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How Has Idea Management Changed Since IdeaScale Launched?

IdeaScale was recently interviewed as part of the 97th Floor Mastermind Series. The questions ranged across a variety of subjects like how we hired our first few team members to our thoughts about the future of innovation management. But some of the questions made us think about how idea management has changed since we launched. Remember when the app looked like this?

how has idea management changed

 

 

Looking backwards made us think of same major milestones about where innovation management software has been (and where it might be going)… So what’s changed?

Engagement Features. We realized pretty early on that if we’re going to have a crowdsourcing tool, we needed to have some powerful embedded functionality to get people onto our app – that’s why we’ve created social integrations, email tools, multiple notifications, multi-language translation settings and more.

Integrations. As soon as we started working with enterprise organizations, we realized that our tool was going to sit in a robust universe of software solutions and we needed to be able to connect to them, share information, and add value to existing processes, which is why we’ve created so many out-of-the-box integrations with SSO software, project management solutions, data solutions, Google Analytics and much, much more. We found that this amplifies our capabilities and our customer success.

Later Stage Idea Development. This is why we built our Stages. Sure, we started out focusing on posting ideas with comments and votes and that delivered some early-stage value to our customers… but we realized pretty quickly that the real idea pay-off didn’t come until you started to make some decisions and act on those ideas. That’s why we needed tools to build proposals, to evaluate ideas, to assign resources to ideas, to combine and consolidate ideas into themes, and much more. Most early-stage idea management tools can’t do all this.

Security. Finally, with all the concerns around privacy and intellectual property, security has continued to be a leading priority at IdeaScale. To this day, we are the only idea management platform with FedRAMP authorization. It’s important that all of our customers have confidence that they control their data and no one else.

So those are just A FEW things that have changed in IdeaScale over the years. Obviously, tons of other updates, strategy shifts, acquisitions, and more have gone into it. You can listen to the full interview here, but feel free to keep the questions coming. How do you think idea management has changed?

Overall Innovation Program Health

Overall Innovation Program health

IdeaScale’s new reporting dashboard has been adopted by numerous organizations so far, but we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of the reasons customers have started making decisions with the new reporting dashboard. The short answer? The IdeaScale reporting dashboard offers you a snapshot of your overall innovation program health so that you can make choices on where your innovation program needs to be improved. Here are just a few of things that you can learn about your program from the reporting dashboard.

What the top of the innovation funnel looks like. The entire engagement dashboard gives you a picture of how people are engaging with ideas at every stage, but starting with incoming ideas and the dialogue around them. This shows one of the innovation input metrics that you can use for planning. Are you getting enough ideas? Are people participating in the process?

What your most valuable unimplemented ideas are. When creating the outcomes dashboard, the IdeaScale team created an all-up smart score which shows an idea’s potential based on all possible information types but equalized against those activities. This way, an idea that goes through one process with five stages compared to an idea that goes through another process with only two stages can still be compared for their relative value. You can also see whether those ideas have been implemented or are just waiting there in the selection phase and can follow-up on the ideas with the most promise across the entire organization.

Where you need to optimize your process. Now that you can flag ideas as selected or implemented, you can see where it is that you most need to make improvements (is it finding new ideas that have value or implementing those ideas and delivering on them?). The outcomes dashboard will show you the gap between them.

Which campaign/group/time period is most/least successful. With the new reporting dashboard, you can segment on a lot of different variables: groups of people, campaigns, time periods. And because you can segment, you can see who is most active in your community (at idea submission, at moving ideas forward, etc) and which subjects are the most engaging in your community. Looking at your program in this light allows you to get very granular in terms of where you can put your effort (for example, “Our marketing department isn’t good at moving ideas forward, perhaps we should invest in training them about the back end of innovation this year…”).

How you perform in comparison to other IdeaScale communities. The engagement dashboard shows markers that demonstrate what the benchmark is for performance across ALL IdeaScale communities during that time period. Want to know if you’ve collected a good or bad amount of ideas? See how your metrics compare to others.

