Tag: idea management

The Importance of Decision

The Importance of DecisionIf you have had trouble implementing ideas, please know that you are not alone. Implementation is a challenge shared by all innovation managers. But with a clearly defined process, you will be well on your way to making ideas a reality.

In order to convert ideas into action and action into results, we need two things:

  1. A decision to take action
  2. And follow-through on the decision to deliver results

For the first item, our goal is to make decisions that are accepted by all the key stakeholders and are consistent with the goals of your crowdsourcing or innovation program or the goals of your organization overall.

To this end, we recommend the following best practices:

Involve key stakeholders early. First, map out your key stakeholders, subject-matter experts, and decision-makers.  Of those people who wish to engage in decisions, consider how you can engage them efficiently and then ask yourself “when is the appropriate time to engage each of them?” You might not include each of these people in the decision-making process in the exact same way or at the exact same time, but you can use software to develop an inclusive yet efficient system.

Separate discussion from decision-making. During discussion, we want to promote expansive thinking so that we can extract the most value, insight, and creativity from the crowd as possible. During decision-making, we will use our goals and success criteria to converge on a clear decision and plan of action. (For example, an ideation phase is a great time for discussion and a review phase is a great time for decision-maing). Make sure that everyone knows when it’s time for each of those things. 

By separating the discussion from decision-making, you clarify for the crowd the nature of their participation at any given moment. If people know when to go broad and when to focus, it is easier for them to contribute to the collaboration.

Clarify how the decision will be made ahead of time and communicate this to your participants.  By clarifying and communicating upfront, you avoid the common pitfall of violated expectations. 

By following the best practices of involving stakeholders early, separating discussion from decision-making, and clarifying how decisions will be made, you chart the course to a sound decision with maximum buy-in.

To learn more about how to implement ideas, watch this complimentary webinar!

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Whitney Bernstein, Innovation Strategist at IdeaScale

The 3 Most Common Questions about Idea Management Software

I’ve been with IdeaScale since 2011.  I’ve been on thousands of prospect calls.  Though much has changed on our tool and in the innovation space, these questions are just as prevalent as they were in 2011. In 2017 I’m talking through the same concerns as I was 6 years ago. Here are the three most common questions about idea management software that I encounter each day:

1. How many people do I need to dedicate to running the community?

This is a great question, and the answer varies greatly.  While a few of our clients have dedicated FTE running their community day-to-day, a far more common scenario is a small group of Moderators dedicating an hour a week or a few minutes per day.  

What we can tell you is that some of our most successful most thriving communities have very active moderation.  It may take some time to find the right balance of moderation for your community. For insights on successful moderation strategies check out Innovation Awards winners: the Department of Labor, Making All Voices Count, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

2. Do I need to involve our IT?

Yes, for an internal employee facing project you do. But we swear we make this painless. (No really).  The one area in which you will need assistance from your IT team: utilizing Single Sign-On.  Single Sign-On is a method of connecting your existing employee credentials into our system allowing your employees to seamless login without creating a new profile.  Why is Single Sign-On important?  Well for a number of reasons:

Security – We know that in 2017 cybersecurity is a top concern of CEO’s (and IT alike). So keeping your community secure and intruders out of your community is a top concern. So whether it’s your everyday Russian agent or 400 pound hackers, we’ve learned that keeping data secure is of utmost importance.   

Ease of Use – By allowing your employees to be automatically logged in (without creating yet another login and password combo), we are removing a big barrier to participation. As much as we all love to create a new login and password, we can skip that step altogether.

In order to keep your IT team happy we’ve blueprinted our SSO methods here and here. These two documents save hours and hours of back and forth.  

We’ve overseen hundreds of Single Sign-On implementations. Representing IdeaScale  in many of those SSO engagements is our Senior Developer, Christoph Schebel.

“We set up calls with the client’s IT team to assuage any fears.  Frequently they’re off and running in just a few hours.” Schebel adds, “It can also be as fast as 15 minutes.”

