IDEASCALE BLOG

Tag: crowdsourcing innovation

Five Product Innovations that Evolved Over Time

Five Product Innovations that Evolved Over TimeThe product innovations that generate the most excitement and public interest are the disruptive innovations. They could be a new way to call a cab, drive a car with little need for gas, or a completely new way to look at medical science, technology, or entertainment.

However, these innovations aren’t that common. The most successful, innovative companies strike a balance between core, adjacent, and transformational initiatives. A 2012 study found that companies that allocated about 70% of their innovation activity to core initiatives, 20% to adjacent ones, and 10% to transformational ones outperformed their peers.

To illustrate how this can happen, it’s helpful to look at innovations that evolved over time. Sometimes, you have the perfect solution already created. You just need a different perspective, and opportunity to look at it in a new way.

Listerine – From Surgery to Your Bathroom Counter

Listerine is well-known today as a mouthwash, but it didn’t start that way. This product innovation initially had an entirely different use, in operating rooms.

In the 1860’s, an English doctor named Joseph Lister was inspired by Louis Pasteur’s work on microbial infection. Lister was able to demonstrate that using carbolic acid on surgical dressing dramatically reduced rates of post-surgical infection.

Inspired by Lister’s discovery, American Joseph Lawrence developed a surgical antiseptic that was alcohol based and included eucalyptol, menthol, and other compounds. Lawrence named his creation “Listerine” in honor of Dr. Lister.

A licensee realized the potential of Listerine extended well beyond the operating room. With aggressive marketing to dentists and common Americans, Listerine became a runaway success in the 1920’s as a treatment for chronic bad breath. In seven years, the company’s revenue rose from $115,000 to more than $8 million.

Avon Skin So Soft – From Moisturizer to Hiking Companion 

Some product innovations aren’t created by the company at all. Instead, the innovations are brought out by customers who discover a new way to use a product. This is why including various sources of input is so vital in innovation projects!

Avon’s Skin So Soft bath oil was long considered by customers as a useful bug repellent. The company points out that the product wasn’t intended as a bug repellant, but Consumer Reports found that it worked to repel some mosquitos and ticks for up to two hours.

Two hours isn’t as long as most bug sprays, but it is something. For many of its fans, the oil has a pleasant scent and a positive effect on the skin. Avon responded to the product’s popularity by creating a Skin So Soft Bug Guard, a similar product designed as a bug repellent.

By listening to customer’s reviews of its products, Avon was able to innovate within its product line and create something new in response to consumer demand.

WD-40 – From Bombs Away to Squeaking Hinges 

There’s a joke that anything can be fixed as long as you have both duct tape and WD-40. What many people don’t know is that WD-40 was among many product innovations that initially had a totally different purpose.

When it was developed in 1953, WD-40 was intended to be used by Convair to protect the Atlas missile balloon tanks from rust and corrosion. The name means “Water Displacement, 40th formula”, which gives you some insight into how difficult it was to create.

WD-40 was later found to have a wide variety of household uses, and became available to the general public in 1958. While the product isn’t glamorous, the company has grown steadily, especially in foreign markets.

This simple innovation has caused WD-40’s stock to grow 200% in the last ten years, while the S&P Index has grown 70% in that time. The company positions the product as a multi-use item, allowing the flexibility in marketing and store placement, as well as ongoing profitability.

Minoxidil (aka Rogaine) – From Blood Pressure to Bald Heads 

Medical product innovations often come from alternate uses that are discovered over time. Minoxidil was tested to treat ulcers, which did not work. However, it was found to be powerful in widening blood vessels. As a result, minoxidil initially approved by the FDA as a blood pressure treatment medicine named Loniten.

Unfortunately, Loniten had an unpleasant side effect – it caused excessive hair growth on both the head and other parts of the body. Patients who were balding were glad to have additional head hair, but it could also affect the arms, legs, chest, and back.

Researchers jumped on this side effect, seeing a big market in treating baldness. In 1988, the drug was approved for treating baldness in men, and was released under the name Rogaine. Now available in a dropper, foam, and spray, Rogaine has been available without a prescription since 1995.