Want to see IdeaScale’s new reporting dashboard in action? Sign up for a demonstration of this new functionality today. 

The 4 Dynamic Stages of Collaborative Innovation – Number 2: Idea Refinement

Nothing is built without collaboration.

Ideas are simple to find. But, as we all know, good ideas are exceedingly rare. It’s much like finding gold. It rarely comes whole out of the ground; it’s often bound up in rock, various other minerals, and other “scrap” you have to separate to get at the gold you want. Ideas are much the same way. So, how do you build an effective refinement operation from the ore you gather by collecting ideas?

Build A Team

The idea of the lone innovator, striving to invent something in his garage on nights and weekends, or the turtlenecked CEO announcing the next big thing, can be true. But, by and large, innovation happens thanks to a well-picked team. You hear a lot about Steve Jobs, but far less about Steve Wozniak, who had some brilliant approaches to computers that gave Apple its first successes, or Jony Ive, the designer who created the distinctive curve of the iPhone and designs, to this day, how Apple’s products are used and engaged with down to the last detail.

So, you need teams around ideas. Your teams should be built much like any other project. All the stakeholders, from any department the idea touches, should be involved, with an aim towards refining the idea so it works for them. Often many different perspectives help spot problems before they reach the production line, and the more invested everyone is in an idea, the better that idea becomes.

The Refinement Process

In many ways, idea refinement is applying what you do as part of a company project to creativity. You need workflow, process management, and accountability. Goals should be clear and milestones should be set but make them loose, within reason. People who are excited about an idea should be part of the team, but they should understand they’re committing to a project, not just sitting around talking.

One of the downsides of refining ideas is that after the blue-sky process of gathering ideas and thinking about the future, you have the practical problem of actually building the future. NASA, for example, uses incredibly complicated mixed-reality headsets to send tourists to Mars, but behind the scenes, they use it to solve the problem of figuring out where to place boxes on a spacecraft. Sure, they get to build the spacecraft and explore Mars, eventually. But first, they have to ensure they can attach the bolts!

Working together is core to innovation.

The process should build up to some form of presentation or prototype as the end goal. The team should make clear why they refined ideas the way they did, what stakeholders had input where, and what the projected effects of your innovation should be. Think of it as a sales pitch to take an idea from abstract thought to physical reality.

Keep in mind that part of innovation is discovering what you don’t know and that learning involves what doesn’t work. Sometimes, a good idea that seems achievable isn’t. But you should have learned why it’s not workable, what the challenges are, and that in turn can open the door to more innovation. Gasoline was just useless trash to oil companies until it was realized it could power a combustion engine, for example. Gold, as those old-time oilmen can tell you, is often where you decide to make it.

But, of course, just as often you discover a fully refined idea that opens your mind. So what comes next? Find out by joining the IdeaScale community.

IdeaScale Emojis are Here! 👍 🤖 💡

IdeaScale EmojisWhatever you think of them, whichever one is your favorite, the power of emojis is undeniable.

As was reported in a recent article, “there are 3.2 billion internet users worldwide and according to one source, 92 percent of them regularly use emojis.” They use them for a variety of purposes: to get you to open their emails, to get you to feel an emotion, or to offer some visual cues or context for a statement. But whatever their purpose, the authorities agree that using emojis has a true impact on the reader. One article even stated that “scientists have discovered that when we look at a smiley face online, the same parts of the brain are activated as when we look at a real human face.” In fact, emojis and emoticons are processed as noverbal information (meaning we read them as actual emotional communication)

That’s one of the reasons that IdeaScale thought it was important to include emoji functionality in the platform – because the creative and collaborative process of gathering, developing, and delivering on ideas has a lot of emotional touch points. It can help to encourage someone, it can be used to celebrate with someone, to show personality and empathy. So instead of just voting an idea, you can the applause👏👏👏👏 emoji. Or maybe instead of just marking an idea as implemented you can add a few party poppers 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉. You can also get more creative and translate an idea into emoji or just get people excited about the next new campaign.

