Tag: crowdsourcing

How to Avoid Voting Bias in Crowdsourcing

Avoid Voting Bias in CrowdsourcingCrowdsourcing has been judged to be one of the most impactful, but least used digital hacks by organizations by Gartner. Why is that? Well, it’s an emerging discipline and there’s a lot to learn about how to do it well – how to communicate, how to moderate discussion, how to provide intrinsic value, and more. And one of the questions that we receive every so often is how to correct for voting bias. Sometimes new ideas don’t get as much support as ideas that have been in the community for a long time, sometimes popular ideas are more a reflection of the popularity of the idea author than the merits of the idea, and other complexities. So here are some suggestions that you can use in your IdeaScale community to avoid voting bias in crowdsourcing.
1. Don’t use voting. Use one of IdeaScale’s other evaluation methods: five star-ratings, pairwise comparison, etc. You can invite everyone to participate in those reviews or you can restrict those reviews to particular groups. Voting isn’t the only way to gather crowd feedback.
2. Use a separate stage for voting. This doesn’t always correct against popularity, but definitely corrects for recency bias and can sometimes correct for popularity contests since idea submission and promotion are separate tasks. First launch a stage where ideas are just submitted (voting turned off) and then move all those ideas into a time-limited stage for voting (as in voting can only take place between this date and this date) so people have a limited time period for getting in there to support their friends’ ideas.
3. Use the fund stage. You can give everyone, specific groups, or individuals a budget of tokens (aka votes). You can also set goals for how many tokens an idea has to receive in order to be considered. You can even automate the software so that when an idea reaches that goal it automatically moves to the next stage for review or team-building, etc.
We’ve talked about getting beyond the top-voted idea before, but how are you managing crowd voting for success?

IM Award Lessons: How Innovation Maximizes Mission Performance

How Innovation Maximizes Mission PerformanceThis year, the US Coast Guard won the annual Innovation Management Award for organization that could demonstrate the best and most repeatable innovation process. That process surfaced numerous valuable ideas that will lead to lives saved in future Coast Guard operations.  So we asked the Coast Guard a how innovation maximizes mission performance and here’s what they had to say.

IdeaScale: Why is innovation vital to your organization?

US Coast Guard: The Coast Guard has eleven statutory missions, ranging from protecting living marine resources like fish to chasing drug smugglers. There’s never enough time, money, assets, or people to get all of those missions done to the level we’d like. It’s extremely important for us to benefit from our the creative and intellectual capabilities of our workforce in order to really maximize our mission performance. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve, and the Innovation Program provides leadership for that constant renewal.

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

US Coast Guard: Have a few good research questions in the can before you launch. Have a diverse set of challenges, ones that are broad and ones that appeal to specific communities. Use your challenges to grow participation, and always keep your radar on for some problem in your organization that could benefit from crowdsourcing. Often you’ll hear leadership wondering what to do about an emerging issue. Offer them the collective wisdom of the organization to at least begin to look for solutions.

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

US Coast Guard: Our program has become the Coast Guard’s Swiss Army Knife in terms of thought leadership; people come to us for help on a myriad of issues, many of which are on the “solving world hunger” level of difficulty. It’s extremely fun and rewarding to offer some techniques like crowdsourcing and human centered design to get discussion of the ground. I’ve seen the organization grow and mature in certain areas based on our work.

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


Using Design Thinking to Ready Your Company for the Green Economy

Using Design ThinkingIn 2011, EY and GreenBiz Group conducted a survey of executives employed by companies generating revenue greater than $1 billion. In that report, EY shared that “76 percent of survey respondents anticipate natural resource shortages will affect their core business objectives over the next 3-5 years and that 65 percent of respondents stated their CFO has become involved in sustainability.” With interest in sustainability and CSR continuing to accelerate, many organizations are looking for ways to benefit and perform in the green economy. Why not start by using design thinking to start solving those problems?

For those of you familiar with design thinking, you might already know the process associated with growing meaningful ideas and solutions. As we’ve discussed in a previous blog post, design thinking is a six-phase process that puts people in focus. The first three phases are all about gaining a thorough understanding of the problem and the target audience. The other three phases are dedicated to working on solutions. Let’s see how this might look when we’re thinking about sustainability.

