IDEASCALE BLOG

Tag: ideation

Where to Get New Ideas… How About the Romanian Food Festival?

where to get new ideasOur family had so much fun at the Smithsonian’s Military Invention Day three weeks ago, we decided to hit the town again and join up with fellow IdeaScale colleague, Matt Paulson, and his family and head to Potomac, MD for the Romanian Food Festival.

Matt spent two years in Romania with the Peace Corps. It’s where he met his wife Sara (also a Peace Corps Volunteer), and he still has fond memories of and relationships from what became his second home. Therefore, this Romanian Festival was a trip down memory lane for Matt and his family. The Romanian Food Festival offered traditional food and drinks, live music and folk dance performances, among with other fun activities. I tried mititei, which is traditional summertime barbecue fare, along with sarmale and mamaliga, two traditional Romanian foods served at almost all special occasions. Of course we had to try the palincatraditional plum brandy in Romania (although my wife wasn’t a fan!)

A highlight for me was getting to finally hear Matt converse in Romanian. It’s great to experience the diversity of your colleagues outside of the work environment. I highly recommend it, because it can be really inspiring. 

But this entire process reminded me of the importance of diversity in ideation. A lot of innovators wonder where to get new ideas, but a whole new body of research is emerging about how organizations with higher levels of diversity report higher returns, new revenue growth, and more. We know there’s a relationship diversity and innovation and the Romanian Food Festival reminded how much I have to learn from people around me who can take ideas that I have and make them new or more powerful. That’s what happens in IdeaScale when I get to collaborate with my colleagues, but it’s also what our customers experience when they do this work at scale and invite in even more voices.

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 Josh Folk, VP of Global Sales at IdeaScale

Finding the Ideation and Product Development Balance

Ideas are great, but what about the followup?

The value of an idea is limited by being able to execute it. At some point, you have to stop ideating and start putting those ideas into production. But for many businesses, finding the line between ideation and product development can be tricky. An idea sometimes needs more time to fully bake, and that may not be clear until you’ve tried it, or you might only start product development and get beaten to the punch. So, how do you strike that balance?

What Are Your Resources?

Anybody can come up with an idea like “We should launch our own satellite!” And that might even make sense for your business, for any number of reasons. But getting something into space isn’t a cheap proposition. This is an extreme example, but we’re using it to emphasize one of the bigger concerns about ideas vs. product development. You need to be able to commit enough resources to execute those ideas.

A good corporate inspiration is Nintendo. Nintendo works on the principle of “lateral thinking with withered technology.” Nintendo rarely develops cutting-edge technology, but it’s a masterful user of well-known technologies and combining them in new ways. That gives them a good understanding of resources and lets them make a profit in an industry driven by loss leaders.

Can You Execute Pieces?

Some aspects of an idea are useful on their own. A good example of this is bitcoin. Even if you’ve got absolutely no interest in bitcoin, you’ve likely heard quite a bit about blockchain. And there’s a reason: blockchain technology is essentially a useful way to create a digital ledger with hundreds or even millions of copies. If you’ve got a document you always need to know the custody of, or if you’re a car dealership that wants to keep track of their vehicles (and ensure nobody’s trying to sell you a totaled vehicle) or any of a host of other functions, blockchain is fascinating. So are there aspects of your idea you can implement now, that stand on their own, and allow you to introduce your product in stages? Are there aspects that are more ready and could stand to be put on the market to test how “road-ready” they are?

Turn it up to 11!

Is There A Rush?

Not every industry is in a massive rush to innovate, and there’s an important distinction between getting to market first and getting the right product to market. For example, the iPhone was undeniably innovative and brilliant, but it took years for the smartphone to penetrate certain markets. It simply wasn’t able to meet the needs of clients such as businesses that needed cryptographically secure communications, for example. Even just basic enterprise sales, a sector of IT Apple spent years trying to break into, was a struggle that the company took nearly a decade to get to any sort of viable solution.