But the real value will be in humanizing your communication and approach. It might help you connect and an engaged community is the real way that you can get to continuous innovation.

Want to see IdeaScale emojis in action? Sign up for a demonstration of this new functionality today. 

If for some reason you don’t have the type of culture that would allow you to use emojis in your IdeaScale community, fear not! It is possible to disable emojis.

Using Design Principles At IdeaScale

Having design principles is like having a set of constraints or guidelines to work with. In her post  “Taming Blue Sky Ideation: Collecting Ideas that are Both Novel and Valuable,” Whitney describes how presenting a strong problem statement with clear constraints in an innovation challenge “breeds creativity.” This notion can be applied to many different problems and types of work. Aside from having a set of constraints that help make design decisions, I want to create an ecosystem at IdeaScale so that design can thrive as a system with artifacts to support its process. So, after a few months of some seriously brain-teasing custom development projects, I got together with my manager to think about what our ideal design principles could be.

Our goal in creating a set of design principles is to lay out an approach to creating and building a product that will work within the innovation management market and for our customers. These principles are a foundation for what it means to design things at IdeaScale, and can be debated in any scenario. For example, another company’s product could assume that having greater flexibility and a greater spectrum of options is more important than only showing people information they need to be successful. Ultimately, having a set of principles will help create a product that is opinionated, has distinct character, and highlights areas of strength. When the rubber meets the road, these principles will help us understand possible tradeoffs when tough decisions must be made about what to build and implement.

  1. Design for easy starts

Prioritize quick starting points over comprehensive forms. Focus on making initial decisions as easy to digest as possible.

  1. Systems are more important than pages

Be suspicious of new components that don’t simplify or can’t be reused. Pages must never be designed in isolation: consider what it means for the rest of the product when a new page or component is introduced. Value the life-cycle of the experience: what does it look like six months, a year or two years from now? What happens if someone ignores it? What happens when empty or inactive?

  1. Simplicity should be more apparent than flexibility

Have confidence in our knowledge as designers and the decisions we make. Encouraging good decisions for IdeaScale members within the application is more important than illustrating a range of options.

  1. Release one good feature over two moderate

At the heart of this principle is an emphasis to take time to understand the problems at hand. As designers, we must also plan for thoughtful details; don’t skip over small interactions that add to the user’s experience. Fix the small bugs. Don’t compromise experience for consistency across screen sizes. View mobile as a separate challenge. Sacrifice functionality before experience.

  1. IdeaScale Voice & Tone

Our voice is human. In thinking about this, how do we want our readers to feel after they’ve read our content? Any communication should feel simple and make the path to success short. We should make IdeaScale members  feel like part of a larger whole: help them be confident and excited in the power of good ideas, the people in their community, and the ability to produce positive outcomes.

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 Madeline Frechette, Product Designer at IdeaScale.

The IdeaScale Support Team Best Practices

IdeaScale support TeamA successful product like IdeaScale’s relies heavily on satisfying customers when it comes to various factors like price, value, usability, flexibility/customization. But customer support also plays a vital role in communicating product changes to customers promptly, collecting feedback good or bad about the product and passing it along internally, and primarily resolving issues and documenting bugs reported by customers. The question is how do we earn customer satisfaction even in a difficult conversations? There are few ways that the IdeaScale support team works to serve our favorite customers 24/7:

  1. Acknowledge every request:

Most of the chat or ticketing systems already supply an automated reply as soon as client initiates a chat or creates a support ticket, however customers want to know that there’s a real person on the other side. So let them know you are there! At IdeaScale, every chat receives a personalized reply as a statement of acknowledgement with a little summary about the reported issue and what’s being done from our end to address it or escalate it as soon as possible.

  1. Be as Human as possible:

Customers are tired of chatting with robots, they are more interested in interacting with a human on the other side who has emotions and can react accordingly and who can try and understand the customer’s situation. At IdeaScale, our goal is to create a comfort level with the customer. As soon as they learn that they are talking to an actual person, they are more likely to provide extra detail which will help you resolve the matter.

