Tag: innovation management

Innovation Fear

Innovation FearOur CEO was recently interviewed by the San Francisco Business Times and the conversation pulled up short for a moment when the interviewer (after hearing us talk about the possibilities afforded by an innovation management system) asked us why people are sometimes afraid to launch a crowdsourced innovation program.  So we wanted to take a moment to talk about some common innovation fear that we see from first time innovators.

Fear of Mediocrity. What if the ideas aren’t any good? It’s true that a poorly managed ideation community probably won’t generate the quality ideas that you’re looking for to propel your business or agency forward. Fortunately, it is easy to manage this problem by posting a provocative challenge statement and offering some guidelines that define what sorts of ideas you’re looking for. The crowd will (most often) rise admirably to the challenge.

Fear of Negative Commentary. Public innovation communities face the same challenges as social media. The conversations are broadcast far and wide, but good brands can take a negative comment and turn it on its head. Also, once a well-moderated community is launched, the overall sentiments are overwhelmingly positive. People enjoy interaction and brands that will listen to them. With a good communications strategy, it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter innovation trolls.

Fear of Delivery. This is perhaps the most common fear. That if you receive ideas… then you’ll actually have to DO something about them. Well, this is absolutely true. Failure to respond to ideas and implement some of them will undoubtedly cause you trouble. However, you don’t have to implement every idea and ideas that don’t align to your capabilities, resources, and goals shouldn’t be implemented. Find the ideas that have legs and make sure that you launch them and learn from them. For the ideas that don’t make it to implementation, use this as an opportunity to talk about why they’re not a good fit (maybe you don’t have the technology yet, maybe regulations limit your ability to launch an idea, maybe there’s not budget this year). If people feel that they’e be

The fact of the matter is that with transparent systems like these, everyone risks accountability – from the people sharing ideas, to the people who are managing them to the people who are responsible for assigning resources to promising ideas, and beyond. But that accountability is exactly why these systems perform so well, too. If people can see who’s taking responsibility – and that responsibility means communicating around ideas – not necessarily implementing all of them, they will feel that a real effort is being made to create change. And all of those leaders suddenly have tons more resources to draw on – how about those 100 people who voted on that idea? Maybe they want to help build it, review it, test it.

Once you get past the fear, it’s wide open opportunity. How do you think about crowdsourced innovation?

Be the Ken Burns of your Innovation Movie and Other Innovation Advice

innovation movieAs I was trying to decide on a topic for my third submission in the IdeaScale employee blog series, I kept getting these little nuggets of ideas that could possibly be flushed out into a separate blog posts on their own. I had a decision to make: pick one topic or just try to incorporate most of these nuggets into one post and of course I went with the latter option to see how much punch I can pack in one post.

In this post, I’ll try to address a handful of tips that could hopefully give new or even seasoned innovation managers a fresh perspective on how to optimize engagement. I’ll do my best to not let this get out of hand like a Buzzfeed style listicle full of memes and gifs but I’m sure it’d probably get more clicks if it were titled “10 innovation hacks your company needs. I’m guessing I’m not the only who’s had enough of seeing every low level MacGyver move be labeled a ‘life-hack’ but I digress…

Innovation managers could have a considerable influence on the success or failure of a campaign depending on how they approach their role. Here are some examples of what to consider when planning a campaign.

1) Address pent up needs:

If your organization is using IdeaScale (or any innovation management tool for the first time), it’s important to make sure to give your users opportunity to submit any low hanging fruit ideas that can be addressed before they start sharing ideas on high-level innovation initiatives.

A health care provider client that I have managed in the past had a perfect demonstration of this when they first started using IdeaScale. They piloted it by deploying a time-limited campaign to six thousand employees in their IT department and the campaign was titled Simpler, Smarter, Faster which addressed any hindrances that were getting in the way of employees’ productivity. Not surprisingly, the campaign had one of the best response rates I had ever seen because there was so much pent up need and the employees finally had an outlet for their needs to help them be more productive at work.

This allowed my customer to gather several great process improvement ideas while the crowd gets ready for higher level innovation ideas that go beyond just addressing workplace efficiency needs. Had my client not done the Simpler, Smarter, Faster campaign first, the employees could have become skeptical of any high level innovation initiatives since it would be difficult to take seriously any request for more meaningful ideas if some basic process improvement needs are not even yet addressed.

2) Find a Doorbuster Topic:

We’ve all seen the ads for Black Friday deals with insanely discounted flat screen TVs or the trendy gadget of the season. Although not everyone who lines up to get those deals ends up scoring one since the stores always have very limited number of the discounted items because the purpose of those doorbuster deals are to get customers through the doors in the hope that they will spend money on other full priced items.