Slinky – From Stabilizing Ship Instruments to a Favorite Toy 

In 1943 a naval mechanical engineer named Richard James was working on creating springs that would support and stabilize sensitive equipment on ships. The equipment would often get damaged or lose calibration on rough seas.

As he developed one spring, he accidentally knocked it off a shelf. He watched it as it “stepped” in a series of arcs across the room. He realized that if he adjusted the steel and tension, he could make a spring that would walk and become a great toy.

His instincts were correct, and in 1945 he was able to demonstrate and sell the toy Slinky in the toy section of a Gimbels department store. The first 400 units sold out within 90 minutes, and the toy continues to be a children’s classic.

Not all product innovations have to be dramatic and transformative. Of course, you can’t avoid disruptive innovation, but having a balanced approach, focusing on all three types of innovation is key. Transformative innovations can change your organization’s trajectory, but incremental improvements are equally vital.

If you’re ready to set up an innovation plan for your organization, we’re here to help. Download the Annual Innovation Strategy whitepaper to get started.

Announcing the 2016 Innovation Management Award Winners

innovation-winners

Having received some fantastic entries, we have officially chosen and are extremely pleased to share our winners for the 2016 Innovation Management Awards. And because we got so many great submissions, for the first time ever, we have also selected runner ups for each category!

City of Calgary—Best Engagement Strategy

The City of Calgary is the winner of the Best Engagement Strategy for their myCityInnovation campaign, an internal program which is part of the broader City innovation program Civic Innovation YYC. In order to increase engagement, the City launched a multi-channel campaign to inform employees and get them involved. This campaign spanned all methods of communication, including social media, newsletters, events, emails and more. Furthermore, this push for engagement and communication continued throughout the entirety of the campaign, rather than focusing exclusively on the start of the campaign. With regular messages sent to the internal community, the City was able to keep potential innovators interested and aware of the campaign, and greatly exceed their target numbers for ideas submitted and engagement reached. Click here to find out more about the city of Calgary and their myCityInnovation initiative.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory—Best Moderation Strategy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the winner of the Best Moderation Strategy for their JUMP campaign. JUMP stands for Join the discussion, Unveil innovation, Motivate transformation, Promote technology-to-market. Oak Ridge is the largest science and energy national lab in the Department of Energy system, and the goal of JUMP was to broaden the pool of people from whom the DOE seeks ideas, and to move the ideas to marketplace faster. Jump crafted an incredibly detailed plan for moderation of submitted ideas, starting with a five phase schedule, the development of five roles within the community, the screening of ideas for applicability and appropriateness, and criteria for the evaluation of ideas. Click here to find out more about the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and their JUMP campaign.

National Cancer Institute—Best Innovation

The National Cancer Institute is the winner of Best Innovation for their Cancer Research Ideas campaign, in support of the Cancer Moonshot proposed by President Obama in January 2016. The Cancer Moonshot was proposed with a goal of accelerating progress against cancer by a decade in just five years. The Cancer Research Ideas community brought together the research community and the general public to submit ideas on how best to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. The result of the campaign was a final report which presented 10 transformative research recommendations for achieving the Cancer Moonshot’s goal, including recommendations for improving patient quality of life as well as suggestions for most useful research areas. Click here to find out more about the National Cancer Institute and the Cancer Research Ideas campaign.

Congratulations to our winners! To read more about each of our winners, and to find out about our runners-up (Dick’s Sporting Goods, Department of Labor, and Standard Bank), visit our 2016 Innovation Management Awards page.

What We Learned

Two trends that are common among our three winners are clearly articulated goals from the outset, and active participation from moderators to reach the best conclusions. All three of our winners entered their innovation campaigns with specific outcomes in mind. As a result, they were able to frontload the planning of the engagement and moderation of their campaigns, leading them all to exceed the quantitative expectations they had set for themselves. Additionally, all three of our winners found that active participation from moderators meant the best possible ideas at the end. By engaging innovators at all levels of idea suggestion, by soliciting conversation amongst the community, by asking clarifying questions to further develop ideas, by developing plans for engagement of potential innovators not already part of the community, moderators were able to elevate the discourse and the value of presented ideas.