  1. Ask the right and relevant questions:

Get to the heart of the matter as quickly as possible. Begin by asking relevant questions like “What’s the issue?, Where do you see it?, When do you see it? and How can I reproduce it”? etc, whatever helps customer support replicate and pinpoint that issue. At IdeaScale, we start by asking where they are in the app: are they submitting an idea or working on custom settings? We want to know what their goal is right away and go from there.

  1. Acceptance as the first interaction:

Let’s accept the fact that nobody likes it when someone points fingers at something not working correctly in your product. But the customer Is always correct! If a customer felt something is wrong, then they’re probably not alone in their experience, so the best idea is to acknowledge their experience and thank the customer for bringing it to your notice and assuring them that you will help them make it work correctly.

  1. Honesty is the best policy:

Some fear being honest with customers and end up overpromising. But in my experience at IdeaScale, the client is always more grateful when I tell them that it’s a real issue that can be fixed instead of denying that it’s there. At IdeaScale, it’s also our responsibility to frequently keep the customer posted about the progress and also let them know when it is fixed. And that’s my favorite part: when a bug is fixed or a new idea that they gave us is implemented. There is nothing more rewarding, trust me!

The best customer support adds goodwill to your product and company, which has the power to bring in new businesses via word of mouth and recommendations and also can result in existing customer retention and renewal, because they just can’t let us go! So get on chat and reach out to me anytime as your IdeaScale ambassador!

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 Rakhesh Nair, Lead Support Engineer at IdeaScale

The Silicon Valley Tour of Europe

 

silicon valley tour of europeIdeaScale has been serving customers globally almost since day one. It’s one of the reasons that we prioritized accessibility, ensuring that our app performs in even historically low-bandwidth areas, and multi-lingual capabilities in our product development. We wanted to make sure that anyone, anywhere can share ideas, build on the ideas of others and usher in the next generation of change even in the most far-flung corners of the globe. And, as a result, we’ve been virtually serving teams in Africa, Oceania, and Europe for years now.

But now, IdeaScale is working with our key customers and partners in Europe to come meet you in person, too. During the month of June, IdeaScale will be hosting several events and if you’re in the area, we’d love to spend some time with you.

Join us for a short discussion and networking happy hour in Turkey on June 6th

Join us for a meet-up in the UK during London Tech Week on June 14th

Join us for a half-day workshop in Germany on June 20th

A future-forward workshop in Milan, Italy on June 27th

Certainly, we’re excited to tell you about some key innovation trends that we’re seeing, but even more importantly there are a few things that we’d like to ask you, as well:

What are the leading innovation trends that you see in Europe? How are companies responding to digital transformation? What are the emerging trends that companies are rushing to meet and where are they falling behind?

What are the most potent challenges when it comes to crowdsourcing systems? Is it the security of the cloud? How is European law responding to the changing trends in intellectual property?

What are the most exciting emerging trends? Is it big data, the internet of things, wearable technology, smart cities, or something else entirely?

We can’t wait to discuss these things with you in person, so register while there’s still space at these gatherings and we’ll see you all soon!

Culture Creator = Sustainable Innovation

culture-creator-sustainable-innovationWhen playing the role of culture creator, the leader’s primary task is to ensure the spirit of the innovation process is understood, celebrated, and aligned with the strategy of the organization.

The importance of fostering beliefs and behaviors that encourage innovation within your team and organization cannot be overstated. As products, technologies, business models become commodities over time, your corporate culture can become the source of reinvention and your only enduring competitive advantage.

“The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.”   Edgar Schein

Ten Ways to Begin Shifting the Culture 

It is often said, “the soft stuff is the hard stuff.” All of the best innovation tools and practices can be available, but ultimately, people have to want to use them. Getting to a place where courage, creativity, and collaboration is the norm for addressing problems or pursuing opportunities can be difficult. And the costs are real. With a resistant culture, getting new ideas to stick is like trying to nail Jello to a wall – frustrating, messy, and non-productive!