After SSO is configured the rest of the configuration can be administered solely by a layperson and your IT dept can go back to their day job.

3. How long does it take to set up?

A typical enterprise on board takes four weeks (although the community itself can be up and running in just a few clicks). But what goes into that four weeks? Configuration of the community, set up and moderator training.  

I asked Innovation Architect, Kerry Seed, himself a veteran of hundreds of client launches, whether the four week timeframe was realistic?  

“We have broken down the configuration and on-boarding tasks into a four week schedule. Committed clients are able to launch in a month with ease.”

So what are the barriers to a quick launch? Seed reports, “Some people struggle to coordinate with marketing to get branding and communications plans set up. Once they have those assets in place though, it is usually smooth sailing.”

Also included the 4 week configuration period, is a training of the client’s Moderators and Administrators. Of the training regiment Seed adds “Our goal is to prepare clients for a successful launch. We encourage them to project into the future to consider their plan for executing on ideas. This all begins in the on-boarding process. Our four week plan covers not only software configuration, but strategic planning for creating a culture of innovation.”


This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Erik Siebert, Innovation Strategist at IdeaScale

Expert Interview Series: B.J. Shannon of TINYpulse About the Role Employee Feedback Plays in Idea Management

Role Employee Feedback Plays in Idea Management

B.J. Shannon joined TINYpulse in June of 2013 as Employee # 1 and now heads up the global Customer Success Team. We caught up with B.J. to discuss the value of employee feedback and how best to obtain and leverage this information in order to help a company succeed.

What does TINYPulse offer that can improve employees’ morale and/or corporate culture?
TINYpulse enables employees to contribute and receive feedback throughout the year by offering yearly or semi-annual survey check-ins for both culture and performance. We turned traditional engagement surveys and performance reviews on their heads and made them TINYer and more regular.

How important is it to engage the entire organization?
Providing an avenue for all teams to feel empowered to submit suggestions on how an organization can improve culturally or as a business is an incredibly easy and affordable investment that has an almost guaranteed ROI. Simply showing all employees that their opinions are valued and wanted has beneficial impacts on morale and engagement.

If a business owner or manager were to say to you, “I don’t need a software program to spot a burned-out employee,” how would you respond?
I’d ask how they knew this, and would likely hear the response, “I have an open-door policy, and I am a very approachable boss.” We find that so many “bosses” underestimate the power dynamic that exists between employees and their supervisors or employers. Not all employees feel comfortable providing honest feedback and can successfully hide being burned out or being on the hunt for another job.

We talk with so many managers and business owners, and almost invariably they say that the most terrifying words they can hear from an employee are, “Here’s my two weeks’ notice.” If they were able to spot this in advance, they’d likely do something beforehand to intervene. Software programs that collect anonymous employee feedback on a regular basis can do just that.

What guidelines do you recommend to companies or organizations regarding whether the completion of employee surveys should be voluntary or mandatory?
Well, I recommend that organizations survey their employees anonymously, so this is sort of moot by definition. It’s impossible to enforce a mandatory completion policy for anonymous surveys.

However, I do think that communicating with employees before deploying the surveys in order to explain the “why” behind what organizations are doing, and what the commitment from the employer is regarding what will be done with the data (sharing back, action planning, etc.), can be impactful on completion rates. Employees want to provide feedback, but they have to know that it’s going to result in positive change and not just disappear into a black hole. A mutual commitment between employers and employees regarding what is expected from both sides can be more successful than just saying that survey completion is compulsory.

What advice would you provide to a company or organization on how to proceed if stakeholder surveys revealed a significant problem?
First and foremost, remind yourself that this problem would have existed whether or not you were aware of it. Once you realize that you’re in a better position for discovering it, you’re in a much better place to say “OK, let’s acknowledge this to our employees and talk about how we can fix it – or that we won’t be able to fix it.” Not all issues can be immediately addressed, but employees need to know that an issue has been acknowledged – and they will be more understanding once that occurs.

