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Expert Interview Series: Jennifer Riggins of Happy Melly On Growing Your Brand Using Collaboration And Innovation

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Jennifer Riggins is the marketeer at Happy Melly, a virtual global business network dedicated to making happiness at work the new norm.

Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Happy Melly is set up with the belief that happier employees are more productive, better able to achieve goals and be successful. To start, how does the happiness of each component of a team contribute to the whole working effectively?

Don’t love the word “component” kicking off the first question – we aren’t talking about Ford’s pieces on an assembly line that have mostly been replaced by robots, we’re talking about human beings, usually working in knowledge and creative-based jobs, albeit toward a common goal.

Happy workers aren’t just more productive, but they are more loyal to team and business, more innovative in an environment that lets them feel safe to experiment and risk failure, and they are more collaborative. Bringing a group of these happy individuals together toward a common goal makes them more likely to achieve or surpass those goals.

Happy Melly also allies with social entrepreneurs, to increase the cooperative impact, as well as giving value, attention, and credibility to each component of a partnership. To start, can you talk a bit about what you mean by social entrepreneurs? How do you decide on who you’re going to work with?

A social entrepreneur is anyone who works toward affecting social change, solving problems – macro and micro – and making a difference in at least one life. One doesn’t have to own her or his own business – it’s anyone who wants to affect this change and disrupt and improve, even within the confines of a large corporation.

Anyone is welcome to join Happy Melly as a supporter – all we ask for is a small annual fee based on the resident country’s income. For a Happy Melly funder, which involves a much more significant financial and time commitment, we do have requirements, which are evaluated by current funders. Funders come from businesses that have a clearly defines purpose that aligns with Happy Melly’s own vision of happiness at work, and that looks to expand their products or services globally and transparently. Of course, these funders want to become an active part of invigorating our growing community with experiments and feedback.
How can creative collaboration help “value, attention, and credibility” to the parts of a partnership? What have been some particularly successful collaborations you’ve seen or taken part in?

I can’t talk too much about collaboration among supporters – all we know is that 55 percent of conversations within our more than 600-person Slack community happen in private message which we think implies a lot of collaboration. In the shared Slack channels, we also see a core group of members constantly openly sharing experiments and offering feedback. One supporter collaboration that has come out of our community is the Agile Uprising which looks to build a community around the agile mindset and includes four Happy Melly members as founders.

One area where we see truly visible collaboration is among our Funders. This much smaller group acts as a sort of startup incubator. With a similar general goal of increasing happiness at work, there is a lot of support and overlap, with Lisette’s Collaboration Superpowers for remote working, Jurgen’s fourth book Managing for Happiness and the Management 3.0 brand, Jason’s Lean Change Management book and workshops, and Learning 3.0’s books and workshops, among our long-term funders, each bouncing ideas off each other and sharing experiences. And then the customers of these brands are then able to pick and choose from the array of the solutions that work for them.

One area where I’ve seen the most successful collaboration among Funders is Sergey. I’ve seen him spending the last couple years traveling the world, bouncing ideas off of members, until he found a void in workshop management software. Because of this, he was able to build his own company Workshop Butler which solves this problem and three of the other funders were some of its first customers, providing candid feedback in return for helping to steer the product roadmap.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once joked, “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” Can you talk about how collaboration can help test an idea, and how it can help make an idea superior to the first iteration?

At Happy Melly, we’re first and foremost about feedback – and certainly it’s true that two heads are better than one. Most of our interaction is in a massive Slack community with more than 100 topic-related channels, ranging from agile and lean change to remote working to more personal ones like family, vulnerability and general pursuits of happiness. Members usually choose a channel where they’ve gained confidence with the members to talk about obstacles they are meeting at work, broach their first idea of how to overcome them, and to ask for advice. This sort of working out loud allows ideas to mature, experiments to go on, and then other feedback cycles to continue as updates are shared.

We also hold Weekly Happiness Challenges, which has one or two members leading an experiment and discussion around a specific topic a week. They can be smaller challenges that run throughout the week, like on remote working or personal branding, or they can be big undertakings that can take longer than a week, like abstaining from negativity on social media or gratitude journaling.

Happy Melly have a bunch of thought and workplace experiments listed on your website, regarding productivity, collaboration, and workplace happiness. What are one or two experiments someone might try to start steering their workplace towards a more collaborative environment?