Many innovation leaders are hired into their roles precisely because the culture has become bureaucratic or toxic and everyone knows it.  How does a leader become a culture creator, who can transform a culture that inhibits innovation into one that helps it flourish?

A few of the early steps in playing the role of culture creator as a change agent include:

  1. Clarify your definition and expectations regarding innovation for your team. Help people see how innovation connects to what they do and how they do it.
  2. Be a role model, and act in ways that promote a safe, trusting, and collaborative environment.
  3. Provide training for your team to establish a common language, concepts, and practices for innovation.
  4. Encourage forward-looking curiosity.
  5. Be open to new ideas, even if they might cannibalize existing products and services.
  6. Provide the time, tools, and resources your team needs to successfully innovate
  7. Recognize risk-taking and failure is part of the innovation process.
  8. Monitor innovation activity and find ways to publicly celebrate the accomplishments of your team members.
  9. Tell inspiring stories and use symbols to reinforce the importance of innovation to your particular business. Make innovation compelling, both from a business perspective and from the personal viewpoint of individual innovators.
  10. Assess the current culture and level of innovation within the team through interviews, group discussions and/or a survey.  Work with the team to develop an improvement plan.

Corporate culture is largely formed based on success.  Things that work tend to get repeated.  They become “the way we do things around here”. As the dominant arbiter of success on a day-to-day basis for most employees, leaders play the most significant role in fostering a culture of innovation. The ten recommendations focus on creating a positive experience for people engaged in innovation, so they start to believe their ideas matter, and they begin to behave in ways that facilitate ingenuity and initiative. With consistent reinforcement from the leader, the team’s confidence growths as do the roots of the culture.  The team starts seeing itself as innovative, and the mindset and successful practices are taught to the new people with pride and enthusiasm.

As a culture creator, you are the author of the unwritten rules that influence people’s behavior. The ones responsible for promoting an environment of entrepreneurial spirit and empowering teams to break the rules if breakthrough thinking is needed.  To the degree you embrace this role, your corporate culture will act as rocket fuel to your innovation efforts or become your team’s Achilles heel.

Create Your Unique Innovative Culture

It can help to link your innovation culture to your overall company culture. For example, when she was CEO of HP, Carly Fiorina linked their innovation culture to the founding values of the company, through the “Rules of the Garage.” The rules were written across a photo of the one-car Palo Alto garage where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard first began the company.

Fiorina described her intent as a culture creator: “We have tried to capture the spirit of the original HP in what we call the Rules of the Garage. The garage is a special place for us. It represents that entrepreneurial, inventive spirit that is special about HP. The reason we wrote them down was to remind ourselves that this is what this place used to be about, it’s what this place always needs to be about. Those soft things, those things that represent the soul and the spirit of the place, in the end, those are in many cases the most sustainable competitive advantage that you have.”

HP’s Rules of the Garage include:

  • Believe you can change the world.
  • Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever possible.
  • Know when to work alone and when to work together.
  • Share tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
  • No politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)
  • The customer defines a job well done.
  • Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
  • Invent different ways of working.
  • Make a contribution every day.
  • If it doesn’t contribute, it doesn’t leave the garage.
  • Believe that together we can do anything.

With market pressures demanding corporate cultures become more adaptive and collaborative, the organization will look for a role model who is passionate and has the inner drive to move innovation forward. To learn more about the culture creator role as well as the other innovation, leadership roles, download the entire chapter of Leading Innovation Ten Essential Roles for Harnessing the Creative Talent of Your Enterprise.

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.

Open Innovation: Your Guide to Harnessing and Managing the Best Ideas

open-innovation-your-guide-to-harnessing-and-managing-the-best-ideasIf you’re tired of not being able to compete with bigger companies in your industry due to a lack of research and development (R&D) budget, the good news is that’s no longer a problem. Open innovation allows everyone to compete equally, whether their development budget is large or small.

What is Open Innovation

Open innovation is a paradigm shift that assumes organizations can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas to determine as path to market and advance technology. Useful knowledge has become widespread and doesn’t always come from a centralized location within a single business, like the R&D department many organizations employ.  This new way of thinking offers fresh ways to create value and can be used to collect ideas internally from employees or externally from customers or the public.