When possible, winners in each category receive an Apple Watch, a 5% discount on their 2017 subscription, a VIP pass to IdeaScale’s 2017 Open Nation Conference, a free IdeaBuzz challenge, and a promotional PR packet.

What might your organization do to be more engaging, have better moderation, and implement the best innovation?

Why Diversity Is Important to Innovation

diversityThere are a number of reasons why diversity should be important to businesses, both diversity of an employee base and diversity of consumers: because representation matters, because top talent often want to work for a company that values diverse voices, because a focus on diversity looks good to funders.

But the bottom line is that lack of diversity may negatively impact your innovation efforts, and emphasis on diversity is beneficial for your company. Why? The biggest reason is that innovation profits from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, which is gained by hiring and creating an organizational culture of diversity. If you have people in a room with the same experiences, you’re likely to encounter stagnant ideas.

Diversity and Crowdsourcing

This especially makes sense when you think about innovation in relation to crowdsourcing. For so long, businesses focused all of their efforts on research and development departments full of fairly homogenous employees who were assigned to “innovation.” More and more, organizations are realizing the benefit of having many diverse voices chime in on innovation, which is served by something like crowdsourcing, which moves away from the old research and development model.

Making All Voices Count

For example, with Making All Voices Count’s recent Global Innovation Challenge. The campaign was specifically designed to elicit responses from around the world, asking citizens ways that their governments could be more accountable to them. Anyone from anywhere in the world was eligible to contribute ideas. As a result, over three years, Making All Voices Count has received almost 900 ideas. Of those, they have funded 10 winning ideas, which have included a web and mobile platform that aggregates data on development projects in Ghana and a project to reduce infant mortality in Indonesia, among others. Making All Voices Count is not the only organization who has benefited from opening innovation up to a wider, more diverse pool of contributors. The Cerebral Palsy Alliance did a similar thing with their recent “Change My World in One Minute” creation.

One of the recommendations that we make for those looking to foster and encourage a diverse workforce is the abandonment of the idea that smaller groups of innovators are better. Are there still projects where smaller groups are more efficient? Of course. But the wider pool of opinions and backgrounds that you have, the more likely you are to come up with some truly creative, innovative ideas.

Click here to download a recent white paper on the importance of diversity for innovation, how to nurture a diverse workforce and create a culture where diversity thrives, and some fantastic examples of diversity aiding innovation.

Innovation Goes Beyond Bright Ideas

Innovation Goes Beyond Bright IdeasWhen organizations talk about innovation, they are referring to generating bright ideas. They spend time thinking “out of the box” and hope to come up with a brilliant new idea.  But innovation is not the Idea; it’s more than that. Innovation goes beyond bright ideas by combining processes with creative minds to breathe life into something that makes life easier, days brighter, and helps organizations get closer to their goals.

In other words, you have to do something with those bright ideas. They need to transform into something of value to your organization and customers. Do you have a process in place to do that?

Transforming Bright Ideas Into Value

Don’t think that bright ideas aren’t valuable. It’s quite the opposite. Ideation is a necessary step in the innovation process, but it’s only one step.

In the Ideate stage, you’re collecting ideas from your source community. That may be your internal employees, your external customers, or both. The goal is to get as many ideas as you can so that you can find a few nuggets to explore in depth.

However, you need to have a strategy and plan for implementing and maximizing those ideas for real innovation to happen. You’ll need to create a team that can help you determine the practicality of each idea, and evaluate the value that the idea can bring. You’ll want to define which stakeholders need to be involved in the process, and how you’ll communicate information to those who need to know.

Once you have a strategy and plan in place to evaluate and communicate your bright ideas, you’ll need to determine what resources you have available to implement new processes. It’s important to commit to an idea not just up front, but over the long term.

