Tag: creativity

How to Keep Your Creative Team Fresh & Inspired

Creativity is about more than just art.

Creativity is how we get great innovation, but encouraging creativity in a structured environment, like work, can be a bit tricky. Fortunately, with a little creativity of your own, you can get the ideas flowing. Here are a few ways to encourage creativity as part of your innovation strategy.

Issue A Challenge

The proverb that necessity is the mother of invention has always been true, but it overlooks something important: People embrace challenges. Anything you find on the shelf at a store was invented because somebody was challenged to overcome a problem. So, think of challenges you can issue to your team. These don’t have to be product-related, either. Challenge them to think like a new customer who doesn’t know they need your services. Challenge them to use your product in a new way. Or even challenge them to do something totally unrelated. Sweeten the pot with a prize, like an extra week of vacation or a few shares of company stock.

Encourage Both Cooperation And Competition

As long as it’s friendly, competition is no bad thing, and encouraging friendly competition is a good way to get ideas. But don’t forget that some of your team will thrive not by working against each other, but with each other. Encourage them to team up, especially across departments and disciplines.

Balance Structure And Freedom

There will, alas, always be meetings in any industry. But there’s a difference between a meeting where people need to get the information, answer the questions, and get out the door, and a meeting about sharing ideas. Think of creativity like changing the course of a mighty river; it’s a lot easier to gently guide it towards a direction on the horizon than force it to make a sharp turn it may not want to head in. Allow creativity meetings to go with the flow and leave behind the agenda.

Creativity is as much about environment as it is about ideas.

Support Multidisciplinary Learning

It’s often forgotten today that the real value of an education is the skills to think critically and the ability to learn different sets of tools to apply to different types of problems. When people have to step out of their usual way of doing things, it tends to spark creativity. Having methods on hand, such as online courses or tuition remission, for your employees to learn new skills and new approaches, will give them new ways to approach old problems.

Be Creative With The Necessary Stuff

There’s no law that says every meeting must be held in a conference room, or that every worker must discuss creativity between 4 and 5 on Tuesdays. Applying creativity to the small things can help your team develop creative approaches to your challenges. For example, instead of having a meeting about creativity in the conference room, have a “walking” meeting when you take a hike as a group, or have the meeting outside, or even just have it in a more unstructured space.

There’s no perfect way to ensure every employee is creative. As you’ve seen here, you’ll often need to be a little creative to get each person to that place. But the rewards will be enormous, and not just for your company; creativity will be great for your team, personally and professionally. To learn more, join our newsletter!


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?

Lessons About Culture and Creativity

One of our customers recently had the good fortune to hear Adam Grant speak at an event. Adam Grant “has been Wharton’s top-rated professor for seven straight years. He is a leading expert on how we can find motivation and meaning, and live more generous and creative lives. He has been recognized as one of the world’s 10 most influential management thinkers” and in this presentation, he shared some insights that resonated with both our customers and with us. Take a look:

4 out of 5 people do not share their great ideas with anyone. This can happen for a number of reasons: they don’t know with whom or how to share their idea, they don’t believe that their idea is a good one, they’re shy – there are many barriers to overcome. With all of those great ideas out there, how do we help them overcome those barriers? One way is by making the place and process for sharing ideas obvious to anyone – no matter who they are in a company. Where do all the ideas go (good and bad)?

Avoid cultures where leaders say “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” – You WANT people to let you know when there are problems. This is something that we recommend to our customers all the time (especially as a launch campaign) – start by asking for problems and bring all the power of crowdsourcing to bare on it – let others bring new perspective to it, let the crowd vote and prioritize the problems they think are most pressing, and go from there. And even then, you want to be really clear on the problem, its limits and capabilities before you start asking for solutions. You can hear more about this in our “developing problem statements” webinar.

It takes 10-20 exposures to an idea before the listener (often the leader) ‘hears it.’ This rule of thumb applies to almost anything. Marketers are told that someone has to see a message at least seven times, before they’ll interact with it. I’d guess that 10-20 impressions is even more accurate, because all of us are exposed to so many messages every day, that we’ve become filters more than funnels for information. That’s why good ideas need a place to live and a communication plan to go with them and advocates who will support them.

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to download our infographic detailing meaningful innovation lessons from Adam Grant’s Originals, you can find it here. 

Music for Innovation

Music for InnovationThere is a growing body of research that is dedicated to analyzing what kind of music makes an employee work more efficiently, joyfully, or precisely. Here are a few interesting working theories for music in the workplace.