One run by Agile Coach and Supporter Josh Briggs. He challenged us to be vulnerable via the following experimental options:

    • Before heading into the office or a meeting, encourage yourself to let go of worrying about what others think of you and to share one genuine thought you have.
    • When someone ask you how you are doing, tell them how you are actually doing. Do not respond with the canned, “I’m fine and you?”
    • When you need help, let someone know you’re struggling and ask for it.

Trust and vulnerability are intrinsically linked – you can’t build trust with your teammates until you are vulnerable yourself. I think this is why Josh’s experimental week just this December sparked the most discussion we’ve ever had on our Slack community that continues today.

How can collaboration help workers feel more engaged, and more a part of a company and a community? What difference can that make, both for the employees and the company?

Working in silos is proven to be unsuccessful. If we are just cogs in a chain, sure it may work, but if you want to create a productive environment that’s constantly innovating and improving, we have to work together. Collaborating toward a common goal does make us feel more engaged and a part of something bigger than ourselves. As talked about before, it makes us feel more likely to experiment. Also only 12 percent of people change jobs because of money – while 80 or so percent of HR reps believe that’s the reason – that means creating a sense of loyalty through collaboration is key to your company’s growth and success.

Collaboration offers many different viewpoints from lots of different people. This can offer unique insight into what people really need and want. Can you talk about how crowdsourcing can be a source of ideas for future projects?

For sure crowdsourcing ideas is valuable. Many of our members are coaches and team leaders, so they will present a challenge and ‘idea-source’ solutions, which then other members will also test out. And on a team, we are more and more moving away from the top-down mandate of the Waterfall method of massive project management.

Instead, everyone is responsible for her or his smaller piece, which contributes to the whole. Similarly, everyone can express ideas and opinions, which can then be either used at the moment or put on ice for future experimentation. As organizations become increasingly collaborative and flat, ‘idea-sourcing’ becomes revenue driving.

Likewise, how can having a concrete goal help a company become extra streamlined and efficient? What could be some results of this new efficiency?

Concrete goals and idea-sourcing aren’t mutually exclusive. A company can and should have goals that creates a sense of unity and transparency, but then crowdsourcing ideas can be used to help achieve that goal. But certainly goals don’t make companies more streamlined and efficient – people and processes do. However, offering attainable shared goals is one way of motivating people to work harder.

Even if a company doesn’t already have a huge customer base, there’s still a lot of ways to crowdsource ideas and inspiration. Do you ever monitor social media and the web to keep a finger on the pulse? What are some methods a company might use social media or automated alerts to monitor new industries or trends?

Sure, we use tools like Google Analytics and Hootsuite to monitor mentions of our brand. And certainly social media is a great way to crowdsource ideas for blogposts and experiments. And of course drawing on real life contemporary events via the news for examples of old school versus innovative companies always gives us things to talk about within our community.

But if you have a small customer base, you need to just be out there – online and in person – to find out who your perspective customers are and asking them what problems they are looking to solve. Social media is just one place you can ask these business-saving questions.

Crowdsourcing and collaboration is a great way to spread the word on a brand, without being pushy or spending tons of money on questionable advertising. How can a great crowdsourcing campaign help get the name out there, even more so than traditional advertising or marketing? And what are some of the benefits of the philanthropic nature of spreading the word via doing good deeds?

First, it’s about creating valuable content that makes want to share it – it’s the basis of social media success. And then it’s about making the ask – having the guts to say we need something and we were wondering if you would share it. Of course, that means prioritizing sharing first other people’s work before you start asking them.

Want to connect and collaborate with you workforce? Start your own IdeaScale community today!

A Distributed Workforce Collaborates

wapol 4.19.16Social media platforms. Email. Video messaging. These days, long distance communication is easier than ever before. This ease of crossing the void has allowed folks with a common aim and a like mind—even if they are separated by distance—to come together. This is true of fandoms, like Whovians or Hamilton superfans; it is true of news events, like the Supreme Court upholding marriage equality; it is true of political and social movements, like those in relation to the 2016 Election. It is also true of governmental agencies who span a wide area but are working to maintain cohesiveness and efficiency.

The Western Australia Police are an exemplary case for using an online platform in order to improve legislation and the quality of life, not only for the citizens they protect but also for the police jurisdictions themselves. In fact, the Western Australia Police were awarded a 2015 Innovation Management Award for Best Engagement Strategy.