When creating your implementation team, be sure to look for motivated team members that represent all of the vital departments involved. Have a cross-functional team that can help you foresee and avoid potential problems, as well as support you when the changes roll out.

Finally, you’ll need to execute the new idea and evaluate its effectiveness. You can see if it measures up to the predictions or if it falls short, and how it can be tweaked to maximize impact.

Through all of these steps, you’ll need to be highly organized. Having the right tools and processes in place as you innovate is essential.

Systematizing the Process

Most business leaders realize that they need to systematize their daily operations if they want to have consistent, high-quality results. However, they don’t apply that same thinking to innovation, and it costs them a great deal of time and money in the long run.

Too many people think innovation by nature has to be spontaneous and can’t be predicted or planned. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, you can easily create a system that you follow for every innovation project that will help you succeed. Here’s one process:

  • Ideate. Gather bright ideas from your source community, either internal staff or external contributors.
  • Build a Team. Gather a team to help you evaluate the ideas and prepare them for implementation.
  • Refine. Refine the most promising ideas and collect detailed information about how implementation would happen.
  • Estimate. Determine the resources needed for each idea today as well as in the future.
  • Review. Key stakeholders make the final decision on what idea or ideas will move forward.
  • Fund. Ideas are funded and implemented.
  • Archive. Details about the project are stored so that lessons can be learned for future innovation projects.

Generating bright ideas is an essential first step to innovation success. But you can’t stop there. You have to go beyond the idea and establish a solid process to evaluate and implement them. One that includes communication, organization, and commitment.

To turn bright ideas into value, you need to create a solid process that works for your organization. Download the Sample Idea Process to get started today.

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Bringing the Futurist to Life: How to Think Beyond Past Innovations

ring the Futurist to Life and Think Beyond Past InnovationsToday’s rapidly changing environment often requires rethinking fundamental strategies and looking ahead to the next generation of products or services. Core elements of your operations may also need rapid reinvention to maintain the success you are currently enjoying. Innovation leaders must play the role of Futurist, anticipating disruptions and thinking beyond evolutionary improvements in order to secure and maintain their business’s competitive edge.

What is a Futurist?

A Futurist looks toward the future, scouts new opportunities, and brings future possibilities out of the fog so that everyone can see them and their potential. He or she enables people throughout the organization to discover the emerging trends that most impact their work.

Bringing the Futurist to Life

Playing the role of Futurist requires leaders to become comfortable going beyond what
they know and be interested in discovering something new. The leader’s role as a Futurist involves recognizing signals of the future, sharing the trends, encouraging others to seek trends, designing processes to share, and building a future-oriented culture.

Recognizing Signals of the Future

Leaders need to identify and respond to the signals of the future. They need to be able to scout trends that can impact the enterprise (e.g., robotics, sensors, big data, commercial drones, renewable energy, 3D printing, self-driving cars). Some of the tactics they use include:

  • Working with their teams to look in unexpected places for new and unanticipated trends.
  • Actively monitoring the external business environment to learn about emerging needs, technologies, competitors, and adjacent markets.
  • Engaging with customers to see how the most forward-looking ones are beginning to use your products or services, or to notice what else they might be using instead.
  • Getting to know the start-up companies working in garages, labs, and innovation incubators all over the world.
  • Being open to surprises that are filled with learning and innovation opportunities.

A Forward-Looking Culture

It’s not enough for one leader to recognize signals of the future. A Futurist must make trends visible for others and encourage people to be on the lookout for important trends themselves. Tactics used to create a forward-looking culture include:

  • Creating processes that make it easy for others to share what they’re thinking without judgment or negative consequences.
  • Making it easy to share that information, perhaps in meetings or in a platform like IdeaScale.
  • Ensuring that trends are brought into the organization on a regular basis.
  • Building a future-oriented culture, a dynamic enterprise, where people understand that “we are on the move and the only thing we can count on is change.”

There is something compelling about seeing new ideas and processes that other innovators are creating. The future has a sense of energy and excitement. Looking ahead tends to add momentum to the idea generation process that follows it. Once you and your innovators connect to the immense creativity occurring in your field, new ideas typically flow naturally from what you learn.

