innovation process, but it should be just one aspect of it. To get started with your innovation strategy, join the IdeaScale community.

Add Rocket Fuel to Your Innovation Process with Gamification

Improve your innovation process with gamification.

The ideal moment in any innovation process is when innovating becomes fun. But it’s tricky to take something that, while rewarding, is still work and get the joy out of it. That’s where gamification comes in, and it can blast your innovation onto a whole new plane.

What Is Gamification?

Gamification is the addition of game-like ideas and rewards to a work process. A good example of it can be found in fitness apps. Notice how fitness apps will compare you against your friends or other users? How it slowly fills a meter as you reach a set number of steps or hit a specific number of minutes? That’s a good example of “gamifying” fitness, an extremely popular strategy.

Gamification can take a number of forms, and draw from a number of tropes, especially when combined with crowdsourcing. One common way to draw from the wisdom of crowds with gamification is to offer badges, like the popular beer-tracking application Untappd does. The more different types of beers you consume, the more badges you rack up, and coincidentally, the more data Untappd has about shifting tastes among beer consumers.

Essentially it boils down to completing tasks and receiving some sort of reward for it. And it absolutely works; it’s been found that gamification can increase engagement by up to 20%, regardless of the audience. Everybody’s had a game that they get unexpectedly, deeply into, and gamification can harness that power to improve your innovation process. So how do you combine fun and work?

Implementing Gamification

Where to start with gamification?

Sometimes this can be as simple as offering a prize. Google, for example, has established a $30 million prize purse for what it’s calling the Lunar X-Prize, asking scientists and engineers to invent and launch new lunar rovers to explore the Moon. It offers extra cash prizes for meeting certain goals, like traveling beyond the minimum required distance or visiting an Apollo landing site. That was really all the motivation many people needed; Lunar X-Prize competitors will start launching their rovers in 2017.

In other cases, it’s worth considering how the “game” will be constructed and what you want to achieve. By far the most successful example of this remains FoldIt, an actual game constructed by a scientific team to test how proteins are folded. FoldIt users started examining a thorny problem involving HIV proteins and beat it in weeks, where researchers had spent twenty years looking at it without success.

Regardless, there are a few standards worth following. First, make sure all competition is friendly and collaborative; it should make more sense to work together to solve a riddle or reach a goal than it should to compete against each other in your design. Rewards should be reasonably placed and feel tangible; a badge, going “up a level” like in a role-playing game, or some other structure will help drive engagement. And most importantly, your goals need to be clear. People should know what they’re playing for and why.

A well-designed gamification strategy can super-charge innovation if done right. To get started, join an IdeaScale community.

Embracing Disruptive Innovation: Why It’s Important for Your Business

Disruption is good for business. It’s global and can happen in any industry, at any time.

“Disruption” is a popular buzzword, but if you stop and think about it, experiencing disruption is not something we, as people, enjoy. Disruption is massive, rapid, and most likely permanent change, and that can be difficult to go through. But disruptive innovation is important to stay vital, and any business needs to embrace innovation technology and the turbulence that goes with it.

Defining “Disruptive Innovation”

A good rule of thumb about innovation can be summed up by Facebook’s guiding principle: “If we don’t invent the thing that will kill Facebook, someone else will.” Being complacent in any industry is a good way to ultimately be blindsided by another company. Don’t forget, for example, that Netflix, early on in its life, went to Blockbuster and offered itself for sale. Blockbuster didn’t see any reason to embrace Netflix’s movies-by-mail, and now it’s little more than a footnote in an industry it once controlled.

Disruptive innovation is something that alters your product lines, services, or business model in fundamental ways. Think of the shifts of cabs from per-mile charges dispatched by radio to Uber-like models where cabs are called by app. So, how do you spot areas you should shake up, and how should you do it?

Killing The Sacred Cow

It’s a common experience: Somebody new brings up a customer-requested feature and gets the response, “That’s just not workable.” The problem with this statement is that there are a host of assumptions behind it that nobody ever questions. It may not have been workable a year ago, or even quite literally impossible a year ago. But more and more, what’s impossible just a year ago is not only possible now, somebody is working on it.

So, when something is dismissed this way, it’s worth asking why and seeing if those reasons still hold up. If not, it’s time to make it happen.