Especially with niche markets, or markets with a low tolerance for products that haven’t been thoroughly tested, it may be worth remembering that first to market isn’t necessarily a guarantee of a first-place finish.

Want to learn more about balancing your ideation and product development processes, and how a great platform can help? Join our newsletter!

Can Ideation Build Community?

Ideas pull us together.

The history of communities shows they’re formed around ideas. Those ideas can be anything from colonizing space to just the idea that this particular place on the ocean would make a good port, but underlying any community is a strong idea. And gathering and refining ideas can be a good way to construct a community around your brand.

Ideation As Community

A good example is EA Sports. Video games are a notoriously tough market to work in, sitting squarely at the intersection of art and science, and sports gamers are a tough market to cater to in of themselves, as they’re not just gamers, but enormous fans of leagues and athletes. That makes getting a sense of the broader community particularly crucial. EA develops exacting simulations of international soccer leagues with the FIFA franchise, American football with their long-running Madden series, combat sports with EA Sports UFC, and basketball with NBA Live. Their work reaches millions of fans, and even the smallest changes are heavily scrutinized by critics and players alike.

The problem is that feedback only arrives after the game comes out, meaning players have to wait at least until an update for minor changes and for an entirely new version of the game for major ones. So EA decided to take it to their audience directly with their sports games and set up a site to collect and refine ideas from their thousands of players. They asked players both to contribute ideas and to vote on the ones EA thought were interesting or workable.

The result was a community that was built out quickly. 10,000 ideas hit the platform, and they gathered over 200,000 votes from the 17,000 active users who checked in with an opinion. It was a reaction EA wasn’t expecting, and it quickly meant players were more invested in the games and their ideas. So how do you build that kind of community for your brand?

Working together forms stronger bonds.

Building Communities With Ideas

First, pick goals and deadlines. EA’s site worked so well because the goal—improving the games and involving the players—was clear and easy to grasp on both sides. Having a goal gives your community a direction to form in, and deadlines give your community more of a sense of urgency.

After that, consider the back end. What are your criteria for ideas? Can anybody submit ideas publicly to be considered, or will ideas be submitted privately, considered by your team, and posted on the site for further comment? The same is true of the real-life backend: Have a strong software platform that’s flexible enough to change with your ideas.

Finally, look at the ideas you’re already getting from your community to “seed” your platform. Loyal customers and casual shoppers alike will offer ideas, or point out issues, and if they log in and see that you’ve been listening, that’ll build a stronger sense of commitment on their part. There’s nothing more powerful than being heard.

Communities form around ideas, and that means ideas are the most powerful way to connect you with your customers. Need help building a stronger community? Contact us about building an ideation platform.

How Design Thinking Complements Crowdsourced Innovation

Design Thinking Complements Crowdsourced InnovationIn my double role as an innovation architect at IdeaScale and a consultant for innovation management, I rely on a variety of methods to set my clients up for success. Combining methods is one of the ways I make sure they make the most out of their innovation efforts. In this post, I’d like to talk about how design thinking complements crowdsourced innovation.

Design thinking is a well-known, highly-effective and enjoyable method that encourages people to open their minds and take a different approach to problem solving. Not only does it bring together individuals that have different views on a problem, but it also allows for communication at eye level. I don’t think I need to point out the obvious parallels to crowdsourcing here, do I? The two methods are a natural fit.

Design thinking is a six-phase process that puts people in focus. The first three phases are all about gaining a thorough understanding of the problem and the target customer. The other three phases are dedicated to working on solutions. Design Thinking methods can be used at any point in a process of open innovation. Let me walk you through how this might look.

Define: Asking the right questions is crucial to finding valuable ideas. In design thinking, the first phase is dedicated to defining a suitable problem statement to set the project up for success. IdeaScale can be used here to find issues people would like to work on. Run a campaign and ask employees or customers for input.