Failure to Think Future

Too often we see innovation initiatives that completely skip the “futuring” aspect. They ignore the true front end of the innovation process and move directly to idea generation. Winston Churchill once said, “Those that choose to build their present out of images of the past will miss the opportunities of the future.” Brainstorming based only on current conditions and customer needs runs the risk that the ideas created will not carry the company very far into the future.

The future will never look the way we imagine it. In fact, much of what we foresee in the future already exists in today’s leading edge companies. Some of the trends we see now will survive and thrive to become tomorrow’s standards, while others will quietly disappear. We can’t possibly predict the winners and losers, but the thinking we do to anticipate potential changes will prepare us for the actual future, as it becomes our new day-to-day reality. We’ll be in touch with the customers, know the potential partners, understand where to find or acquire the new technologies, and have teams with background knowledge ready, who can quickly put their learning to use to create new solutions.

Embracing Your Inner Futurist

You’ll often play the role of Futurist, even when you don’t intentionally mean to do so. Perhaps you’ll spot a trend as you read an industry article, or perhaps inspiration will come to you as you simply spend time enjoying a cup of your favorite beverage. Channeling your inner Futurist will allow you and your team to continuously think beyond the past so that you can invent a better future.

In the next installment of the Leading Innovation series, we’ll share the key traits of the Direction Setter role. If you’d rather not wait, download the entire chapter today.

This blog post is part of the Leading Innovation series authored by Laszlo Gyorffy, MS. Laszlo is president of the Enterprise Development Group, an international consulting firm specializing in business strategy and innovation. He also is an accomplished speaker, certified instructional designer and trainer, and co-author of Creating Value with CO-STAR: An Innovation Tool for Perfecting and Pitching your Brilliant Ideas and The Global Innovation Science Handbook. Laszlo recently developed the One Hour Innovator a cloud-based toolkit that teaches people how to successfully generate and champion bigger, bolder, and better ideas.

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Do you Know the 10 Aspects that Influence Innovation?

innovation competencyIn today’s extraordinarily fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to be as competitive as possible. It is much easier to be competitive by preparing your employees and the corporate culture in general for the unique challenges and benefits of innovation, and pursing with vigor potential areas for growth every day.

This 10-question survey tests an organization’s innovation competency against 10 qualities. These 10 aspects tend to fall into two big categories: organizational culture and ease of participation.

Organizational culture is essential to creating an environment for successful innovation initiatives. After all, if you haven’t set the stage organizationally, how can you expect your employees to feel supported and interested in participating? Some of the aspects that influence innovation that fall into this category are whether the leadership inspires the employees, and whether cross-boundary collaboration is encouraged and new ideas are adopted quickly.

As we’ve found with Innovation Management Award winners, by making things as easy as possible for your innovators, you are increasing the likelihood that they will actually BE your innovators. Some of the aspects that influence innovation that fall into this category are whether employees have a platform for sharing ideas and receiving feedback, and whether those employees feel supported (both by the leadership and with funding) to try new ideas.

At the end of the survey, after you have entered your responses, you will be provided with areas in which your organization is doing well. You will also be provided with expanded information on areas for improvement. Perhaps your organization could be better about making it easy for employees to participate in innovation. Perhaps you could be better at distributing pertinent market information company-wide so that employees are well aware of the industry happenings. Or perhaps you can include innovation benchmark goals as part of the metrics for management reviews.

You can take the aforementioned introductory 10-question survey, of course. However, this is just the beginning step that you can take on the road to setting yourself up for success. Click here to find out more about evaluating company-wide innovation fitness, to ensure your organization is in the best shape to make real progress.

What is the difference between an incremental change and disruption?

disruption-coverWhat IS the difference between an incremental change and disruption? Incremental innovation is spot on, exactly as it sounds; this is innovation that takes place slowly across time, and allows for a gradual development of the product and its marketplace. Disruption is a change to the market that is so powerful and different that it requires others in the field to follow suit or be left behind.

