Tag: crowdsourcing

The Nonprofit Innovation Advantage: Purpose

Nonprofit innovation advantageResearch has amassed over the past several years that details how much positive impact it can have on the workplace to offer employees a sense of purpose. Purpose doesn’t just mean that an employee has the ability to influence meaningful decisions at an organization, but also that an employee believes they are part of a consequential mission. This type of purpose can help employees feel engaged, stay longer, work more effectively, and more.

This is actually a key advantage that nonprofits have when it comes to innovation. Employees, donors, and recipients of a nonprofit’s services see the true and profound value of helping a nonprofit succeed in its mission, which can positively impact innovation in three ways:

  • Motivating participants to share their ideas. If you’re working on a crowdsourced innovation program, one of the key challenges is finding a way to make participants care about the outcome, but with nonprofit crowdsourced innovation programs, the purpose and outcomes are more readily apparent – you’ll help that organization achieve that goal better, faster, or more broadly.
  • Motivating participants to help support meaningful ideas. One of the key challenges that nonprofits face, of course, is finding enough new resources for promising ideas. One of the benefits of a crowdsourced innovation program, however, is that you can find additional resources to implement ideas outside of your organization (or in other unlikely places). Think of how the Cerebral Palsy Alliance wanted to find ideas that would impact those living with cerebral palsy; a man in Turkey wanted a solar powered wheelchair to help him have access to power more easily and a team in Virginia built a prototype for him. Anyone, anywhere can join the team this way and maximize resources and time.
  • Aligning ideas to key organizational goals. Because nonprofits have a clear mission, it creates concret objectives and criteria by which it is easier to make decisions. It’s less likely that a nonprofit will be distracted by irrelevant or off-topic ideas and will instead focus on impactful innovation.

Those are just a few advantages that nonprofit innovators might have. To learn more about nonprofit innovation, download our complimentary infographic on the subject.

Crowdsourcing Storm Solutions

Crowdsourcing Storm SolutionsWe are in the peak of hurricane season here in the US and numerous people are recovering from the loss and destruction in the wake of Hurricane Florence. With scientists predicting that climate change will only intensify storms and other extreme weather, we thought that it might be a good idea to look to the crowd for solutions when it came to hurricanes and their impacts. Here are a few places where the crowd might be able to help.

Crowdsourcing Climate Change Solutions. There are numerous scientists, researchers, and inventive citizens with creative ideas about how to build a more sustainable future. In the US, 16 states, Puerto Rico, hundreds of cities and nearly 2,000 businesses are committed to honoring Paris Agreement standards, but how we get there is still up in the air. The crowd has grid solutions, battery storage ideas, and more. Incidentally, IdeaScale offers our software free of charge to any organization that would like to use it to run a climate solution challenge.

Crowdsourcing Disaster Response Ideas. Last year, the Coast Guard used its IdeaScale community to share, develop, and collaborate on solutions born out of the responses to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. This included sharing best practices used to rescue those impacted by the storms. Those ideas informed the heroic rescue efforts of the Coast Guard this year in Hurricane Florence. This approach could be used by other cities, businesses, and government organizations.

Crowdsourcing Relief. We’ve already covered how the power of crowdfunding can help those looking to recover after a disaster. That relief can be for small businesses, individuals, and communities and considering the range of damages – from medical expenses to property loss and more.

IdeaScale is proud to work with the United Way and we’re proud to promote their efforts to contribute to the recovery following Florence. We’ve donated to their Hurricane Relief Program and now we want to take the opportunity to invite you to join us and do the same. 100% of individual donations given to these hurricane funds will be distributed to the affected areas.

The State of Innovation in the Financial Sector

Innovation in the Financial SectorFintech funding is increasing. Just over a decade ago, we were spending a little over $5 Billion on financial technology – today we’re spending nearly $78 Billion. Why are we seeing that investment accelerate? Because the financial sector is ripe for disruption and investors want to make sure that they’re part of the financial future which is an industry that is estimated to make up 20% of a country’s gross domestic product.  