The Western Australia Police jurisdiction is responsible for policing the world’s largest single geographic jurisdiction; not just Australia’s largest geographic jurisdiction, the world’s largest. Their territory covers over 2.5 million square miles. That’s quite a spread! As a result of this widespread coverage area, as well as rate of growth, it was becoming more important to the WA Police to examine and reevaluate all aspects of policing services.

In response, they implemented Frontline 2020 using the IdeaScale platform. By providing an online community for WA Police in which they could recommend improvements and collaborate on new ideas, Frontline 2020 helped bridge the physical gap between these public servants. WA Police also discovered that internal engagement increased when every participant received personalized responses, even if the suggested idea was not implementable for practical reasons.

When examining such a massive machine, efficiency (both monetary efficiency and manpower efficiency) is everything. Consider these wins which have already been produced as a result of the Frontline 2020 initiative: a legislative change saved 46,000 frontline hours each year; streamlined reporting procedures, which saved 8,000 hours annually; and changing the rules regarding warrant service that saved thousands of hours in travel time. Perhaps an even greater landmark, the initiative included over 60% of the workforce participating in the process, across distances, in pursuit of a common goal.

To find out more about how the Western Australia Police are using IdeaScale to improve their own lives and the lives of their citizens, click here to download the recent case study.

Why Process Efficiency Is Integral to Business

process efficiencySometimes in the business world, it’s all about the money.

Other times in the business world, it’s all about the efficiency.

In fact, those two things are related. Because as we’ve all been told, time is money, and efficiency equals time. When organizations are working towards particular financial goals, it can be difficult to think about taking the time to consider what processes could work better in order to increase efficiency. However, as a company that is specifically geared towards safety and protection, Mine Safety Appliances (MSA) found it important to do just that.

Founded in 1914, MSA is the global leader in the development, manufacture and supply of safety products that protect people and facility infrastructures. Recently, they took stock of responses from an employee engagement survey, and discovered that there were any number of inefficiencies and bureaucratic red tape which were preventing employees from quickly solving problems that they encountered. Realizing that more time could be spent on the job of developing and supplying safety products if these processes were streamlined, the MSA created a community using IdeaScale technology. The program was called [email protected] (WTF standing for “What to Fix,” of course) and encouraged employees to submit their ideas. One of the biggest focuses of the MSA was on keeping the initiative transparent, open and easy.

The massive, widespread participation and the staggering number of participators—leading to an almost unheard of 99 percent participation—proves exactly how much a program like [email protected] was needed. The program crowdsourced 50 ideas, generated hundreds of comments and recorded 4,000 votes from 700 pilot users. And this was over only a four-week period!

Three of these ideas were elevated for evaluation, but Douglas McClaine, Senior Vice President, Secretary and Chief Legal Officer at MSA believes this program is exactly what MSA needed “at a time when we want to drive innovation and outside-the-box thinking.”

To find out more about MSA and their [email protected] program, click here to download the recent case study.

Why is Transparency Important to Ideation

transparencyWhen thinking about ideation, one of the most important factors to consider is transparency. Although at first glance it may not seem to be so, transparency or the lack thereof can have a huge impact on the level of success of any innovation campaign. In fact, in years past, methods of ideation that have not involved a focus on transparency have had that lack specifically cited as a main reason for their ineffectiveness.

But before getting into the failure of previous ideation methods as a result of no transparency, let us consider some of the benefits of transparency in innovation.

One of the most impactful benefits of transparency in ideation is that all participants are able to see that their contributions are appreciated, even if those ideas are ultimately not implemented. Employees who feel a sense of agency in their organization are much more likely to want to contribute in the future. Beyond that, this transparency fosters a positive organizational culture, where all feel valued and necessary.

Hand in hand with that is another benefit: transparency means that people are able to be held accountable, both in moments of celebration, and moments that provide opportunity for growth. Being able to recognize innovators for their ideas is another step in creating a positive organizational culture. It’s just another occasion to show community members that they are important. But this accountability also allows for constructive feedback on ideas that are not quite up to snuff, with productive suggestions for future contributions.

Going beyond employee participation in ideation, a third benefit of transparency, with all stakeholders in the community, is that they are more likely to feel engaged and invested, increasing the likelihood for positive customer relationships. Allowing customers and other stakeholders to participate in ideation—and being transparent with the outcomes—is an incredibly powerful way to show the community that their contributions are appreciated.

If these benefits aren’t enough to convince you that transparency is important to ideation, perhaps the detriments to methods that don’t encourage transparency will do the trick.