One of the examples of incremental innovation would be Coca Cola. From the initial formula containing at the very least some cocaine, to the current-day product with various flavors, this company has been a slow burn of innovation. The bicycle is another example. Simply look at all of the incarnations throughout the years, and you can see how it has grown into the modern-day bicycle.

Perhaps one of the most prominent and recognizable examples of disruption is a product that many of us use in our daily lives: Netflix. While of course there were movie and television rental locations before it (for example, Blockbuster), Netflix was the first of its kind to turn this kind of offering into a subscription model, accessible from the comfort of our own homes, completely changing the market and ultimately putting Blockbuster out of business. Some other examples of disruptive innovation throughout the ages might be Skype, Pandora, Wikipedia, the personal computer, mobile telephones, radiography, and many others.

While incremental innovation has been just fine for much of history, disruption is pulling to the forefront and seems to be the innovation of the future. In this current super connected, fast-paced world, businesses and organizations must work harder to be competitive. This means finding better ideas, lowering costs, and getting ideas to market faster. Over half of executives, across a number of professional fields, who were questioned anticipate that there will be digital disruption in the next 12 months.

To read more about disruptive innovation, and to find out how to utilize IdeaScale and the power of the crowd to create disruptive innovation, click here.

One More Week to Submit to the Innovation Management Awards

innovation-management-deadlineAs we wrap up this election cycle, another deadline is right around the corner – the deadline for submissions to the 2016 Innovation Management Awards!

If you’re still debating whether you should submit, or if you’ve already submitted your organization and are awaiting the results, here are some of the lessons that we’ve learned from past Innovation Management Award winners that you can take to heart for the future.

Have a Plan

When it comes to having an effective, efficient innovation campaign, arguably the number one most important aspect is having a plan, and have that plan developed prior to beginning the campaign. This means thinking through all aspects of engagement, moderation, enactment, tracking, rewards if applicable. How are you going to get your employees and/or consumers involved in the campaign? How are you going to sift through innovation ideas once people start suggesting them? How are you going to decide on winning idea(s)? How are you going to track the implementation and enactment of ideas, to see exactly how effective they are? How are you going to reward participants for their participation? These, and many more, are all questions that should be considered and answered before you even start a campaign. As we’ve seen, when you have strategies in place from the start, you’re helping yourself succeed.

All three of our winners from the 2014 Innovation Management Awards had exemplary plans in place for their campaigns, specifically with relation to social media outreach and engagement. The Department of Labor thought through three specific phases of their campaign, and the latter two phases including utilizing social media as a way of examining the accessibility of that media. The Department of Energy used their Twitter account to garner approximately 11% of the Sunshot Catalyst campaign’s members. Scentsy used social media to promote successfully completed ideas, in turn encouraging the community to get involved and be involved in the future.

Make It Easy

Another important facet of having a successful campaign is how easy you make it for your community to participate. This goes somewhat into having a plan – if you’ve thought ahead well enough, you will hopefully have thought about the path of least resistance for those that you would most like to hear from. If you’re attempting to engage employees, perhaps set aside a half an hour every day specifically for employees to create and share ideas. If you’re hoping to engage a wider community, maybe make a “cheat sheet” of step-by-step instructions for participation. If you have satellite locations for your organization, create easily shareable communications for them to pass along to their individual communities. Innovators are more likely to be involved if they can spend their actual time innovating and surfacing ideas rather than struggling with the logistics of being involved.

Focus on Inclusivity and Transparency

As in many areas of life, we seem to be striving more and more for inclusivity and transparency, perhaps related to our continual struggle to remedy past inequities and prevent them in the future. Whatever the reason, it’s a step in the right direction. This focus is a commonality amongst our winners, and is a good indicator that you might be a powerful candidate for the Innovation Management Awards. All three of our 2015 Innovation Management Award winners focused on these two important attributes for their campaigns. Both the Making All Voices Count and Innovate Your State campaigns were looking to engage citizens in ways that could make their experiences better, specifically in ways that could increase representation and government accountability and transparency. The Western Australia Police found that the transparency during their process increased participation, even when that transparency involved constructive criticism.