Want to see how IdeaScale’s ideation software can help you keep your employees engaged and generate new outcomes? Request a demo today!

Barrier Buster: Clearing the Way for Breakthrough Ideas

barrier-buster-clearing-the-way-for-breakthrough-ideasInnovation leaders must master a wide range of skills in order to enhance the innovation potential of their teams. Often, managers are required to play the role of a barrier buster to ensure the team’s creativity delivers bottom line results for the business. Some of the responsibilities they assume in this role include:

  • Providing the necessary time, space, tools, and data for your staff to innovate
  • Guiding projects along the path of least resistance and avoiding political pitfalls
  • Adjusting policies, procedures, and organization practices to facilitate new idea implementation
  • Talking your peers through the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that often comes with change

Common Obstacles to Plan For

Being a barrier buster requires you to be able to negotiate skillfully in tough situations with both internal and external groups. Innovation means change, and change can be quite disruptive and emotionally charged. Being able to gain concessions without damaging relationships is a valuable skill. Innovation leaders help new ideas mature and create paths of least resistance so projects can navigate the political, economic, and cultural obstacles. There are countless organizational barriers to innovation that cause it to be slow, inefficient, costly, risky, and frustrating. Being aware of some of the most typical impediments can be helpful:

  • The organization lacks the enterprise-wide methods (concepts, practices, tools, language, or skills) for innovation.
  • There is not enough funding to form and facilitate innovation projects.
  • The organization is overly consensus-oriented, and any dissenting vote can bring an innovation project to a halt. Champions and sponsors give up or leave the company because it is too hard to get everyone onboard with ideas.
  • The organization’s relentless commitment to operational excellence prevents anything new and disruptive from being tried and tested. This is a classic example of a strength becoming a weakness.
  • Past success has robbed the organization of its willingness to take risks. Leaders play it safe and settle for “me too” strategies just to keep up with the pack, rather than boldly investing in a better future.
  • The organization lacks proper incentives for innovation. Idea champions are rarely recognized and rewarded for their efforts.
  • People are overworked and simply don’t have the bandwidth to take on their innovative ideas.
  • Organization silos prevent cross-boundary collaboration and limit the scale, speed, and impact of innovation.

Barrier busters must be politically savvy to meet these kinds of challenges. They need sensitivity to know how the specific people and their organization are likely to react. Barrier busters help their idea champions or project teams maneuver through complex political situations effectively because they can anticipate the organizational “landmines” and how to avoid them.

Persistence in the Face of Obstacles

Barrier busters are also determined. They don’t stop at the first signs of resistance and refuse to accept “no” for an answer whenever there is hope for success. They are resourceful, looking for the support and resources wherever they can be found. Barrier busters know the difference between the market saying “no,” and an organizational obstacle saying, “no.”

A leader might have learned from the VC role to let go of struggling projects, where customers don’t respond as expected or where the market does not respond positively, in order to move the resources to fund innovation winners. However, as a barrier buster, this same leader knows that organizational protectiveness does not mean the project is struggling in the market. The barrier buster fights for the opportunity to let customers decide which product or service is the business of the future.

History is full of examples of innovators who were told their ideas would not work, but who ultimately found ways to gain the support and resources they needed. Consider what would have happened if these innovators had not persisted in the face of obstacles:

“Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”

—Dr. Lee De Forest, “Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television.”


“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

—Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.


“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

—Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.


“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”

—A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found FedEx.)


“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy!”

—Response from the drillers Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859. (source)

Without successful execution there is no innovation, only the unfulfilled promise of a better future.  Leaders need to help their teams break down the mental barriers, financial barriers and organizational barriers so their ideas can become a reality. To learn more about the barrier buster role and what is needed to navigate the pitfalls and politics of corporate innovation, download the complete chapter of Leading Innovation Ten Essential Roles for Harnessing the Creative Talent of your Enterprise for the full text on mentorship. In our next installment of the Leading Innovation series, we’ll review the Networker 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.