Music can help in task efficiency. One study found that if you’re completing repetitive tasks, listening to music will make an employee perform their task faster than a counterpart without music.

Ambient noise can help improve creativity. But be carefu! If you listen to that noise (music or otherwise) at too high a volume, the creativity level begins to drop back down.

Introverts and extroverts have different responses. Introverts prefer the clarity of silence when they’re working, whereas extroverts like to have some music on in the background.

Happy music is better for teams. When researchers played happy songs (like “Yellow Submarine”) members of teams were more likely to perform activities that contributed to the good of the team (as opposed to their behaviors when they were listening to more aggressive or less well known songs).

At IdeaScale, almost all of us listen to music throughout the workday. We all have our pet theories: Joby swears by drone metal to really dig into a bit project while I appreciate lyricless, but optimistic electronic music. Rob just knows everything about The Boss.

Well, one of our innovation strategists, Whitney Bernstein, took some time to crowdsource an “Innovation Playlist.” She asked our customers, our partners, and us to share music that we like when we’re trying to be creative and she created “Workshop Tunes.” The thing that’s particularly fun about this crowdsourced list is that there’s something for everyone. There’s no study to prove whether or not it’ll help you be more innovative, but you might take a tour through innovative personalities and their music tastes all the same. You can find the playlist on Spotify, listen to it, and tell us what you think.

What sort of music do you listen to when you’re innovating?

Mindfulness and Innovation

The start of a new year is so motivating. A fresh start, a new leaf – we usually enter a year with a lot of good intentions and plans to make positive changes in our lives. I know it can be tricky to stick to your resolutions, but I like making these promises to myself. This year I decided to integrate mindfulness into my life. The basic concept is simple: pay more attention to the little things in life, focus on what’s important and set aside time to be good to yourself. This can include meditation and yoga but also short exercises you can incorporate into your daily life.

So, what does mindfulness have to do with ideation and innovation? A lot more than you might think. I’m sure anyone who has done creative work of any kind has hit a mental roadblock before. Sometimes your brain just won’t let you be creative. You might be tired or overworked, experiencing a lack of sleep or just have other things on your mind.

This is where mindfulness can help you out. Take a 5-minute time out or use part of your lunch or coffee break to refuel your creativity. I would like to share three short exercises that can help you in a pinch.

Today I Noticed

Grab a piece of paper and write down the words “Today I noticed…“. Use the remaining time you set aside for this exercise to list everything that comes to mind. Don’t limit your thoughts and simply list everything and anything you noticed that day. It can be anything from a new billboard you saw out of the corner of your eye on the way to work or a coworker’s new haircut. Maybe you recently started working out and are starting to notice the first hints of a six pack? Whatever it is, write it down. This will make you focus on details and really think about things which can enhance your creativity.


Is something on your mind? Funny question, actually. If you’re like me, your mind is constantly racing and you’re always thinking about something. This exercise can help you if there is one thing in particular that you feel is blocking your creativity. Maybe it’s an argument with someone you care about or a task that is overdue. It doesn’t matter – anything can become so consuming that we can’t let our minds be free. My suggestion: draw a mind map! Write your biggest thought or worry in the middle of a piece of paper and spend just a few minutes writing down every thought connected to it. Sometimes having it all out there on a piece of paper helps see the bigger picture makes you feel lighter.

Object Focus

Pick a random object – a stapler, a paperclip or anything else that is small and within your reach. Take a piece of paper and write down as many uses for this object as you can. Again, don’t limit yourself, if you think of building a stapler fort or making a rug out of paperclips, write it down. The focus on a particular object makes it easier to come up with ideas and the openness to anything that you can think of can help reactivate your brain and your creative spirit.

These simple exercises can help a busy mind settle down and get into a creative state. The right mindset is essential to generating quality ideas. There are numerous use cases for these exercises — here are some examples:

  • Inspire your users and help them with ideation
  • Brainstorm ideas for your next campaign
  • Restore calm and focus in a noisy workshop or seminar
  • Start a prototyping workshop to bring community ideas to life

What other mindfulness practices do you use in the workplace? Do you see the relationship between mindfulness and innovation?  

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Chloe Guenther, Innovation Consultant at IdeaScale

Courage to Fail

Courage to FailOur attitude towards failure is an evolving concept and it also varies a lot depending on the country, the culture, and the individual. It can be very frightening. In fact, one study found that more people are afraid of failure than are afraid of spiders, ghosts, and being in an empty house.