So if you have a plan, make it easy, and focus on inclusivity and transparency, you’re a perfect fit. Be sure to submit your organization to the 2016 Innovation Management Awards by Friday, November 18. You can find more information and enter your submission here.

Innovating for Small Business Saturday

Innovating for Small Business SaturdayCould a single day make the difference in your entire year? When it comes to Small Business Saturday, the answer is definitely yes. On November 26, 2016, you’ll have a unique opportunity to capitalize on small business shoppers in your area. Innovating for a successful Small Business Saturday can improve your bottom line – especially if you start now.

Think Creatively 

The first step is to consider what’s worked in the past and what tactics you’ll employ this year. Think about your efforts during the last Small Business Saturday. What was effective? What wasn’t? What are some unique ways you can capitalize on the good while eliminating the bad? What new outreach ideas have you learned from this year that you can include? Be sure to ask the experts, your employees, who often have direct feedback from customers that they can share.

Secondly, consider who you could work with. Other companies that have similar customer bases, and offer complementary products or services, are great partners. If you have a retail store, consider what businesses are nearby that would make good partners. Be sure to approach them soon so that you can coordinate your efforts well in advance. The added benefit is shared marketing costs.

Finally, reflect on what additional offers you can make to bring people into your store. You can go beyond discounts and coupons. Consider a gift for visiting your store, a buy one get one, or even a free report or article that is of interest to your customers.

Create a Small Business Saturday Innovation Team 

Consider creating a Small Business Saturday innovation team. It doesn’t have to be a large team. If you’re a smaller business, your team could include someone who’s familiar with marketing and another person who works directly with customers.

This team could work to create something truly unique using innovation methods described in our Innovation Academy. Whatever you decide, make sure that roles and responsibilities are established as well as a budget for marketing, coupons, gifts, or special prizes.

Create a Small Business Saturday Plan 

When you plan for Small Business Saturday, be thinking about the entire season and not just a single day. When you think beyond Small Business Saturday, and make a comprehensive plan that includes the whole holiday season and beyond, you’ll see greater success.

Perhaps your plan includes a quick how-to video or special do-it-yourself projects that can only be done in your store. Maybe you’ll create a Small Business Saturday BINGO card or treasure hunt that requires customers to visit your store along with other stores that you’ve partnered with. Once customers are in your store, you can greet them with water, coffee, or treats to encourage them to stay longer. The sky is the limit.

The other thing to consider is how to get customers to come back to your store after the holiday season. Many savvy retailers give out coupons during the holiday season that give a discount or special bonus for shopping after the first of the year, while others offer a mobile app or punch card for repeat purchases. This gets customers to come back to your store, which not only adds to your bottom line but also increases the chance of converting a one-time shopper into a frequent buyer.

Continue to Stay Top of Mind 

Leading up to Small Business Saturday, and throughout the holiday season and beyond, it’s important to stay top of mind with customers. As a small business, you don’t have the large budget and advertising reach of the bigger retailers. However, there are two tactics that can make a difference for you: social media and email marketing.

With social media, you can not only stay visible, but you can target specific customers in your area. With Facebook Ads, you can choose geographic location, special interests, job titles, income, and more. When you reach more people with ads, blog posts, and other interesting content, you can grow your audience and expand your influence. This will help you get better sales on Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.

Email marketing has shown to be very effective as it allows you to send personalized messages to thousands of people. When you use intriguing headlines, you’ll get more people opening and reading your emails.

When you arm your innovative Small Business Saturday team with tools and resources like social media and email marketing, you can reach the people who are most interested in what you have to offer. But, the time to start innovating and preparing for Small Business Saturday is now. Download the Crowdsourcing for Small Business white paper to learn how you can use crowdsourcing for innovating on this special day and beyond.