Disruption can happen with shocking speed.

Look At Competitors

Many in business like to use the metaphor of a jungle to say the bigger you are, the stronger you are, and the easier it is to squish the little guy. But this metaphor tends to forget the little guy is still around because he learned how to survive, whether by being faster than the big guys or a lot tougher than he looks. So look closely at small, scrappy competitors in your industry, and what they’re offering. You might see a disruption coming before it hits.

Scan The Horizon

Finally, you should constantly be scanning the horizon for new technology. It’s easy to forget that many innovations find their ultimate use well away from what was intended. All the technology NASA pioneered in the process of getting to the moon and traveling further into space has wound up in your kitchen, on your feet, in your car, in your pocket, and in thousands of other places you’d never expect. Looking outside your industry, at the raw materials you use, at the technologies that underlie your business, and elsewhere, can help you spot enormous change before it rolls through.

Innovation technology can be surprising in how it changes your business, but you should be ready to innovate no matter what. If you’re ready to innovate and find the future of your industry, IdeaScale can help: download our disruptive innovation infographic today.

Why is Transparency Important to Ideation

transparencyWhen thinking about ideation, one of the most important factors to consider is transparency. Although at first glance it may not seem to be so, transparency or the lack thereof can have a huge impact on the level of success of any innovation campaign. In fact, in years past, methods of ideation that have not involved a focus on transparency have had that lack specifically cited as a main reason for their ineffectiveness.

But before getting into the failure of previous ideation methods as a result of no transparency, let us consider some of the benefits of transparency in innovation.

One of the most impactful benefits of transparency in ideation is that all participants are able to see that their contributions are appreciated, even if those ideas are ultimately not implemented. Employees who feel a sense of agency in their organization are much more likely to want to contribute in the future. Beyond that, this transparency fosters a positive organizational culture, where all feel valued and necessary.

Hand in hand with that is another benefit: transparency means that people are able to be held accountable, both in moments of celebration, and moments that provide opportunity for growth. Being able to recognize innovators for their ideas is another step in creating a positive organizational culture. It’s just another occasion to show community members that they are important. But this accountability also allows for constructive feedback on ideas that are not quite up to snuff, with productive suggestions for future contributions.

Going beyond employee participation in ideation, a third benefit of transparency, with all stakeholders in the community, is that they are more likely to feel engaged and invested, increasing the likelihood for positive customer relationships. Allowing customers and other stakeholders to participate in ideation—and being transparent with the outcomes—is an incredibly powerful way to show the community that their contributions are appreciated.

If these benefits aren’t enough to convince you that transparency is important to ideation, perhaps the detriments to methods that don’t encourage transparency will do the trick.

Recent studies investigating the failure and abandonment of former methods of ideation, specifically the suggestion box, show why a lack of transparency can be one of the biggest hindrances to innovation. Historically, when there’s a lack of transparency, community members were suggesting innovations and had no idea of the status or process that occurred after their ideas were submitted. There was also no way for other members to participate by voting on or adding to ideas that were suggested. There was no accountability, and no way to recognize those members who had introduced winning ideas.

We have all utilized some methods for innovation that were less than successful. Confess your shame in less than a sentence and share in this contest for the chance to win an Apple Watch.

The New Cocktail Napkin is Digital

suggestion boxThroughout the years, methods of gathering ideas have run the gamut. From the aforementioned cocktail napkin to the erstwhile suggestion box, these methods have mostly fallen by the wayside as their respective levels of effectiveness have gone down. Recent studies have shown that only 2-3% of ideas in a suggestion box system are ever implemented. Obviously that rate isn’t a glowing recommendation for suggestion boxes.

Those same studies have investigated why suggestion boxes are so ineffective. One of the reasons is the incredibly low rate of implementation, which doesn’t signal to employees that their input and ideas are valued. Several of the reasons relate to the lack of structure: once inside the suggestion box, employees have no idea what happens next; no recognition or reward built into the suggestion box structure; there’s no discernible way to broadcast improvements. These same issues are true of most old school methods of gathering ideas.