Here are two reasons that the financial sector should anticipate disruption:

New Technology. Certainly you can’t go on any website without seeing the word “blockchain” (whether that technology is relevant to the website or not). But that’s not the only piece of emerging tech that is impacting the financial sector: big data and market predictions are certainly developing, crowdfunding technology allows for microfinancing of small businesses, digital security continues to be one of the chief executive’s concerns in the financial sector. All financial institutions are running to keep up or risk becoming irrelevant.

Shifting Customer Trends.  Customers no longer feel like financial decisions and planning are the purview of specialists alone. 46% of affluent Millennials and 41% of affluent Gen X perform research online, make decisions and execute their own trades without ever turning to an expert. And trust in a brand is no longer determined by how long its been around. In fact, 76% of affluent Millennials are open to financial services provided by non-financial brands.

So how do you stay ahead of the curve? Crowdsourcing ideas allows you to ask for signals (like emerging trends) from your crowd, but also empowers that crowd to make suggestions and share ideas that will drive the business forward. That’s why lots of financial institutions are starting by asking their employees for new product ideas, process solutions, and more.

To learn more about innovation in the financial sector, download our complimentary infographic on the subject.

4 Great Innovations that Started as Employee Ideas

Innovations that Started as an Employee IdeaThe idea for IdeaScale functions on a simple premise: good ideas can come from anywhere. This tenet underpins most of crowdsourcing and all open innovation programs. The idea isn’t new (after all, the very idea of democracy is based on the wisdom of the crowd), but it’s become more and more sophisticated alongside the systems that enable it and more and more powerful as the total population that anyone can reach out to becomes broader and more diverse. So we thought we’d take a moment this week to celebrate four innovations that started as employee ideas. They had the vision to identify a solution, test it and their companies had the foresight to support and implement it.

The Home Depot Bucket Mister. We started out with an example from an IdeaScale community. This product, which combined existing resources was a great new offering that demonstrated stellar results. And if this marketer hadn’t shared their idea in a crowdsourcing community, the product team might never have found it.

Opening an Adjacent Market in the Financial Sector. is a South American financial company who was able to open a totally new line of business when their Engineer Alejandro Trecco realized that customers who were engaging them for a car loan would also be interested in contracting their car insurance through them, as well. They tested the idea in one country and then rolled it out across the rest of their company. That suggestion created an additional line of revenue over $21.5M.

A Credit Offering for SMBsFundbox is an artificial intelligence company that uses machine learning in order to assess the creditworthiness of small businesses and in the world of small business serving other businesses (what we call SMB2B) there isn’t an easy way to purchase products or services in the same way that consumers can easily utilize credit cards. So Ophir Horowitz developed a test plug-in that would bring Fundbox’s credit services to the SMB2B customer’s point of need which happens inside of SaaS accounting, payroll, inventory management, logistics, etc applications. The product was called Fundbox Fuse. 

A New Website Hosting Solution. Vendasta Technologies is a SaaS company and their new product, WebsitePro emerged during a hackathon in 2016. For years, the executives had talked about websites as a core part of any business’s online strategy, yet did not offer a website solution for our partners to resell. Then two Senior Developers at the time) decided to prototype a horizontally scalable WordPress hosting system built on top of Google’s Kubernetes Engine and CloudSQL products. After launching the completed project in October, the solution is already seeing some of the best client retention rates, with an 80% retention rate after 10 months.

Now it’s time to hear from you: what ideas started out from a random employee suggestion and delivered real value?

Four Innovation Lessons We Can Learn from Standard Bank

Innovation starts in the clouds and comes to Earth.

Innovation is particularly important for industries that seemingly move slowly, and that’s particularly true of banking. South Africa’s Standard Bank, which has branches across Africa and is expanding to other markets across the world, is an excellent demonstration of why. Innovation drives everything Standard does, and their particular achievement drew on their internal expertise to reduce the downtimes of their ATMs. Here’s how it happened and the lessons we can learn from it.

Lesson #1: Spot The Right Problems

ATMs are a crucial customer-facing piece of modern banking. But there’s a fairly simple problem Standard had to solve, namely, getting cash and repair teams to ATMs, which see heavy foot traffic from Standard’s customer base. The problem was that the personnel that resupplied the machines with cash often found themselves behind on their route. Too often, Standard customers would swing by the ATM and find it out of cash or in need of repair. This was just one of the problems Standard wanted to deal with, and it’s one its own employees would solve dramatically.