I believe launching a campaign and achieving high levels of engagement can also follow the same concept of figuring out an effective way to bring the crowds through the doors and getting them to stick around and/or keep returning. When possible, find campaign topics that address hot issues that may have been a pain point for most of your participants and use those to lead with. Once on the platform, the natural tendency of users is to keep browsing for other topics that may be of interest to them and this will improve the amount of exposure your other campaign topics will receive over all.

The same health care client I used as an example above employed this concept beautiful by eliciting submissions that were widely shared by majority of the participants. The number one voted idea garnered over 1500 votes (out of roughly six thousand total participants) and it was asking for the organization to upgrade its enterprise email application from one provided by one of the legacy software outfits to something more compatible and nimble. Apparently, a size-able number of the employees detested that particular email application with a passion and most had discussed it amongst their small circles but never realized how widespread that sentiment was until they were finally given a platform to express it. Driven by a common dislike of a certain email application, the users came in droves to also take part in the other campaigns and topics which is what we look for with the doorbuster strategy.

3) Be like Capoeira my friend:

Martial arts may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of innovation management but if we drill down to the basic reason why a company needs to innovate or why soldiers train in martial arts, it comes down to survival and readiness whether it’s for a fight of market share with a competitor or disarming a foe in a hand to hand combat.  

There are several types of Martial Arts; some emphasizing striking such as capoeira and taekwondo or the wrestling type ones like judo and jiu-jitsu. Unlike the in-your-face strikes in kickboxing and Karate, I personally like Capoeira because it uniquely and seamlessly weaves dance, acrobatics and music to create this beautiful art form that would at times make you forget that it’s a type of combat. The origin story is also somewhat unique in that Brazilian slaves from Angola used capoeira to disguise the fact that they’re practicing combat by blending music and dance to make their Portuguese masters think it was some harmless ritual.

Innovation management is also vital for companies to stay competitive and agile but is not meant to alarm participants into thinking their company is going to be the next Kodak or Blockbuster. Although the survival aspect of the need for innovation will always be at the core, blending it into one’s company culture as something fun and a point of pride will nurture it to be interwoven in the fabric of a company’s identity.

4) Be The Ken Burns of Innovation Management:

Most casual moviegoers can probably list their favorite directors in fictional genres but most would be hard pressed to name any famous documentary movie makers except for Ken Burns whose name has become synonymous with the genre in the last three decades. His works have  become so iconic that even Apple borrowed one of his signature techniques of panning across a photo and slowly zooming in the main subject which named it ‘The Ken Burns’ effect in iPhoto, iMovie and Final Cut Pro.  He took a genre that had limited interest amongst the wider film audience and helped modernize and popularize it.

As an Innovation Manager, it does take some deliberate effort and planning to maintain a level of engagement on a consistent basis especially after the initial excitement of collaborating on a new platform has worn off a bit. We highly encourage Innovation managers to think outside the box and come up with novel ways to keep things fresh and maintain interest whether it is by running fun campaigns on the side such as photo contest to show company spirit etc.

Hope I didn’t bore you with these loosely related nuggets of wisdom, but innovation does require setting aside conventions and traditions while being willing to examine your needs through different lenses. However, to be a successful innovation manager, one has to identify any barriers first and plan to address those first before reaching for higher goals. Oh, in case you’re wondering whether or not the client in my example above addressed the email issue, I’m happy to report that within a year after the campaign, the client was able to upgrade all it’s twenty thousand employees to a new service and phase out the old service that had caused their employees so much anguish.

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 Beni Kebede, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale

Have you heard about ISO 50501?

iso 50501Well, let’s start with introducing you to the ISO itself.  ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 163 national standards bodies (think: the United Nations for standardization with representatives from each country).

ISO goes on to say “through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges.”

Well, what does that mean and what counts as a “standard?” ISO says that “they give world-class specifications for products, services and systems, to ensure quality, safety and efficiency. They are instrumental in facilitating international trade.” 

Basically, these standards helps us agree to minimum expectations for products and services, particularly when it comes to trade. So if someone says that a car seat is safe to French standards, you could believe that those standards have parity with American standards for safety, as well.

And now, the ISO is taking on the challenge of organizing some standards around innovation management. They haven’t released those guidelines yet, but they are due to come out in early 2018 and IdeaScale is already excited about what they see. They refer to this new standard as ISO 50501.

They’re looking to define standards that support business, public sector, and not for profit organizations in marketplace innovation, value chain innovation, process improvement innovation, organizational culture innovation, product and service innovation, as well as social innovation. This, of course, is a pretty tall order since innovation means so many different things to different people even within the same company.

But based on the available information so far, IdeaScale is proud to comply with information regarding ISO 50501 and will remain dedicated to ensuring future compliance as additional information is released. We want a global community of innovators who can trust the quality of innovation efforts.