Define: Be sure to start by properly defining the problem you want to solve or the question you want to ask. In this case, you can start the conversation based on some of your sustainability goals (reduce carbon emissions, create more corporate good campaigns, etc) but get more granular and developed as the process goes on. You can use IdeaScale to source the issues that people most want to work on and define parameters for how you would like to solve them.

Research: This is where you want to do all sorts of discovery about the problem (interview people, review studies). Dive deep into the problem in order to learn more. You can even reach out to your community and have them share knowledge.

Synthesis: Remember everything that you just learned? Now you have to put it together. This is going to help you as you begin to FINALLY look for solutions that can actually generate results to those initial challenges.

Ideation: With a properly defined problem and a ton of knowledge resources, you can start ideating. This is a great moment to reach out to your crowd who is bursting with ideas about efficiency, new technologies or methodologies and are looking for a way to apply those changes. Ideation also means connecting and building ideas so that they become even more impactful.

Prototyping: It’s not enough to have an idea, you have to build it out. Invite your crowd to help you develop the first version of a product, process, or model.

Testing: With a working prototype, you can instantly start learning all over again. Maybe you realize you need to do more research or you want to to build on the prototype with new ideas (you can always go back to the previous steps), but as you test, you can continue to optimize. This will help you become more efficient and develop new modes of business that are cleaner, greener, and more responsible.

Want to set-up a sustainability campaign in IdeaScale? Contact our sales team who can get you started. 


Tools to Predict Your Company’s Future: Scenario Planning and Crowdsourcing

As an innovation strategist at IdeaScale, I focus on helping our clients think creatively about how best to engage their crowd and leverage the wisdom of the crowd to source ideas for new products and services and improve processes.  I often share this quote by Wayne Gretzky “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” I have revised Gretzky’s statement to say “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it is.”

Scenario planning is a great way to visualize how your business landscape may change over time. In Scenarios, Beyond the Design Cycle, Michal Bobick states “Scenario planning creates a space to critically examine assumptions and emerging challenges related to products, users, competitors, or industries.

Scenario planning was brought to the forefront by the Royal Dutch Shell in the 1960 and 70s. The Shell Scenario process was used to help the Shell leaders stretch their thinking and make better daily decisions. Scenario planning “stress test” current strategies and encourage individuals to challenge assumptions by understanding various perspectives.

The below diagram illustrates how various catalysts might have on a scenario that produces various futures. As you can see, there is no single future but a variety of possible futures based on the impact of trends, events, and choices.

Predict Your Company's Future

Per Michael Bobick “Given the rapidly changing nature of technology, it is important that designers, researchers, and product managers examine an array of potential futures. Focusing on the future can be difficult, but it is worthwhile: companies that manage for the long term outperform their peers with increased revenue, earnings, and market capitalization.”

The IdeaScale platform allows companies to start the conversations among its employees and customers and experts about what the future of what a particular industry might look like. Through the use of campaigns or challenges, a company can engage its crowd by proposing a set of carefully crafted questions to get suggestions on a possible course of action. The goal is to collect ideas and surface insights to explore new opportunities.

Here are few scenario based campaign suggestions:

  • What might our company look like in 5-10 years?
  • What political, economic, social or technical trends will impact the way we do business?
  • How will our company’s current strategic objectives play out in the future?
  • What economic or environmental trends affect our ability to hire the right employees?

Want to learn more? Our team of Innovation Strategist is available to guide through setting up campaigns, thinking through scenarios and configuring the right questions to ask your crowd. Connect with us here

“The problem with the future is that it is different. If you are unable to think differently, the future will always arrive as a surprise.“ Gary Hamel

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


Who Makes the Decisions in Crowdsourcing?

Who makes the decisions in crowdsourcing?You will likely engage your experts and authorities at the earliest stages or your program through discussion. These are the people who know a great deal about the subject matter of the campaigns and can give you strong feedback on your problem statement and criteria for success. And these are the people who must agree and must give their blessing to your plan before you move forward in launching.

When scoping out the people who care about the subject matter of your campaign, the people with a vested interested in your campaign, you might discover that this constitutes your entire crowd. This is a good thing! This is the whole idea of crowdsourcing: to gather and synthesize the input of many minds! These people will certainly post ideas and comment on ideas, but you might even invite them in early decision making by allowing them to help you screen ideas. You give weight to the opinions of the individuals in your crowd and involve these individuals in decision making by setting rules to screen or filter ideas according to a certain threshold in votes or other scores.