Recent studies investigating the failure and abandonment of former methods of ideation, specifically the suggestion box, show why a lack of transparency can be one of the biggest hindrances to innovation. Historically, when there’s a lack of transparency, community members were suggesting innovations and had no idea of the status or process that occurred after their ideas were submitted. There was also no way for other members to participate by voting on or adding to ideas that were suggested. There was no accountability, and no way to recognize those members who had introduced winning ideas.

We have all utilized some methods for innovation that were less than successful. Confess your shame in less than a sentence and share in this contest for the chance to win an Apple Watch.

Asking for Problems, Asking for Solutions

IdeaScale_Sunshot_cover“What should our first campaign be?”

Funnily enough, that question itself is a fantastic starting campaign. When an organization first begins crowdsourcing solutions to their problems, opening with a call for questions is an incredibly effective strategy.

The Department of Energy learned this firsthand when they initially launched their Sunshot Catalyst campaign. Their first step was to put out a call for problem statements, with the plan to later solicit solutions to the problems the community considered most important.

When you think about it, this method has a lot of common sense to it. After all, the same principles which govern the crowdsourcing of solutions apply to garnering problems as well: the community involved is most likely to have observed problems or issues that could benefit from crowdsourced solutions (in comparison to those outside the company, or even a smaller group of team members). Those community members are also most likely to have an idea of which problems and solutions will have the biggest impact. Further, that community is going to feel more invested in helping to arrive at solutions if they care about the issue—which they are more likely to do if they recommended it in the first place.

And thus it all comes full circle.

By asking their best and brightest for the most pressing problems in solar energy, the Department of Energy surfaced ideas on which the community voted regarding the most important, pressing problems. From there, the Department put out a call looking for innovators to present solutions to those problems, and through a process of evaluation, twenty teams were financially supported to prototype those solutions.

More and more, employees are feeling dissatisfied with their jobs, and a huge reason behind that is that they don’t feel heard. So, getting started with introducing crowdsourcing to your community? Consider using your first campaign as an opportunity for your members to get involved with their own thoughts on what is most important to them.

Click here to read more about how the Department of Energy utilized this strategy with their Sunshot Catalyst campaign, in this Sunshot Catalyst Case Study Comic!

It’s Raining Features! A Tour of IdeaScale’s Latest Functionality

3776946155_e812869823_oFor those of you that want to ensure success for 2014’s innovation programs, IdeaScale is offering a complimentary webinar review of all IdeaScale new features on Wednesday, March 19th at 10am PDT.

Hosted by IdeaScale and featuring Audrey Zuro, Director of New Business, this conversation will include a tour of IdeaScale new features and their benefits. This includes custom workflow, pairwise comparison, challenge-modeled innovation and more.

The benefits of such programs can include
• increased engagement
• higher quality submissions
• innovation program efficiencies
• and much more.

In addition, Zuro will briefly discuss previews of other features that are in the works for the rest of 2014.

Join us and register for this complimentary webinar today.

Innovation Spotlight: State of Minnesota

mn-winners-230x297In case you hadn’t heard, IdeaScale recently announced the winners of its open innovation awards contest. Our panel of judges selected five winners from an array of submissions that outlined great IdeaScale business practices and now we’ve had the chance to ask a few of our winners their thoughts on best practices. This interview features responses from James Kauth, Director of Innovation at the State of Minnesota:

IdeaScale: How long have you been utilizing IdeaScale?
Minnesota: We launched our first campaign in early June 2012.

IS: Why did you start utilizing innovation software?
MN: Our State CIO Carolyn Parnell’s vision is to leverage the cost savings through efficiencies from the State of Minnesota multi-year, enterprise-wide IT Consolidation effort to focus energy on effectiveness of government by launching an Innovation Program. This has the dual benefit during the consolidation of identifying new skills, roles and projects that align with new and presently unknown business verticals.

IS: Is this a practice you can see being valuable to other state organizations? Why?
MN: Definitely. E-democracy models call for interactive government, what better way than an online forum to directly share ideas and opportunities to engage in delivering tangible results that matter to constituencies. The McKinsey Global Institute released a report in October Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information that details a $3-$5 trillion opportunity that exists in government data systems. Demand for government-business and government-citizen interaction is on the rise and with this incredible potential will establish innovation as a political priority.

IS: Why do you think your engagement strategy is so successful?
MN: #1 is the organization’s willingness and curiosity to engage. Without them, there would have been no further steps to pursue. There was a big risk of cultural collapse if the strategy wasn’t successful, which was a powerful motivator for the next sentence. #2 is hard work and research. Working with people and organizations that helped us leverage their experiences and avoid pitfalls from the past.