To learn more about IdeaScale and ISO 50501, download our one-sheeter on the subject here.

An Innovation Management Solution that Meets Your FedRAMP Requirements

ideascale and fedrampOn my first day at IdeaScale, I had not been at my desk for more than five minutes before the CEO made his way over to me and said, “Your first job at IdeaScale is to get us FedRAMP authorized.”  

Without a pause, I answered, “Yes, right away,” and with my boss standing over my shoulder, I opened my to-do list and typed “G-E-T-_-F-E-D-R-A-M-P-E-D.”  Once he made his way back to his desk, I googled “W-H-A-T_I-S_F-E-D-R-A-M-P-?.”  

For those in the dark, as I was, FedRAMP is an acronym for the “Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program,”which is “a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.”  (See  This program helps government entities buy cloud services with confidence in the security levels of the services and their underlying software.

I’m happy to report that IdeaScale is now FedRAMP Ready with a completed and successful third-party assessment.  This means our security controls, policies, and procedures have withstood a grueling multi-month audit and gained a recommendation for FedRAMP authorization in our auditor’s security assessment report. IdeaScale now has an agency reviewing its FedRAMP offering and is on path to receive its first Agency Authorization early this fall.

I quickly learned that this was not a one-person job or something that would happen overnight.  The heads of all IdeaScale departments hopped on board and provided support and resources. The sys admin department fortified system borders and provided personnel dedicated to the implementation of security controls and the performance of system scans.  The compliance team added an information system security officer to the mix to perform continuous system security reviews and worked with outside professionals to architect the FedRAMP solution.  The developers overhauled their system development life cycle process to make the application even more secure.  Most importantly, security became the number one priority for all IdeaScale personnel and the number one feature of our SaaS offerings.  

As a result of these investments, IdeaScale is ready to provide an innovation management solution to meet the FedRAMP needs of any federal agency.  Also, since IdeaScale applies many of the policies and procedures of its FedRAMP offering to each of its enterprise offerings, the time and resources applied to this project have enhanced the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all IdeaScale services.  Whether you work for the government or for enterprise, IdeaScale has a solution to meet your department’s security needs.

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 Joby Emmons, General Counsel at IdeaScale

Why Aren’t You Crowdsourcing?

Last year Gartner published an article entitled “The 5 Most Effective, Least Used Digital Innovation Hacks” which listed crowdsourcing, differentiated funding, differentiated metrics, startup innovation, and formal innovation management. These “hacks” (as they called them) had the greatest potential to improve a company’s capabilities and functions.

Of course, crowdsourcing and innovation management are closely related, but not everyone understands the potential benefits of crowdsourcing and innovation management. It’s one of the reasons that crowdsourcing and innovation management champions must communicate the benefits of such programs.

Here are some of the most commonly cited benefits of crowdsourced innovation management.

Better Ideas. Steven Johnson explored the nature of disruptive and creative ideas that have transformed our society. He noted that the ideas that connect and merge with others are the ones that are more likely to be transformative, powerful, and impact the future of a business. Launching a crowdsourced program allows for those connections to happen and for better ideas to emerge as a result.

Lower Costs. Opening up the boundaries between different disciplines inside or outside of an organization maximizes the value of ideation. Because these programs aren’t limited by one department and people can participate part-time in these creative exercises, crowd innovation programs generally have lower costs than traditional research & development departments.

Viral Marketing. New ideas that make progress generate interest and excitement. If you’re collaborating with employees, they might volunteer to help empower change within an organization. If you’re collaborating with customers, you have the opportunity to turn these changes into marketing campaigns that will build an audience before a new product or process even gets to market.

So why aren’t you crowdsourcing already?

To learn more about the value of crowdsourcing and how to improve your innovation management program, download our infographic on the subject on our resources page.

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.

The Innovative Mentor

the-innovative-mentorMentors see themselves as people developers. They take a long-term view of their staff and see innovation projects as an opportunity to stretch their employees’ capabilities and to help them achieve their aspirations. Depending on the scope of their ideas, innovators’ careers can be significantly shaped by this journey.

The Mentor Role in Innovation 

A mentor enables innovators to focus on their project results while also learning about themselves along the way. Leaders can mentor innovators through any of the practical business steps in the value creation process itself:

  • Connecting to emerging market trends and identifying the most significant opportunities
  • Gaining customer insights
  • Creating strong solutions and business models
  • Connecting to others who can help them create compelling value propositions
  • Learning how best to communicate and pitch their potential projects; and
  • How to implement quickly once approved and funded.

For example, a medical equipment manufacturer helped the engineers with new product ideas with their pitches. Many of the company’s engineers were not comfortable presenting their big ideas to the senior staff. A manager would work with them to develop the business case. Managers often co-presented with the idea champion to the senior staff. This allowed the engineers to focus on the technical side of the equation where they felt most comfortable while gradually building their pitching and business skills.