However, an investigation into failure shows that it is those among us that aren’t afraid to fail who will experience the most success. So if you’re crowdsourcing new ideas from your employees, how do you communicate to them that failure is not something that they should fear? Well, you start by changing your organization’s attitude to failure. Here are three tips that might help you change that attitude:

  1. Celebrate Failures. When you’re celebrating new ideas and projects that succeeded, share the stage with ideas that didn’t make it to the final round but showed a lot of promise. Even better, highlight the ideas that made it all the way through but then failed to perform. That gets people to think more creatively about the types of ideas that they can share and simultaneously shows them that failed ideas won’t be penalized.
  2. Highlight Lessons Learned. Activate a culture of learning by always looking for new ways to build institutional knowledge. When failures are rebranded as a resource, it helps everyone to feel comfortable contributing new and creative (even risky) ideas.
  3. Don’t De-Risk Everything. Good organizations are built to minimize risk, but if you eliminate risk, you also eliminate the possibility for innovation. Make a few big bets every once in awhile. You don’t have to bet the farm, but trying something new and out there will show others that it’s okay to try things that are new and out there, as well.

To learn more about the importance of our attitude toward failure, download this infographic.

How does your organization respond to failure?

Do You Know How to Identify and Nurture Innovation Talent?

Nurture Innovation TalentMany companies today are experiencing an accelerated pace of change. As the world around us changes, how do successful companies drive change internally? After all, most of your workforce was probably hired for their functional skills, such as sales, accounting or production. Now we find that a new set of skills is necessary, and many companies aren’t sure how to identify and cultivate these skills.

Here are some common approaches to this problem:

Look for Creative Employees Creativity is most definitely a component of innovation, but only one component. It turns out there are seven other skills that drive innovation business results. Mistaking creativity for innovation has two consequences:

  1. When we overly glorify creativity, we minimize the importance of the other seven skills in the innovation process.
  2. We may over-look employees with the other equally essential innovation skills, making innovation a very exclusive club indeed.

These consequences put innovation at greater risk of failure.

Try to Make Everyone Innovative On the other hand, there is a precious belief out there that we can all be innovative. In our observation, this belief can create a certain tension, a sense of dread, even anger, among those who are not wired for change.  One CINO reported that she was asked, “When is all of this innovation stuff going to be over?” We all have seen the way such resistors can sabotage innovation efforts. According to Swarm research, about half of humanity really prefers that things stay the same. Why not let them focus on maintaining the current business and continuous improvement? They will be much happier.

Assume Diverse Teams are Strong Teams In 30 years of research on innovation teams, a slight correlation was found between diversity and innovation team results. But not all diversity. Diverse functional skills do help teams develop holistic innovations and de-risk them from many perspectives. But a functionally diverse team with weak coverage of the 8 innovation skills will still struggle. These are the 8 instrinsic skills required for success in innovation.

Now companies have the tools to identify innovation talent in their workforce. We can identify incremental to disruptive talent and martial it where needed. We can drill down to the 8 skills correlated with business results, and the 26 sub-clusters to diagnose teams, and build a culture of innovation on data, not guesswork.

To learn more about identifying and nurturing innovation talent, download the infographic here.


This is a guest post authored by Suzan Briganti, CEO and Founder of Swarm Vision. Suzan brings 25 years of experience in research, strategy and innovation. Suzan has patents pending in innovation software. She has grown Swarm Vision from a garage start-up to a trusted solution provider to global Fortune 500 clients. Suzan leads Swarm Vision with a focus on building great products and teams. Suzan has an MBA summa cum laude from Boston University and a design degree from Italy.

Customers We Love

Customers We Love

One of the best things about working at IdeaScale is the variety of customers, use cases, and success stories that you hear about. But recently, our work with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation reminded us of some of our favorite types of customers. Here are some of the reasons that CEC embodies these qualities.

Socially-Responsible. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation fosters conservation, protection and enhancement of the North American environment for the benefit of present and future generations. We feel really gratified when customers care about making the world a better place. That’s why we’ve loved working with customers like the Department of Energy’s Sunshot initiative and the DREAMS Challenge.

Creative. CEC didn’t limit their outreach to the standard playbook. In addition to press releases, videos, emails, and social media promotion, they also placed phone calls to universities and innovation hubs to garner interest. That’s why we’re excited by companies that find new ways to connect, evaluate, and nurture great ideas.

Forward Thinking. The winners of the CEC innovation challenge had some truly novel ideas like using food waste to create high protein foods and convert plastic into sustainable concrete. Without idea management solutions, these ideas sometimes go unsaid and undiscovered and they make the team at IdeaScale truly excited when those dreams get realized.