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.

Innovate Fast in a Large Company

Innovate Fast in a Large Company Innovation can help keep your company from floundering. But, if you innovate fast, you can change the trajectory of your business and find your organization at the top of your industry. Speed enables your company to catch consumer trends as they emerge and keep your competitors off-balance. When done well, speedy innovation can keep costs down and help you avoid spending a large budget on a mediocre idea.

Assess Your Current Operations 

The first step in setting your organization up to innovate fast is to assess your current operations. Start with your research and development team. Can it be more efficient? Survey the team for ways to remove barriers and increase production. Employees who do the work often have the best ideas on how to improve operations. Be sure to listen closely and follow through on the changes you agree to. Otherwise, you’ll face increased skepticism and lower morale in the future.

Next, you’ll want to examine your company’s culture. Do you have a culture of innovation? Do the employees in your organization feel free to share ideas, and do those ideas gain attention and action? Have a system for employees to submit ideas, along with follow-up that supports the process. Again, those on the front lines of daily work often have the best ideas. You can’t dismiss someone’s input and expect to innovate fast and well in your company.

Go Lean 

The second step to getting ready to innovate fast is to go lean and remove obstacles. There are many obstacles in most organizations that get in the way of fast innovation.

Evaluate your change process and remove bureaucracy and red tape as much as possible. There’s nothing that stifles the effort to innovate fast more than having multiple hoops to jump through. Determine the key people who truly need to sign off on a change, and remove others from the process. Create systems so that ideas are regularly reviewed rather than being buried on a supervisor’s desk. Most of all, empower people to move forward on small changes without needing multiple levels of approval.

Consider innovating with small teams. While having every stakeholder represented is important, there are ways to incorporate stakeholder feedback while keeping teams small. A large team has a higher tendency to get bogged down in personal issues, accountability problems, and general busyness. Choose a small team if you want to innovate fast.

Ensure that the project leaders and team members have the right experience. Choose people who think outside the box, have experience with innovation, and are open to new ideas. Make sure that you involve key team members and stakeholders from the beginning to mitigate future roadblocks. This may include designers, programmers, and leadership. They should be part of the strategy from the beginning.

Go to Market 

The best lessons are learned in the market rather than in the office. Large companies often rely on in-building research and focus groups to determine market opportunities, but the best opportunities come when you get out of the building. This is especially true if you’re creating an entirely new market for your innovation. Get your team to move beyond talking and towards producing, selling, and supporting the new offering.

Don’t let the fact that your new product has limitations stop you from testing it on the market. The reality is that aside from standard safety, the law, and basic features, customers will tell you what is or isn’t important to them so you can address the correct limitations. Many times, the show-stopper in your mind won’t matter to consumers. Instead, you’ll learn that they’re concerned about something you never thought of. Don’t spend thousands of dollars on fixing problems that don’t matter to buyers. Instead, go to market first, and then choose to focus on the feedback you get from customers.

The best way to innovate fast in a large company is to learn from others who have done it. For example, TTI is a world-class leader in quality consumer, professional, and industrial products marketed to the home improvement, repair, and construction industries. To learn how they were able to collect 2,000 new ideas in only four months, click here.


Innovation Management Awards 2016 Are Open!

TScreen Shot 2016-09-05 at 9.48.56 PMhink you have a unique and successful strategy for engaging with your community? Or perhaps you feel like you’ve cornered the market on moderating your community and the resulting ideas? Maybe you have a truly groundbreaking new product or process?

If any of these fit with your organization this year, enter your team for the 2016 Innovation Management Awards! Now in their fourth year, the Awards cover three categories: Best Innovation (awarded for best new product, process or market shift); Best Moderation Strategy (awarded for most efficient and effective moderation for refining and evaluating ideas); and Best Engagement Strategy (awarded for high level of engagement through unique methods). Other characteristics of winning campaigns might be quantifiable impacts, unique tactics, and creativity.