Lesson #2: Innovation Comes From Everyone

It started with Standard creating an internal innovation group called Up Squad. Up Squad drew together five separate groups of employees where business touched the entire range of services and set up an innovation platform that let them easily propose, discuss, and refine ideas. Employees could brainstorm, spot issues other departments might face and have them filtered out before the idea got too far along in the process. When it came to the ATM problem, there was an interesting idea.

Innovation platforms enable creativity.

Lesson #3: Always Refine

The idea started out simply, as employees considered the problem and the reasons it was emerging: Is this something that could be solved with software? After all, shipping companies have route optimization software, couldn’t the same be applied to Standard’s trucks?

From that seed, the ultimate solution was refined out and put to work. Employees determined it was best, for both the safety of the personnel on the route and for Standard’s needs, if that was figured out internally. The route optimization software, given the name ‘Navigator,’ was designed internally and was built to take into account both needed maintenance and cost savings, so that route drivers didn’t have to hit every ATM every single day.

Lesson #4: Innovation Has Knock-On Effects

When Navigator was fully up and running, having been thoroughly tested, everyone could take pride in a job well done. The routes were better chosen, for both the bank and the driver; the data was tracked more precisely, and they’d solved a problem quite neatly. But everyone was surprised as the initial data came in.

It turns out that even the prototype of Navigator, once it was going, reduced the downtime of ATM service centers by at least a fifth and sometimes nearly a quarter. As the team wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen, this was a pleasant surprise. And as Navigator gets more data and is more refined, it’ll just get better, allowing personnel to fix ATMs faster and address service issues more accurately.

When you’re ready to see how innovation platforms can help you apply these lessons, contact us.

What You Need to Know About Crowdsourcing

What You Need to Know About CrowdsourcingIt’s June and that means it’s thesis season! Every spring at IdeaScale, we start receiving requests from undergraduate and graduate students around the globe who are researching crowdsourcing and its potential application in the business world. It is fascinating to hear their project titles and pitches and we try and take the opportunity to share as much information as we can from our IdeaScale resources. But we thought we’d document some of the most common questions below to tell you what you need to know about crowdsourcing.

What are the benefits of crowdsourcing?

There are lots of reasons that someone might use crowdsourcing, but we actually ask our customers and visitors why it was that they turned to crowdsourcing and though the order of reasons has some variability each year – the answers themselves remain fairly consistent. Here are just a few of them:

  • The Need for More or Better Ideas. Ideas are the life blood of innovation. If you don’t have a continuous pipeline of quality ideas, then you’re not going to be able to maintain a rapid pace of change. That’s why tapping into the crowd makes ideas a virtually renewable resource. The more people you ask, the more ideas you have. But you have to continue to ask for participation and you should always be looking for more diversity in your audience.
  • Aligning and De-duplicating Efforts. If you have a global or large-scale organization, you want the success in one area to be multiplied fifty-fold. That’s when small ideas can have groundbreaking impact. Crowdsourcing allows knowledge transfer to be real time and validated at scale.
  • Not Enough Resources to Create Change. Many innovators are working on their own and don’t have sufficient resources or authority to create change on their own. Crowdsourcing allows them to find new allies, validate ideas, and broadcast change organization-wide.

What are the stages of innovation?

Like so many of our answers, the stages of innovation vary customer to customer. Some use Agile methodology, some use design thinking, but whatever method they’re using, we see that there are a few distinct activities associated with innovation and that’s how we created our IdeaScale stages. Here they are described most broadly but these stages can be edited, re-ordered or modified by anyone:

  • Strategy. Understanding the problem and developing a plan for action. Do you have a process in place? Who will you reach out to?
  • Ideation. Although some customers will introduce some initial criteria or questions, this is the most open part of the innovation process where any idea can be shared, built on, and inspire others.
  • Refinement. Some build proposals, some start aligning ideas to programs elsewhere in the company, but in this stage ideas become more than fragments and start becoming more robust solutions.
  • Evaluation. At some point, ideas are evaluated for their potential merit, feasbility, etc. Ideas are evaluated to prioritize the allocation of resources. After all, you don’t have budget for everything, so where can you make a reasonable bet to get a valuable return? We did a whole webinar on this subject alone.
  • Prototyping. This is when teams begin to build a minimum viable trial to get some initial findings that can be applied to a broader release. Some people use digital prototyping services like TopCoder for this.
  • Launch. Those findings inform a more strategic build out that will eventually result in an implemented idea. This means a new process adopted, a new product launch, a new business model introduced. But only ideas that get to this stage become innovation.