Great Networkers. There were multiple opportunities to connect with the CEC challenge, including an in-person mentoring part of the process.  Teams that combine online and offline connection generally have the richest sets of results. That’s why Scentsy always invites engagement at their annual event and Dick’s Sporting Goods had an in-person component as part of their launch.

Don’t get me wrong: we love all our customers and most of them are great at all these things. But it’s really awesome to see one story encapsulate some of those values that define our work.

To learn more about the CEC Youth Innovation Challenge, download the case study here.

Have You Read Adam Grant’s Originals?

originalsAt IdeaScale, the employees like to encourage an atmosphere of  continuous learning about innovation by  hosting book clubs that relate to our industry. Earlier this year, we read Adam Grant’s Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World. The book came to our attention, because one of our prospects had read the book and was convinced that they needed an open and transparent system for sharing ideas. Naturally, we decided that any book that could galvanize someone like that is one that we needed to read, as well.

We took about a month to read it (although some of us read it in less time) and we each came away with some thoughts about how to encourage original thought and nurture innovators within an organization. Here are just some of the ties that we saw:

Being Creative Encourages Better Idea Evaluation. This principle was one that surprised us and made us think perhaps all judges should be required to first submit at least one idea before they evaluate any ideas.

The Best Ideas Will Arrive at the End. Lots of customers get nervous when the end of their campaign is drawing near and they still don’t have that many new ideas. Adam Grant presents the idea of strategic procrastination wherein creators don’t just dump new ideas out, they take time to consider and contemplate them. Aligning yourself to one idea too early on shuts down the possibility that you will consider and reconsider and perhaps stumble across something totally novel.

Someone Can Play the Role of “Objector.” Sometimes it makes it easier to avoid groupthink and unified belief structures if someone is assigned the role of being contrary. Maybe it would be best if there was a moderator who simply went around and commented against the grain of everyone else.

To learn more about Originals and how to support innovators in the workplace, download the infographic here.

Four Ways to Improve Your Creative Confidence

improve-your-creative-confidenceSo, your company is investing in innovation, but do you lack the confidence to be creative?

A 2017 Crowdsourced Innovation Report published by IdeaScale noted that more and more companies are embedding innovation initiatives at their organizations. 53% of the innovation programs are focused on leveraging the collective wisdom of employees. The report list below the six innovation priorities that companies are focusing on in 2017.

Company Innovation priorities for 2017 (in order of importance):

  1. Building a culture of innovation
  2. Improve employee engagement
  3. Gather more ideas
  4. Implement breakthrough ideas
  5. Improve innovation leadership
  6. Scale innovation programs

Is your company expecting you to be creative in tackling one of these initiatives?

In their article “Reclaim Your Creative Confidence,” Tom and David Kelley describes creative confidence: “It’s the natural ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.”

Their article shares stories and offers practical advice on becoming more creative by dealing with the “Fear of the Messy” and the “Fear of Losing Control.” Below are a few of my own practices that I employ to build my creative confidence.

#1  Take a break:

Per Kelly and Kelly individuals should take a scheduled break daily.

“Schedule daily ‘white space’ in your calendar, where your only task is to think or take a walk and day dream.” Studies have shown that taking breaks help to reboot your cognitive thinking. I bake into my schedule each day is at least 15 minutes to walk, pray and ideate.

#2 Brainstorm multiple uses for things:

I like to look at objects and imagine how I might use it differently in a situation. Once when I was catering for a very large group, I needed to obtain a large clear serving platter. I had little time before the event to get one. Looking above me I noticed the rectangular cover of the florescent light bulb. It was the perfect size for our needs. We took it down cleaned it and used it to display for our tasty desserts. What common everyday items can you repurpose?

#3 Connect the dots

Similar to the above is drawing upon past experience and making an association. I am a connector. I am a naturally curious person, and one of my strengths is the ability to make a note of various things or concepts I encounter daily and apply them in a new context.

Steve Job’s said “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

#4 Focus on inspirational things.

I set aside time during of my day to focus on inspirational things.

Whether, it is listening to a talk by my favorite speaker, or listening to a song like, “I Believe I can Fly” by R. Kelly, I make sure I listen to something motivational before and after work. This helps me to stay inspired, encourage, confident and inventive.

Finally, I live my life each day by this quote from Dr. Myles Munroe: “What you have done is no longer your potential.”

In what ways do you build your creative confidence?

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Sonja Sulcer, Innovation Strategist at IdeaScale