Previous winners have made strides in innovation and best practices in a wide range of fields. The 2015 Innovation Award winners—the Western Australia Police, Innovate Your State and Making All Voices Count—were leaders in their fields; all three pushed for inclusivity, transparency, and an increased quality of life. Other previous winners have focused on public policy, government, the environment, customer service, and technology.

In addition to all of those amazing prizes awaiting the winners, former Innovation Management Award recipients have gone on to garner further glory and acclaim for their winning programs. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Sunshot Catalyst Initiative, our 2014 Innovation Management Award winner for Best Moderation Strategy, went on to win the 2015 ISPIM (International Society for Professional Innovation Management) Grand Prize. The Grand Prize competition was launched in early 2015 specifically to recognize areas of innovation that are usually not as touted as the actual innovations themselves, including moderation and engagement. It all started with an IdeaScale community and an incredibly thorough plan for moderating ideas.

2016 Innovation Management Award winners in each category will receive an Apple Watch, a discount on their 2017 subscription, a VIP pass to the 2017 Open Nation Conference, a free IdeaBuzz challenge, and a promotional PR packet.

Be sure to enter your submissions by Friday, November 18, 2016. Winners will be announced in December 2016. For specific rules and eligilbity, and to apply, visit .

10 Qualities of Great Innovators

10 Qualities of Great InnovatorsAre you an innovator? Many people have a pretty narrow definition of an innovator. They assume that if they don’t invent things and hold multiple patents, they aren’t very innovative. In reality, many inventors don’t have patents or products. Some innovators generate ideas, others bring those ideas to reality, while still others are advocates, leaders, and champions of great ideas. When you think of it this way, you might realize you’re innovative after all.

No matter the role, great innovators share some qualities. If you recognize these qualities in yourself, you may need to give yourself more credit! If you’re looking to become a great innovator, these are the qualities to develop.

Innovators Value Innovation

This might seem obvious, but it’s not. Many organizations value stability and consistency more than innovation and change. Innovators realize that innovation is the only way to remain truly competitive, and they share that feeling with others. As a result, they value innovation and help others to do the same.

Encouragement of Risk Taking 

Innovators realize that taking risks is part of making great discoveries and advancing society. Great innovators encourage risk taking in others. In fact, 80% of great innovators encourage employees to be curious, and 76% systematically encourage risk-taking. A culture of risk-taking means encouraging new ideas and being gentle with failure, seeing it as an opportunity to learn rather than an occasion of punishment.

Innovators Teach Others 

Great innovators realize that new ideas and implementation can’t end with them. They bring others along on the journey, training them how to think in new ways. In this way, they build entire teams of forward-thinkers. When innovation best practices and mindsets are shared widely, entire industries can benefit.

Start Somewhere 

Too many people feel like they can’t move forward with an idea until they are sure that it’s the absolute best. Great innovators realize that they won’t know what ideas are great until they try them. In fact, they’re not afraid of bad ideas because they know that good ideas are usually close behind! To become an innovator, begin with the idea you have and be open to learning more.

Innovators Look for Patterns Everywhere 

Innovators are always on the lookout for analogous solutions.  That is, solutions that exist in one industry that may help them with theirs. A perfect example is skis. A ski company wanted to reduce the vibration in skis as skiers turned at high speeds. They found an analogous solution in the music industry and appropriated technology used to stabilize violins to reduce the ski’s vibrations. Look for ideas everywhere!

Staying Positive 

As an innovator, you have to keep a good attitude. You can’t assume that something won’t work simply because it hasn’t been done that way before. Innovators realize that if you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always gotten. Stay positive and you’ll see new ideas work out in surprising ways!

Innovators Incentivize Innovation 

Just like innovators take others under their wing to teach them how to innovate, they also incentivize those who are willing to innovate. You might assume every organization does this, but the reality is many companies will discourage or even punish those who try to suggest doing things in a new way. Instead, build incentive programs that encourage new ideas!