Research: This phase is about conducting personal interviews and external research (studies etc). Its goal is to dive into your customers’ world and find out what they do, think and feel. Paired with online discussions on the platform, this gives you valuable insights into the needs of your target customers.

Synthesis: Having gathered a large amount of information, you now need to identify the most important insights. On the platform, focus on ideas that address exactly those points and move them to the next phase. Or use the information you’ve gathered to reframe your problem statement.

NOTE: What makes design thinking so universally applicable is the fact that you are never tied to the process. It makes sense to follow it from A to Z to begin with, but you’re free to jump back or ahead any time.

Ideation: Even though you have been collecting ideas all along, this is the moment to stir up the crowd again. You now have a much clearer understanding of the problem and the people you want to solve it for. Communicate exactly what you want the crowd to help you with and look forward to fantastic ideas!

Prototyping: This is where ideas become reality. There are different ways to use IdeaScale at this point in the process. One way is to use the Build Team stage and have people volunteer to build prototypes. Then come together in a workshop and provide materials for the teams to build them.

Testing: Finally, you have some prototypes! Now it’s time to test them. Do it live or on the platform – involve the crowd an ask for feedback. If you want to you can even start a whole new round of idea collection to develop your prototype and enrich it with new functions.

These are just a few ideas – there are numerous ways in which you can combine the methods. Open up and give people the chance to contribute – what you will learn and achieve is more valuable than you could ever expect.

The Stages of Innovation. Where Are You and What Does That Mean for You?

A brilliant innovation starts with a single step.

How does innovation happen? That’s a question that bedevils even the most creative of companies. Innovation is necessary for corporate survival, but where is your company in the five stages of innovation? And what’s entailed in each of them?

Step 1: Ideas

The good news is that the first step is the easiest. Cultivating a rich, deep base of creativity is a relatively simple step; ask your customers, ask your employees, and look hard at your industry. But remember that you have to bring your ideas down to earth, and figure out how to implement them.  Work to filter ideas so the best, most thoughtful ones take priority.

Step 2: Advocacy

Once you have some ideas that you think will work, those ideas need support. And even the greatest innovators can have a crisis of faith. In 1901, after the failure of their test glider, Wilbur Wright told his brother Orville that “Not within a thousand years would man ever fly.” It can be tough to fight institutional inertia or tradition. That said, though, there’s something to be said for refinement; any idea needs to be looked at by stakeholders across the board for feedback. But remember to ask what’s next the entire time. Ideas need to become tangible in some way, and often need refinement.

Step 3: Experimentation

No brilliant idea emerges fully formed from the meeting or the laboratory. Robert Heinlein, the famous science fiction author, famously claimed he never wrote a second draft unless an editor told him to, but keep in mind: An editor often told him to rewrite something. An idea is rarely so brilliant it can’t be made better, so try it out. Run a pilot test. Create a prototype and put it through its pace. Let people handle your idea and offer suggestions.

Teamwork and refinement make innovation better.

Step 4: Commercialization

Once you have an idea of how your refined idea will work and who wants it, the next question is: How do you turn your prototype into a product? That can be tougher than you think. Ever wonder how long Apple worked on the iPad? Four years? Ten years? Try since 1983; the iPad has its roots in an unusual product Apple experimented with that attached an LCD screen to a tabletop phone. But there just wasn’t a market for the idea, as cool as it was, so Apple kept it handy as it innovated elsewhere, and brought the idea to market when it was ready.

Step 5: Diffusion

This is the step that gets the whole company on board. Now that everything is in place, you and those who worked on the project talk about what it is, how it works, and why it’s important. Think of this step as the dry run to selling your innovation to the wider world. Here’s where you’ll get to try out how to best explain it and show how it makes your industry better.

Innovation is a journey, and even the hardest journey is a little smoother when you have a map. Keep these steps in mind, and if you need more help, join the IdeaScale community.