IS: What are you most proud of in your innovation program?
MN: The governor’s office learned of our event, and within an hour, determined to adjust their strategy to leverage our experience and tools to publicly launch The Unsession –State government’s first open ideation event for Minnesotans.

To learn more about State of Minnesota’s innovation program, visit IdeaScale’s resource page.

Innovation Awards Close This Friday

4644949351_8623acd99d_oIdeaScale announced the 2013 Open Innovation Awards in August and after several months, applications, questions, truly strange stories and stranger requests, the period for sharing is almost over. The Innovation Awards submission period ends this Friday at midnight and any applications received after that will not be reviewed.

The journey doesn’t end there. In fact, for IdeaScale the work has only just begun. We’re going to compare some truly compelling, but remarkably unique stories to find out who the leaders are in engagement, moderation, change, savings, and efficiency.  A reminder of what the calendar looks like in the coming month.

8 November: The Awards Submission Period Closes (and a truly cumbersome week of review awaits us as we review tons of applications).

15 November: The finalists are notified and begin the tedious process of waiting until the awards ceremony to know who the final winners are.

13 December: The winners are notified at the awards ceremony and arrangements are made for the winners to receive their spoils.

The point is: don’t miss your chance. Applications are due by Friday and entrants can potentially win a discounted 2014 IdeaScale license, the ability to fast track an IdeaScale 2014 feature, and the chance to win a trip to Hawaii. So tell your story with lots of detail and a few measurable results and we look forward to seeing you at the awards ceremony in December.

Any other last minute advice? We look forward to reading your submissions.

Open Innovation Awards: 3 Things We’re Looking For

gift-bannerThe deadline to submit Open Innovation Awards is almost upon us (November 8th) and we’re truly looking forward to reviewing some compelling stories and sharing some new best practices. But for those of you who aren’t sure what it is we’ll be looking at as we select the finalists, let me offer you some insight.

As they review a wealth of applications and different approaches to innovation, the judges will be looking for:

1. Innovative Thinking. Surprise, surprise. We want our innovators to be as unique as the solutions that we’re looking for. We want to be surprised and we believe some of the best innovators are going to be offering us unexpected new approaches to a relatively time-honored process.

2. Repeatable Processes. Just because it’s unique, doesn’t meant that it can’t be applied elsewhere. This simply means that the recipe for success has a step by step approach that you could share with someone else.

3. Measurable Data. This key aspect will help us see the value regardless of community, goals, or industry – this aspect will truly help us compare and learn more from the past two years of IdeaScale implementations.

But enough about us. Be sure to submit your open innovation award application today.

What do you want to learn from the Innovation Awards? What else should we be looking for?

4 Tips for Submitting Innovation Awards Content: Deadline One Month Away

innovationawardThe deadline for entering the IdeaScale Innovation Awards is now just one month away with all entries from IdeaScale users due by November 8th, 2013. We’ve been receiving some truly interesting stories from some great users, but for those of you who have yet to full out an entry form, we’ve got a few tips for you as you go through the application process.

1. Share Your Process. Think of the application as a recipe that you’re sharing with a trusted friend. We need to know how you got to success each step of the way. We need to know when you added what and in what order so that we can not only verify, but learn from and share what makes for a good innovation lifecycle. It’s not just about the outcome, it’s about how you got there.

2. God Is In the Details. Remember that the most colorful and memorable applications are the ones that share the quirks and idiosyncracies of their innovation programs. We’ll remember the folks that created an operatic serenade played at the beginning and end of every shift to encourage people to submit ideas to an open innovation campaign, so we want to know about the beginning and end of every shift.

3. Measure Twice, Report Once. We love metrics, we love measurable results and research. Have you seen our infographics? This is something that you’re going to want to bring to your application. How much time did you save? How much more engagement did you see? What doubled? Tripled? What did you cut in half? And what were those numbers. Bringing this to your application is going to help us compare apples and oranges and our judges appreciate companies that love tracking as much as we do.

4. Tell a Story. The more we understand the narrative that brought the whole thing together, the more we’ll be able to understand the profound impact that it’s had on a larger organization that’s probably very different from our own. Leading us from the “once upon a time” to the “happily ever after” is a journey we hope you enjoy writing as much as we enjoy taking it with you.

Enough advice. Share your story with us today.

What are some other application tips? What do you think of the Innovation Awards applications?