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Driving Technology Innovation Using Crowdsourcing

Driving Technology Innovation Using CrowdsourcingStudies show that speed-to-market is positively correlated with new product success. It’s important to execute a time-based technology innovation strategy in an unfamiliar, emerging, or rapidly-evolving market.  Today’s technology market is nothing but uncertain, with quick changes happening every day. As a result, speed-to-market with your technology innovation could mean the difference between stellar results or lackluster product launches.

Technology Innovation Challenges 

Like many organizations, you likely face a variety of challenges with tehcnology innovation. Internally, you may face resistance to running your projects or teams in new ways. You may have people who are used to the “way it’s always been done,” or who want to choose teams and projects based on internal politics instead of merit. You may also face resistance to new technologies, or have leaders who don’t want to invest in additional upgrades and training.

Other challenges that you face include limitations due to staff size, budget, culture, uncertainty and skepticism. When it comes to developing new ideas, it’s difficult to know which ideas will have a large enough demand to be profitable until you’ve invested a significant amount of money on research and development.

Overcoming these challenges is the key to rapid technology innovation. By incorporating crowdsourcing into your innovation efforts, you can reduce common roadblocks,  iterate quickly, and perhaps be first-to-market.

Driving Technology Innovation Using Crowdsourcing 

The most common complaint amongst technology innovation project managers is the lack of resources.

Many organizations don’t have the staff available to substantially increase speed-to-market and don’t have the budget to hire more. Even if staffing isn’t a concern, there’s still the constant budget constraints that make the development of new ideas difficult for most organizations.

Beyond resources, organizations often face the challenge of predicting demand. There’s nothing more frustrating for a project team than spending time and money developing a new technology innovation, only to discover that no one is buying. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t find out that they’re headed down the wrong path until the R&D is already invested, the product has already hit the market, and it’s losing money.

Crowdsourcing changes the entire story for technology companies. With crowdsourcing, your organization can gain significant hours without hiring new employees. You can spread out the time required for testing and development over a much larger group of people, many of whom are volunteers. You can also test consumer demand for an innovation before you invest a large amount of money developing it.

From new product development to marketing ideas, you can also use crowdsourcing to solve specific technical problems like Citrix did with their innovation program. Citrix was able to move from managing new ideas via email to using crowdsourcing to gather ideas from thousands of employees.

How to Get Started

Using crowdsourcing in a technology organization requires a shift in thinking from traditional attitudes that generally exists in companies that have been around for years. If you can work on encouraging your staff, team, and leadership to change their mindset, you’ll be well on your way to helping your organization take advantage of the many benefits of crowdsourcing. Here are some of the best practices for technology crowdsourcing:

  1. Shift the Paradigm of “Must Be Invented Here.” Being the best isn’t just about who you have inside your organization, it’s about what you can access outside it as well.
  1. Remove Geographical Bias. Are you resistant to accepting ideas from other cultures? Having an open mindset will promote respect and admiration for other cultures and perspectives. This could be the breakthrough that you’ve been waiting for.
  1. Be Open to Revising Your Problem Statement. As your true needs become known, your problem statement may need to grow and adapt. Declutter your requirements and criteria to make sure that participants understand what you’re looking for.
  1. Involve the Marketing Department from the Start. Make sure your marketing department participates in the project from the very beginning. If there isn’t enough interest in your new offer, don’t be afraid to pull the plug and move on to a new idea.
  1. Use Competitions to Spark Interest and Creativity. People love to compete, they love to vote on others’ ideas, and they especially love to win. By using competitions, you can draw more participants than you would with a simple survey or focus group.
  1. Pick the Right Rewards. Be sure that the rewards for your contest or competition match what the crowd is interested in. Many crowd workers are looking for a financial reward, but they are also very interested in making a difference.  You can maximize participation by making it clear what the rewards are and matching them to the desires of the crowd.
  1. Follow Up After the Winner is Chosen. When you choose a winning idea and move into implementation, keep your fans and participants updated as the product goes into production. This will spur demand and help participants feel like their work made a difference.

When you follow these best practices, you’ll be setting your organization up for success with your crowdfunding innovation projects.  For a deeper dive into technology innovations using crowdsourcing, download our latest whitepaper.

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