In this example, you might involve your subject matter experts in transforming idea fragments into fleshed out concepts by engaging them in idea refinement.

Finally, you might involve your authorities in the final stage of evaluating and selecting ideas and slating ideas for implementation.

This is simply an example of how one might decide how and when the stakeholders, experts, and authorities participate in decision-making. We call this community governance. The governance that you develop for your community will likely differ from this example because it should fit with the culture and goals of your organization and program. If you’re not sure how to set up the governance of your community, you can set up a consultation with an IdeaScale Innovation Architect for guidance.

This entry is part of a mini-series dedicated to implementation. For the full story on implementation, watch our 20 min webinar or check out this blog on decision-making, this one on execution, and this one on identifying your stakeholders.

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 Whitney Bernstein, Innovation Strategist at IdeaScale

Know Your Innovation Stakeholders

Innovation StakeholdersIn order to involve key stakeholders early, you must first understand who your stakeholder are.

I recently read a book called Crucial Conversations. In the chapter called “Move to Action,” the authors describe how to identify potential participants in a decision.

The authors recommend asking four questions:

Who cares? Who has a vested interest in the subject matter of your crowdsourcing campaign? Those people are potential candidates for involvement in the decisions around which ideas to advance.

Who knows? These are your subject matter experts.

Who must agree? These are your influencers or those with decision-making authority at your organization.

How many people? Finally, the authors recommend taking into consideration how many of these candidates for participation you can involved in a practical way, without burying the decision in tremendous complexity and inefficiency. I pivoted off this, because software can help you overcome the challenges that would usually bog down group decisions. A software solution allows you to efficiently gather and synthesize diverse opinions into a single decision. We will dive a deeper into how software allows you to make collective decisions efficiently a little bit later.

But for now, I would like to offer an alternative way to frame the fourth question…Instead of asking how many people can participate efficiently, ask yourself:

How and when will they participate? Of those people who I wish to engage in decisions, how can I engage them efficiently? And WHEN is the appropriate time to engage them?

Once you map out who cares, who know, and who must agree, you might not include each of these people in the decision-making process in the exact same way or at the exact same time, but you can use software to develop an inclusive yet efficient system. Check out this blog on decision-making and this one on execution. For the full story on implementation, watch our 20 min webinar

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 Whitney Bernstein, Innovation Strategist at IdeaScale

Crowdsourcing and Traffic

Crowdsourcing and trafficTomorrow is Thanksgiving which means that many of you are traveling to be home for the holidays. And if you are traveling that means that you’re trying to avoid something that no one enjoys: traffic! So we thought we’d look at some of our favorite crowdsourcing and traffic stories.

Personally, at IdeaScale we all talk about how excited we are for the age of self-driving cars. Once that innovation arrives, not only will it reduce the number of driving-related deaths and clear up traffic patterns, it will mean you can finally watch Netflix DURING your commute. In the meantime, however here are some of our favorite traffic-solving crowdsourcing projects:

Waze: Waze is still one of the most powerful navigation tools when it comes to traffic. Not only do you get the regular traffic data, it is augmented by the crowd who reports road hazards, the presence of police, potential slowdowns, and more. They’ve even gamified your participation which some people say makes driving (even in traffic) more fun.

TowIt: reports parking violations and road hazards. When the crowd reports those things, it makes it easier for the city (or other responsible party) to do something about it and clean up conditions

Luxe: We’ve reported on crowdsourced parking app Park Circa in the past which isn’t around anymore, but in its place we still have Luxe (okay, maybe not crowdsourcing) which provides on demand valet wherever you’re going in the cities of San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. If you’ve ever tried to find parking in San Francisco, you know the value that easily handing off your car can have. And (if you ask them) they’ll wash your car and fill up the gas tank. Pretty great how full service it is!

What are your favorite traffic and parking apps? Travel safe today, tomorrow and for the rest of the holiday season!