 

Harnessing Good Thoughts: Innovation Management as a Volunteer Opportunity

innovation management as volunteer opportunityTHE DISHARMONIUS GOOD INTENTIONS OF STAKEHOLDERS

Every nonprofit has them, mountains of well-meaning good ideas from passionate supporters, true believers, and entitled stakeholders.

There’s just so darn many of them. Ideas AND supporters. Ignoring one mean can means losing the other (people leave when they feel they aren’t being listened to), but nonprofits just don’t have the time to give every idea the consideration it deserves. Heck, they can’t even slow down long enough to sort things into buckets of yes, no, and maybe later. There’s just too much to do, too many volunteers to manage…

…hey, waitaminnut!

What if you could harness your volunteers to help you sort all the good ideas? Even better, to HAVE good ideas for you?!? What if it wasn’t any harder than managing any other volunteer opportunity? Sure, someone would need to set it up properly, plan it, provide tools, training, and guidance for success, but you do that all the time already. You know how to do that. You have plans and resources and more online guides for that than you can count.

It’s just changing the goal a little, rotating the volunteer dial from “deliver service” to “improve processes” or even “help set strategic priority.” Crazy? Nope, it’s just common sense.

SHAPING WELL-MEANING SUGGESTIONS INTO HARMONIOUS ACTION

People want to help. They want to buy in. They want to feel like they belong. That they matter. Some are content to show up on a “volunteer day,” but the best want to do more. They have ideas and skills and experience they want to share. They see a way to deliver service more efficiently or be better stewards of resources or stronger allies to your community. They have GREAT ideas. And you know that if you find the best ideas and implement them, not only will it make you stronger as an organization, it will gain you a committed partner. Nothing strengthens the ties that bind like shared success. You want people to buy in like that. Lots of people. Funding follows that kind of commitment.

It’s about harnessing random good intentions and focusing them into collective action in support of a common cause. You set clear goals, provide the right tools and direction, check in and offer guidance every so often, and then celebrate shared success.

You could, in effect, use familiar processes to create volunteer opportunities at a strategic level; you just might need a new tool or two.

This is where managed collaborative innovation comes in. You can partner with supporters in answering difficult questions and meeting tough challenges much the same way you would in rebuilding a community, delivering a hundred meals, or reading a thousand books. With clear goals, a well-defined process, and a lot of teamwork. Some simple examples:

  • Ask your volunteers to develop or improve the training program for new volunteers.
  • Ask your stakeholders to co-create priorities for the upcoming year (or more).
  • Ask local leaders to draft new ways that your services could better serve their communities.
  • Ask your most vocal advocates to present new ideas for fundraising.

Done well, it accomplishes three things at once: 1) harnesses the otherwise wasted resource of good ideas from passionate audiences 2) deepens engagement with those audiences through a sense of shared success, and 3) provides a guiding framework that keeps those ideas firmly aligned with the mission and vision of your ongoing work.

Like any other volunteer opportunity, success is going to depend on how well you set it up, manage it, and engage with your volunteers. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is simple. Done thoughtfully and carefully, it makes good use of a previously untapped self-renewing resource. With clearly stated goals and constraints, well-crafted questions, effective community engagement, user-friendly tools for ideation and collaboration, and transparent evaluation and reporting processes, you can turn the smart ideas of your most passionate supporters into plans ready for collective action.

Nonprofits are among the most resourceful organizations at finding new ways to access previously untapped potential in support of a common cause. Solutions like IdeaScale can provide the tools necessary to take this potential and refine it into both useful, actionable innovation and an increased sense of engagement, inclusion, and commitment.

You already know how to engage a community of volunteer doers, take the next step and learn how to engage a community of volunteer thinkers.

This blog is a guest post by Tim Parsons, COO of 5:00 Films & Media

Incentives for Participation or Incentives for Success? What Works?

incentives for participationIn a fast-paced corporate environment where there are many expectations and a steady stream of work, how (and more importantly) why, would you carve out time to contribute to your company’s new ideation platform?