When you boil it down, the reasons that old methods haven’t survived is because they weren’t scalable, transparent, or collaborative, which are three things that are essential to innovation today. They are also more easily accommodated by digital platforms. Recognition and reward are easier with digital platforms; in fact, even something like upvotes for your idea is a way of getting recognition that is not possible with old methods. Having an outlined and organized plan for what happens once ideas are submitted is also built into digital platforms, so that employees know the process. Digital platforms also give you very quick ideas of quantitative data: how many individual users are participating in the process, how many ideas have been submitted, how many have been implemented. Moving from a small campaign—say, one for a single department—to a larger campaign—say, for the whole organization—is much simpler to manage with a thoughtful digital option. However, just moving the inefficient models to the digital stage is not enough; the digital platforms must also consider scalability, transparency, and collaboration as outlined above in order to be more effective than their idea-gathering ancestors.

We’ve all undoubtedly utilized some less-than-efficient methods of idea-gathering. What are the worst methods that you have used to collect ideas? If you can narrow it down to one sentence, share with us by entering this competition, and you will be entered for a chance to win an Apple Watch.

3 Reasons to Submit to Innovation Management Awards by This Friday!

3 ReasonsThe deadline to submit your applications for the 2015 Innovation Management Awards is this Friday, November 20! In this third annual competition of accomplishments in innovation management, three categories are open for submissions: Best Engagement Strategy, Best Moderation Strategy, and Best Innovation.

But why might you want to submit to the Innovation Management Awards? Here are three reasons to consider:

  1. To recognize and celebrate all of the hard working members of your team who contributed to innovation management at your organization. It is always nice to give a nod to those who helped to make your organization more efficient, engaging, and innovative. Although nobody engages in innovation for the recognition, recognition definitely doesn’t hurt, and it’s still nice to do so when the opportunity arises. The Innovation Management Awards are just such an opportunity.
  2. It’s a great way to promote future innovation campaigns. If you’re planning on utilizing employee engagement and the crowdsourcing of ideas in the future—which you should be—being an Innovation Management Award winner would definitely be a feather in your bonnet. It shows that you value the input, that you’re committed to engaging in the process. It shows that contributions are appreciated and acknowledged, which will make your community more likely to want to be involved in later innovation campaigns.
  3. Perks for winning! By no means the most important incentive to submit an application, the rewards are also nothing to scoff at. In addition to a 5% discount on your 2016 IdeaScale community, winners also receive an Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display, a free pass to IdeaScale’s 2016 Open Nation Conference, a free IdeaBuzz challenge, and a promotional PR packet.

For more information about the Innovation Management Awards, and to submit your application, visit our Innovation Management Awards page.

Incentivizing & Gamifying Innovation

yay-377452-digitalOne of the most exciting trends currently being utilized in pursuit of innovation is the incentivizing and gamifying of participation. Not only is it helpful and successful for the organizations which are using these strategies, it’s also great for participants who get to reap the rewards of their good ideas.

KANE, a third-party logistics provider working with consumer packaged goods companies, has recently started incentivizing their requisite employee innovation. In 2012, KANE outlined new expectations for improvement, with two of the named goals being one idea for every two associates, and a minimum of 1% cost savings or revenue growth as a result of associate-generated ideas.

Going on three years of successful innovation, IdeaScale is now introduced to new KANE associates during orientation. Innovation is part of the organizational culture, and KANE has introduced an incentive wherein associates receive rewards for ideas which are implemented. At KANE, the incentive is an amount of KANE cash which can be translated into items or gift certificates.

Other organizations are working on more of a gamified method of innovation.  Implementation of gamification might look something like this: an organization wants to test out a new product or program before it is released to the public, and they want input from current employees, BUT they want employees to volunteer their time in testing. Unsurprisingly, employees are not eager to do additional work for free in their spare time. So the organization introduces a game where players receive a letter in exchange for a completed task. The end goal is to collect all the letters that spell out a certain word—for example, the name of the new product or of the organization itself. Further layers can be added by providing the opportunity to level up, which gives participants the feeling of moving forward. All of these outcomes and checkpoints serve as methods of recognition, which is incredibly important to participants in innovation.

KANE utilizes gamification too, by introducing competition between departments. Competition can be an incredibly driving factor in innovation, even if there is no tangible reward at the end. After all, everybody wants to be part of a winning team or idea.

To find out more about KANE, click here to read about how they are using incentives to innovate.