Tag: creativity

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

Lessons My Children Have Taught Me About Innovation

children and innovationAs a father of three I deal with my children daily.  My wife and I get the awesome opportunity of raising these children together and trying to make sure they turn into good people.  However, sometimes I find myself learning more from them then they do from me. Here are the lessons I learned about being innovative from my children.

Think Outside the Box

Children can come at a problem in the complete opposite way than adults would.  For instance, I would tell my children to get the toys off the floor thinking they would put them in their toy bin where I wanted them to go, however, they put them in their bed so they can play with them all night.  They solved the problem they were tasked with, but in a way that most benefited them. We don’t have to do things the same way every time.  Think outside the box and find a way that is different but most benefits you.

Ask For Help

My kids are always asking for help on tasks that I feel can easily be done by them.  “Daddy wipe my nose,” “hold my blanket,” “help me down,” etc.    All of which they have done on their own multiple times a day, but suddenly they decided they needed help.   Yes, I know they can do it, however they know with help the task at hand will be done more effectively. There have also been times when my children haven’t asked for help when they should have including changing their own diaper or clothes.  Yes, technically they did complete the task, but with less desirable results…

We have all done things in the past that we know will get the job done, however we need to allow others to help to provide a more effective way of completing the task at hand.  This will take the load off yourself and also allow for innovation to occur.

Try Again

My kids are determined to try new things every day and since they want to try everything they end up failing more than a parent would like.  For instance my children have loved to try and change their clothes as I listed above with bad results at first.  However, after some practice they can finally change their own clothes.    Regardless of the task, they get right back up and try again.  Just like with innovation, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any success, but if we try again we can eventually figure out our problem.  It may have been hard but the success is worth it in the end.

Children might be young and naive but, sometimes you have to let go of this stubborn knowledge of how things have always been done in order to find a new way of doing something or innovating.  For me my children are leading the way in showing me how to be more innovative every single day.

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 Eric Mills, Information System Security Officer at IdeaScale

Three Ways Diversity Boosts Your Innovation Strategy

Many voices lead to greater innovation.

What does diversity have to do with innovation? Some may argue the two are just buzzwords, but they’d be wrong. There can be a real, tangible effect with broader voices when it comes to innovation, both in the sense of better products and better marketing.

Many Perspectives Offer Better Products

How often do you hear the phrase “Everybody does it?” How often do you challenge it? The truth is that “everybody” often means “Everybody who looks and thinks like me.” The reality can be very, very different. For example, did you know that mobile banking is a phenomenon driven by women? It makes sense when you stop and think about it; women handle the family finances more often and have more to do, so they need apps that let them deposit checks and transfer funds when they have a moment. But how often do you see that reflected in the banking apps you use? By having many perspectives, you’ll better understand how everyone uses your products, and you might find yourself with some surprises.

It Opens Up New Markets

Another reality is that a lack of diversity can blind you to enormous potential markets. Hollywood is an excellent example of this, ironically; for a creative industry, it tends to be hidebound by conventional wisdom, until someone comes along and upends. Look no further than Get Out, the horror movie sensation that’s outgrossing franchises like King Kong at the box office, on a budget of $5 million. No one in Hollywood thought a horror movie about racial concerns would be of interest to audiences, and now, Jordan Peele, the comedian best known for his sketch show on Comedy Central, has the honor of having made the highest grossing original debut from a writer/director in Hollywood history.

Take a lesson from Hollywood missing its cue; there are enormous untapped markets in any field, if you know where and how to look for them. It’s just a matter of having a diverse enough workforce to find them.

More voice, better products.

It Prevents Misfires

Pepsi’s recent advertising PR disaster was a memorable misfire, if only for the wrong reasons. The ad featured Kendall Jenner solving serious social issues by handing out sodas, and the question widely asked was “Why didn’t anybody realize this was a bad idea?” Nor is it alone; Snapchat, which you’d think would be progressive with its millennial focus, has gotten in repeated trouble for photo filters seen as racist.

The answer is a lack of diversity. If everybody in the room is from the same place and has the same perspective, it creates a blind spot which can stifle innovation. And if that’s true up and down the chain, then products and ideas that might be a disaster outside that narrow view might escape into the wild.

For great innovation to happen, you need a profound mix of perspectives, experiences, and styles. Diversity is great for the workplace in many ways, but it’s also great for companies that want to push their industry forward. If you’re ready to tap into the innovative potential of diversity, join the IdeaScale community.