Crowdsourcing Ways to Save Students Money

In 2016, NYU’s 16th President, Andrew Hamilton, made clear that he would carry forward a commitment to make NYU more affordable for more students. As part of that commitment, President Hamilton established the Affordability Steering Committee and the Affordability Working Group to create a structure for engagement and consultation across the NYU community. Knowing that they had a wealth of knowledge within their campus network, the steering committee and the working group launched a crowdsourcing campaign to their students asking for ways to reduce costs that would help the President meet his commitment. Not only did they get tons of great ideas that they started implementing right away – they predicted that those ideas alone would be able to save students millions of dollars.

One of the great things about crowdsourcing ideas, however, is that it is not just an ideation opportunity, but it also help you conduct a new form of market research from which themes emerge. When NYU ran their campaign they noticed the following groups of ideas that offered opportunities for student savings:

  • Lower direct costs: this means costs that go directly to students like textbooks, meal planning, etc. Finding ways to reduce costs here (like providing more secondhand text books) is a great start to reducing out-of-pocket costs for students.
  • New resources: these new resources might be financial aid or grant opportunities for different groups of students based on need, background, or otherwise.
  • Savings: meaning administrative and IT savings opportunities.
  • Access: there might be other smaller scale funding opportunities (like micro-scholarships), so both identifying and socializing these opportunities could potentially save students money, as well.
  • Financial Education: sometimes offering financial education will help students make better decisions which will not just benefit them in their time at NYU but throughout their adult lives.
  • Local Benefits: New York can be an expensive city, finding ways to have the local environment lower costs and encourage matriculation benefits students and the city.
  • Time to Degree: some students want to fast track their education and that decreases costs for everyone. Offering new ways to accelerate the process is a great way to source new savings opportunities.

To read the full story about the New York University Affordability Campaign, download the case study here. 

Introducing: CBS’s Wisdom of the Crowd

CBS's Wisdom of the CrowdCBS debuted a new show Sunday night called “Wisdom of the Crowd.” It’s about a tech CEO, played by Jeremy Piven, who builds a crowdsourcing platform to help find his daughter’s killer.

Sophia, as the platform is named, is essentially a network of solvers who can contribute information to help find Mia Tanner’s real killer, not unlike, minus the murder part. Ostensibly, Sophia then wades through the noise to find the tips of value.

As an Innovation Strategist at a company that also built a platform that specializes in crowdsourcing, I found the show’s premise intriguing. Not in a good way, though. I saw it as an opportunity to stretch out the ol’ snark muscles and really rip into it. While it did have its share of ridiculousness, it had a few surprising parallels to the work we do every day. I picked a few of my favorite parts from the show and connected them to our reality.

WISDOM OF THE CROWD: A few minutes into the show, Tanner (no word on whether there’s any relation to the other famous San Francisco Tanner family) used the Parable of the Ox to explain crowdsourcing to the doubting Detective Cavanaugh: “100 years ago, there was a scientist, Sir Francis Galton. He went to a county fair. He asked 800 people to guess the weight of a prize-winning ox. No one could get it exactly right. But then, when he averaged in all of the answers, they were dead on, within a half a pound. That’s what it does.”

REALITY: OK, yes, we use that story all the time.

WOTC: “Crowdsourcing is sifting through the dirt until you find the gold. 90% of anything is garbage, but 10% of everything, that’s a helluva lot of bling.”

REALITY: I get the idea, but it’s a bit extreme compared to the reality. Crowdsourcing and open innovation aren’t famine or feast. There’s a lot of room between dirt and gold.

WOTC: They were hacked like a day after releasing the platform, then they guy who hacked them literally came to their front door to introduce himself.

REALITY: That’s definitely how it works.

WOTC: Their Head of Engineering is a dreamy Brit.

REALITY: No, but our Head of Product is.

WOTC: Tanner offers $100,000,000 “to anyone that can help identify or apprehend the killer of my daughter.”

REALITY: Well, yes, incentivization is an important part of any crowdsourcing effort. However, when it’s financial, which isn’t always the case, it typically has way fewer zeros than Tanner’s bounty. Oftentimes, it’s not money at all; it’s lunch with the boss, recognition in communications materials or a banquet, or even some extra time off. For more tips on incentivization with shallower pockets than Tanner’s, check out our resource on creative, non-monetary awards.

WOTC: While it didn’t happen on the pilot, they’re probably going to find and convict the real killer.