The act of implementation, of effectively turning new ideas into new processes and products, is now the primary differentiator between success and failure. Businesses still must take the new ideas and processes that are generated and do the hard work of converting promising concepts into products and services that serve customers.

Why Open Innovation is an Equalizer

Historically, internal R&D could be an organization’s greatest asset. Powerhouse companies could keep companies at bay simply because they could invest more in development, and as a result reap the highest profits.

Today, however, the Internet and information economy has changed the story. Businesses, even startups, are able to get ideas to market using a different process which includes crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and implementation only after the market is proven. The boundaries between an organization and its environment have become less distinct, with the market impacting the company and the company impacting the market.

The Shift in R&D

R&D is shifting from internally focused to expansion outside of the department and beyond the organization’s four walls. While you can still have experts in the R&D department, you can also engage employees and external groups to solve any problem.

  • Employee Open Innovation: Princess Cruises gathers thousands of new ideas, engages more than four thousand employees, and manages it all through one innovation team.
  • Employee Open Innovation Dick’s Sporting Goods was a runner-up in the 2016 Innovation awards. The company stays ahead of the curve when developing new products by using open innovation internally. A “Concept Locker” allows employees to submit product ideas, comment on submitted concepts, and win rewards for participating.
  • External Open Innovation: TechSmith Software creates screen capture and recording software that is used in over 30 countries. Through open innovation, they were able to collect hundreds of ideas for improvements and upgrades, collect thousands of votes, and even assist the PR team with responding to inquiries.

How to Use Open Innovation in Your Organization

To use open innovation in your organization, you first must shift the mindset of the leadership and stakeholders to understand the crowdsourcing mindset. Once everyone is on board, consider implementing systems that help you prepare for the complexity of idea management. You’ll need a way to:

  • Collect ideas from a diverse array of sources
  • Organize ideas in one location
  • View and evaluate new ideas
  • Develop ideas
  • Get approvals
  • Communicate progress

Open innovation isn’t optional, it’s an essential way to bring in new ideas at a significantly lower cost than ever before. With the right system, you can gather ideas, process feedback, prepare ideas for implementation, and get funding approval, all within the same platform.

As you seek to implement or improve your open innovation programs, you’ll want to have a process in place to harness and vet the multitude of ideas. Our latest whitepaper shares guidance and best-practices from organizations who do it right. Download it today.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a Great Innovator Because they Nurture Innovators

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a Great Innovator Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is an American multi-program science and technology national laboratory. It is the largest science and energy national laboratory in the Department of Energy system and its programs focus on materials, neutron science, energy, high-performance computing, systems biology and national security.

In order to meet program objectives, ORNL launched JUMP. JUMP is an online crowdsourcing community launched in 2015. Its an online place where innovators, particularly small entrepreneurs, can present ideas for new technologies for energy-efficient buildings to private and public sector leaders in research and development. Additionally, JUMP includes opportunities for all users to comment and vote on the posted ideas. This community discussion helps DOE, the labs, and industry partners gauge the market’s interest in the topic and potential solutions.

But because the program emphasizes the need to reach out to and grow budding entrepreneurs, they’ve baked mentorship right into their program. Although all ideas move through a five stage process of refinement and evaluation (challenge launch, idea submission, voting feedback, judging, and the announcement of winners), it is that final stage that is the most interesting.

Upon announcement of the judges’ decisions, the innovator (the submitter of the winning idea), Lab technical advisor (a technical member of a national laboratory with relevant technical expertise for the call at hand), and industry partner collaborate to move the technology forward. This three-way partnership is highly customized depending on the skill set of the ideator, the requirements of the technology and its potential applications. In some cases, the Labs are able to connect with and establish partnerships with accelerators programs to further support and expedite the technology to market. This means that the merits of the idea aren’t limited by the boundaries of the organization OR the capabilities of someone with a great idea.

To learn more about Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s use of crowdsourcing for innovation, read the full case study here.