Recently a customer asked me if I could share some insight as to what type of incentives really work to drive engagement across divisions and companies. This is an extremely common question for new customers looking to ensure that they can justify their investment in an innovation management platform by ensuring good participation volumes. This customer in particular was interested in the impact of career advancement opportunities on participation volume.

It’s a great question because career advancement is known to be an excellent motivator and yet despite the evidenceour recent report showed that only 8% of our customers included “career growth” as one of their explicit incentive offerings.

While extrapolating success simply based on this is a little too messy to create a clean statement of fact, it is worth noting that every one of these respondents indicated that their IdeaScale innovation management program proved value within the first month of existence.

It turns out that successful incentive programs require a flexible, multi-faceted approach. Here’s why: your incentive strategy should be driven by your crowdsourcing objectives. In other words, if your goal is to source high-caliber, implementation-ready ideas then participation volume is simply one of several things you might want to optimize. Given that you may be sourcing different types of solutions, consider also focusing on how your incentives will impact the nature of the participation (e.g. highly detailed and technical, casual and quick or out-of-the-box), the specific type of participation (e.g. voting, commenting, scoring…) and the roles and composition of the participants (experts, front-line employees, customers, etc…).

For more information I recommend an insightful book called “Wiser” by Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie. The book focuses on how to develop and leverage smart groups, specifically how incentives can lead to best solutions.

One of the most interesting things I learned was how individuals within teams perform better as individuals when incentives are offered for the team as a whole. In other words, if you offer a prize to the team/department from which the best idea comes from, you’ll achieve a few things: 1. The classic extrinsic reward-type motivation, 2. enhanced collaboration via shared objectives, and 3. reduced risk to individuals for stepping outside of groupthink (commonly accepted wisdom) or traditional hierarchy, thus leading to a healthier diversity of input and output.

Regarding the type of career advancement you can actually offer, you might consider creating the opportunity for the idea submitter to continue working on their ideas with flex time. based on the work some professors at the University of Michigan have done called “job crafting” which I wrote a little bit about here, This would be a great signal to all employees that you’re interested in allowing employees to drive positive change within their own roles and based on the job crafting literature, this can have some pretty powerful impacts organizationally and drive continued participation as employees would see the idea platform as a way to drive this process. From the Wiser perspective, by doing this, you’re also helping to inspire participants to share ideas that they are passionate about rather than what they might think management wants to hear and thus increasing the caliber of participation rather than simply volume. You can also find a list of non-monetary rewards to incentivize engagement on our resources page. 

Have you read Wiser or do you have other insights to share on what makes a great incentive program? Let me know [email protected] or on twitter @devinmcintire

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 Devin Mcintire, Innovation Technology Advisor at IdeaScale

Taming Blue Sky Ideation: Collecting Ideas that are Both Novel and Valuable

Blue Sky IdeationI frequently hear from some clients the desire or need to hold “general” or “blue sky” campaigns. “We don’t want to limit them.” “Anything goes.” “Just submit the idea and we will decide if we can make it happen.”

In two blog entries, I provide guidelines to help you go broad, avoid pitfalls, and collect ideas that are valuable and relevant to your organization.

First, resist the urge to neglect the problem statement. The most common pitfall when running a “general” or “blue sky ideation” campaign is to assume this means you no longer need constraints or a problem statement.

The crowd craves a problem, a puzzle. The absence of a problem does not inspire. It does not tease the mind, or spark creativity.

Constraints, on the other hand, present a puzzle. The puzzle is what drives your crowd to get creative and generate the valuable and novel ideas you seek. Entrepreneurs testify that limited resources are actually the source of their strategic advantage. The startup workstyle, under extreme constraints, demands creativity, and thus drives novelty. Constraints breed creativity.

When you have the temptation to remove all constraints, reframe your thinking to focus on the nature of the constraints you select. High-level constraints, deriving from the mission, vision, or purpose of your organization cast a wide net. Constraints deriving from pre-determined strategies and tactics of your organization result in a more prescriptive campaign.  