REALITY: While we feel what IdeaScale and IdeaBuzz do is pretty sexy — finding ways to repurpose recycled glass, helping cure cancer, and helping accelerate more energy-efficient technology to market — it isn’t TV sexy, solving-murder sexy, CBS Sunday Night sexy. As Tanner put it, “People want to be a part of something meaningful.”

That, we can agree on. If you want to learn more about joining our crowdsourcing brigade, get started at or As for me, consider this my two weeks’ notice. I’m with Piven.

Understanding the Source of Employee Innovation

Boredom is one of those facets of life that consistently amaze. How can any person be bored when there is so much around us that stimulates our intellect and inspires our awe? And why do we continuously and mindlessly scroll through television channels and facebook feeds instead of focusing our energy on creating something of beauty or value?

Boredom persists. In the workplace, we call this phenomenon, disengagement. All managers dread this and go to great lengths to improve engagement in the workplace. Whether it’s motivating staff, reaching customers, or simply having a conversation, employers want engaging interactions. They crave opinions and other forms of employee feedback, especially when those choice pieces of feedback help to directly further company goals.

The dilemma is, how do managers create engagement? Employees can’t be beaten with sticks (you can try but your HR team will likely frown upon it). You can’t yell at people to not be bored or to focus more.

No, the secret to employee engagement is curiosity and challenge. When people are challenged, their minds will naturally start formulating solutions. We call this, creativity. Marketing people call it, innovation. What follows are a few pieces of advice to encourage innovation (or creativity) from your employees.

Engagement Powers Activate!

Each day, we are flooded with information and stimuli. Take, for example, that little number in the corner of your inbox that numbers emails in the thousands or tens of thousands. Those are pieces of information that we have to analyze, prioritize and process. Our brains sort this information into two buckets — interesting and unworthy.

We actually have a dedicated neural network that manages this process which is called, The Reticular Activating System (RAS).  The RAS has two main functions; 1) highlighting relevant information in real time, and 2) stimulating pattern recognition to fuel innovative thinking.

In terms of our biology, the RAS monitors our shift between rest and wakefulness. Functionally, as it applies to how we communicate and perform throughout the day, the RAS determines whether we should tune stimuli out or tune them in.

Recognizing how the RAS functions provides an opportunity to improve engagement in the workplace. It can help us determine how we communicate and how often. Should we send someone thirty emails or have a ten minute conversation?

Are people falling asleep in meetings? If they look disengaged or bored, they are tuning you out. That means it’s time to change the content or format of your meeting. When people are engaged, they are attentive and responsive in meetings. They inspired to be more creative in their tasks and find new ways to accomplish their goals.

Reinforcing Engagement

Useful information activates the RAS to pay attention. When new or interesting information is in front of us, we focus. When that moment passes in a meeting, and we are told information that is irrelevant or that we already know, our RAS prompts us to disengage.

The best way to engage employees is to give them something that inspires curiosity. Being told a statement requires no thought on the part of the person to whom information is being conveyed. Being asked a question, though, prompts us to think about the answer.

The more questions we ask others, the more that they feel engaged – and that engagement persists over time as long as the questions remain pertinent. A question becomes part of our subconscious, and as time goes on, we are drawn to information that relates to what we were asked.

Leading Staff to Innovate

People managers can use the Reticular Activating Systems of their employees to engage staff in positive directions for the company. But do people always view the company’s success as their own success? How can you keep your staff focused and have them care about outcomes?

One way is to engage your staff by enrolling them in creating their own personal quarterly objectives that are tied to the quarterly objectives of the team and the company.

Another way to engage your staff is to move them away from a focus on individual success and towards a focus on success for the team. You can ask them what can be done to improve a situation and encourage them to crowdsource ideas from the rest of the staff. People who are challenged and curious and who are working towards a collective goal are more likely to innovate, instead of just passively doing their jobs.

Finally, let them know that their ideas have value through consistent recognition and reward.

Companies can provide personal incentives (a bonus or recognition of a job well done) to motivate individual participation. Employees learn that contributing to the company’s success will produce personal success for them as well.

Low employee engagement continues to baffle Human Resource professionals, middle managers, and company leaders the world over. But the solution is really not that complicated. Pay attention to employees and notice when they tune out and when they tune in. Then ask questions to keep them curious and challenge them so that their natural propensity towards innovation remains activated.

This blog is a guest post by David Mizne, Content Strategist of 15five