Being a Team Player 

The stereotype of an innovator as a trouble-maker that no one enjoys working with is false. A great innovator realizes that a team is involved, and does his or her best to be a team player. Rather than being difficult mavericks, great innovators are team players who bring others along with them on implementing new ideas.

Innovators Connect and Collaborate 

In the Renaissance, often viewed as the peak of innovation in Western society, most people worked alone. Less than 10% of the innovation during the Renaissance was networked.  Whereas now, a majority of breakthroughs happen in collaborative environments. Expect to work with others to create breakthroughs.

Innovators Value a Culture of Innovation 

As an innovator, you realize that you can’t “go it alone” because you want and need the innovation and new ideas to go beyond your department and direct influence. Great innovators help create a culture of innovation in their whole organization so that innovation has a greater reach. Having a culture of innovation benefits not only an organization, but the industry and even society as a whole.

Being an innovator means a lot more than being Benjamin Franklin or a mad scientist. Day to day, great innovators encourage risk-taking, teach others, collaborate and build teams, and much more. Do you see yourself as an innovator now? Do you want to be? Here’s an infographic that you can reference as you continue on this journey.

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.

Innovation is About More than Ideas




“We are what we repeatedly do. Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”

– Aristotle

Aristotle was a wise man for many reasons, not least because of that quote. In order to become really good at something, the formation of habits and processes are essential. We at IdeaScale noticed that, regardless of type of business or organization, there were certain similarities among all those who were engaging in innovation programs; we noticed that there were a few key processes in every program in order to help transform the idea into a reality. Which is why we created Stages, which is mirrored after those universal activities.

There are seven main stages in moving an idea into a fully-formed, implemented innovation. The first, of course, is actually getting the idea. We have found that two things are especially important at this stage: one, that all voices be heard. You’re going to be able to winnow down to implemented ideas best if you cast the widest net to begin with. And two, that incentivizing your idea pool participants works in soliciting innovative ideas. Idea quality has been shown to go up by 40% when incentives were introduced.

The second stage is team building. After all of the ideas have been gathered, and the community has had a chance to weigh in on the ideas which seem the most viable, teams should be built around the most likely ideas. This stage helps to realize whether a particular idea is realistic in the long run. For example, if an idea sounds good, but then cannot find at least one champion to help it along, perhaps it’s not the idea that makes the most sense for implementation. Likewise, an idea may seem good on paper, but after doing more research, perhaps its not feasible financially or perhaps there’s already somebody in the market doing the same thing better than your organization would be able to do it.

This question of feasibility is directly related to the third and fourth stages of refining and estimating respectively. Once teams have been built, they will do more research in the refinement stage into the competitive landscape, the feasibility, the necessary resources in order to adequately evaluate whether or not the idea could or should actually be implemented. And while research can get you pretty far, the estimation stage can act as a double check on information that has been gathered. In the estimation stage, experts and the crowd in general are consulted to help validate the knowledge that the teams have learned in the refinement stage. Research has shown that crowd knowledge is actually more effective than that of experts, using the example of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: during the game, experts were shown to be right 65% of the time, while the crowd was right fully 91% of the time. Crowd knowledge is a powerful thing.

The fifth stage considers all of the information that has been gathered by the team, and affirmed by experts and the crowd, and assesses whether the idea is in line with set business objectives and business plans. One of the most important things to think about at this stage is financial cost; although there will certainly be other costs involved in implementing an idea, financial cost is often the most revelatory. The sixth stage deals specifically with funding. 46% of startups fail because of a lack of funding, and 80% of businesses overall fail because of inadequate capital. Making sure that your organization is financially solvent enough for the entire realization of an idea is incredibly important.

Last but not least, as with many things, it is important to celebrate victories! Not only do you get to revel in the joy of having seen something through from beginning to end, celebrating ideas that have been seen through from beginning to end is by far the best way to encourage continued and future engagement. After all, who doesn’t want to be part of a winning team?

To find out more about Stages, click here.