What’s your advice on building an innovation culture?

Wow. This is a big, broad question. We’ve seen different programs of all types succeed – even in places where innovation culture was a challenge. But there are a few things that we might offer as advice to improve innovation culture and crowdsourcing success.

  • You have to be willing to hear from anyone. This sometimes requires a cultural shift as people often think that the HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) always provides the best idea. Although that might be true, many of the best ideas originated at the bottom or middle. Be willing to hear everyone’s voice on equal ground – and crowdsourcing allows you to prove the value of an idea no matter where it comes from.
  • You have to be willing to live with failure. Not just live with it; celebrate it! Failure shows a tolerance for risks which will also lead to big wins. Failures also represent lessons learned and an investment in your employees. If people don’t fear failure, they’re more likely to try new ideas and make suggestions. So when you’re showcasing success, also celebrate the lessons learned and the boldness of a failure.
  • Make at least one person responsible for innovation. We haven’t seen an innovation program survive that doesn’t have at least one person at the helm. After all, if everyone is responsible, it means that no one is responsible.
  • Align your innovation program with a business need. If there’s a need, then the solution that aligns to it is that much more likely to see the light of day. Delivering on ideas is the best way to build faith in a crowdsourced innovation program. So try to bring your crowd in sync with your business needs.
  • Develop a communications strategy. Don’t just send an email. Start by sending one email and then try numerous other channels, messages, and times to reach your audience as well. We have a whole webinar on this subject, too, but since crowdsourcing is inherently social, you definitely need to have a strong communications plan to go with it.

So those are our notes until next year. Let us know what other questions we can help you answer.


How Can Crowdsourcing Help the Caribbean to Transform by 2040?

How Can Crowdsourcing HelpDid you know that Alexander Hamilton, the First Secretary of the Treasury of the United States of America was from the Caribbean island of Nevis? Yes, he was! As a member of the Caribbean diaspora, I find this fact to be rather intriguing! Another notable political figure born to Jamaican immigrants is former Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Powell served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Commander of the U.S Army Forces Command, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.

June is Caribbean American Heritage Month. The month was officially formed and launched by Dr. Claire Nelson, the founder of the Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) located in Washington, D.C.  The resolution was officially signed by President George W. Bush on June 5, 2006.  Throughout the month there will be several events planned to celebrate the occasion. You can find a list of events on their website

June is also the start of Hurricane Season. 

The devastating hurricanes in 2017, the massive earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 and other natural disasters have affected the Caribbean economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism. Thousand suffered loss of jobs and many are still rebuilding to this day.

As the hurricane season is once again upon us, my thoughts shift to sustainability. What transformational ideas can the citizens of the Caribbean explore to shift the heavy dependency on the tourism industry? How can we become Smart Caribbean Nations?

The Inter-American Development Bank/Caribbean DevTrends created a video titled, “Jump Caribbean! Our Caribbean in 2040” to imagine what Caribbean nations could look like in the year 2040. Tourism, climate change, youth, regulatory policy, entrepreneurship, transportation, natural disasters, and technology play a major role in shaping the region. In the video, several Caribbean Prime Ministers from Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana and Barbados, share their thoughts on economic diversification, new mindsets, climate change, transformational thinking, superstorms, economic growth, job creations and transformational implementation.

It will take ideas, an effort from Caribbean and non-Caribbean citizens alike to get us to the vision in the “Jump Caribbean” video in 2040. With that said, I think it would be great to crowdsource our ideas. Please take a moment to share your ideas with this challenge question:

“How can Caribbean nations take a step forward to become more innovative and improve economic stability despite hurricanes and other natural disasters?”

Join the discussion here:

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

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.