My recommendation for building a broad but useful problem statement: draw from your organization’s mission, vision, or purpose. This ensures you’re collecting relevant and useful ideas that are valuable to your organization, while still keeping the scope broad and inclusive.

Consider a city called Skyville.

Mission: To promote a prosperous life for the residents of the city.

Strategy: Revitalize the city center.

Broad problem statement: Our goal is for Skyville to be the greatest place for you to live, work, play and do business.  How can we help you prosper in city of Skyville?

Prescriptive problem statement: To promote prosperity for you and your neighbors, the city revitalization project must match your needs and your vision for our shared city center.  What does a revitalized city center look like to you?

Once you have your problem statement or call to action, it is time to set up a campaign that promotes idea generation. Check back next week for tips on how to help your crowd generate fresh and novel ideas.

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 Architect at IdeaScale

3 Reasons Why Sustainability & Innovation are Related

sustainability-and-innovation-are-relatedIdeaScale cares a great deal about helping people build sustainable business practices. Certainly we believe in sustainable businesses, because they work to minimize any negative impact on their environment when it comes to community, society, the economy, or planet. However, there is another reason that IdeaScale invests in organizations that build sustainable practices… In short, it is because they are more likely to be successful at innovation. But how can we say that sustainability and innovation are related?

In a few different studies by the Harvard Business Review and by Deloitte, researchers found that organizations that were leaders in sustainability were also leaders in innovation (and specifically with sustainability leading the way for innovation). But why would this be so? Well, the researchers pose a few different theories:

Constraints actually build creativity. As much as some organizations complain about limitations and regulations, there’s evidence to support the idea that working within some boundaries actually makes us MORE creative. So if an organization has to meet some sustainability directives, they’re more likely to be inspired by their limitations instead of bound by them.

The premium placed on new ideas. Because sustainability practices rely on fresh ideas to continuously optimize and find efficiencies, generating ideas becomes second nature to all employees. They are far more likely to think up solutions to other problems (foreseen and unforeseen), as well.

Employees begin to see the whole value chain. When looking for efficiencies, you end up thinking beyond your small domain and into the rest of the company, its partners, and procedures. This expansion allows for ideation that is more comprehensive and valuable.

To learn more about the relationship between sustainability and innovation, download our infographic here.

Why Does Sharing Ideas Improve Employee Morale?

fda-ideascaleRecently in the United States there has been focus on why employees are so unhappy, why they have such low morale, and especially why they leave jobs. One of the most often cited reasons is that they feel as though their opinion is unvalued. For the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), employee retention is especially imperative as their mission is critical to public health. So in 2014 the CDER launched a crowdsourcing program among their employees specifically to combat low morale and create a more highly engaged workforce.

Since the CDER Crowdsourcing Program’s inception, thirteen separate time-limited challenges have been presented to CDER employees, leading to more efficiency, money saved, and increased sense of job involvement and emotional attachment. The CDER heightened the message that employee engagement is valued by providing time-off incentives based on participation or the top strongest ideas, depending on the aim of a particular initiative.

Although the CDER has had some great ideas, increased efficiency, and money saved as a result of this program, perhaps most notably they have noticed a more engaged and positive workforce.

Not only does the crowdsourcing of ideas increase employee morale, it has a ripple effect on the rest of the organization. Senior management is presented with better solutions and more creative insight into what can help improve various aspects of the job. The stress on human resources is somewhat relieved as employees are more likely to want to stick around and generally feel more invested in the organization and furthering the mission. Not only do human resources departments not have to spend as much time replacing unhappy employees who choose to leave their jobs, having increased morale helps to reduce workplace stress and increase employee health. Greater employee engagement and satisfaction also trickles down to have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

To read more about how the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) is increasing employee morale by engaging their workforce in crowdsourcing, click here to download the recent case study.