Mentors can also encourage innovators to look inside themselves, to understand themselves as leaders or project champions. When is it time to stick to an idea, and when is it time to listen to others and change course? When is it time for individual vision and when is it essential to collaborate and build a strong team with a shared vision? Innovators face a wide mix of business strategy and interpersonal challenges on their road to success. Leaders who have experience in these areas can offer timely guidance to help innovators successfully navigate this multidimensional path.

Beyond Typical Mentorship

Mentors don’t simply give information and advice. They ask open-ended questions that force innovators to think about themselves and the business challenges they face. They ask about lessons learned at each milestone as a way of furthering the innovator’s development. Identifying what worked, what didn’t, and why, should be a regular topic of conversation. In addition, acknowledging that learning through failure is valuable helps to build trust, encourage calculated risk-taking, and fosters a climate of innovation.

Playing the role of mentor means you are able to:

  • Use innovation efforts as an opportunity to develop innovators’ capabilities and careers
  • Coach an innovation champion and team through the entire innovation process
  • Ask tough questions and allow innovators to struggle, without taking over the project
  • Accelerate project team learning by encouraging experimentation, risk-taking, and iteration

Good mentors hold frequent development discussions, ensuring the dialogue is as much about the innovator as it is about the innovation. The time spent on mentoring varies from project to project, but is typically a matter of months rather than days. This time frame gives the mentor and idea champion time to explore the innovation journey together and develop opportunities for the learner to try out new capabilities.

Mentors can act as a sounding board to test and explore new solutions and options, and give advice based on their understanding of the organization and experience with other innovation projects. Since it’s also helpful when the mentor can coach the innovator through the tough challenges that inevitably show up, they need enough time working together to ensure they confront obstacles that will test the innovator’s skills.

A good mentor can cover the wide range of topics needed to enhance the growth of the individual and the results for the business. Often a mentor will play the role of a barrier buster. Playing the role of barrier buster means you are able to:

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

Common Barriers 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 obstacles 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 find 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. (quote source)

With innovation, mentorship goes beyond career path improvement. You must incorporate a variety of techniques to move both the innovator and invention forward. 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.


How do I know if someone will be successful at innovation?


0f71c74As part of our innovation strategist team, I get to speak with a lot of first-time innovators. Developing an innovation program for any organization is no easy task and certainly should not fall on any one person. Part of my role is to help those who want guidance on where to begin and put them on the road to success. But how do I know if someone is going to succeed with their innovation program?

Here are the three things I look for:

  • Clear goals and tangible outcomes: start at the end. The most successful innovation plans begin with a clear end goal – this is your light at the end of the tunnel. Having a clearly defined outcome will help you clearly define milestones that you’ll need hit in your journey towards your outcome. As they say, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else.”
  • Measurable Milestones: Here’s the bottom line: if what you’re measuring doesn’t bring you towards your end goal – if it doesn’t move you towards your desired outcome above, then it doesn’t matter. Put all your KPI’s to this test. Don’t waste your time tracking KPI’s just because you can. Track what matters.
  • Transparent Communication: In a recent Gartner report, crowdsourcing is the most impactful digital innovation technique. It’s also the least used according to the report. You may have heard our founder, Rob Hoehn, say, “The crowd is your most powerful ally…” So make sure everyone is heard. Communicate with them. Communicate your desired outcomes. Communicate your progress towards reaching your milestones. A conversation is a two way street: if you want your crowd to communicate with you, make sure you communicate with them. I promise they’ll love hearing from you!

IdeaScale’s innovation management software has tools to help you organize your innovation program, track milestones, and communicate with your crowd. What outcome are you looking for in 2017? Let us know! We’d love to help you find a better way to get there.

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 Jeff Wong, Customer Success Operative at IdeaScale.

Innovating for Social Good

innovating-for-social-goodMany employees desire purpose in their work beyond earning a paycheck. And many businesses want to make a difference as well. When you innovate for social good, you not only create an external impact, but you help your employees fulfill their desire for meaningful work.

What is Social Good?

Social good is defined as “a good or service that affects the largest number of people in the largest possible way.” When companies focus only on shareholders, they affect a small number of people relative to society. Consequently, this type of company is not necessarily engaged in doing social good. However, by shifting the focus beyond shareholders and profitability, your company can have an impact that extends beyond the walls of your organization.

There are many ways that your company can create social good. Helping provide clean water, building schools, or helping to create clean air in large regions are just a few examples. Social good goes beyond just raising money. It’s about having a social impact that enhances people’s lives in a real way.

Standard Bank’s Water4Africa Challenge is a great example of crowdsourcing for social good. They received hundreds of entries during the challenge and selected winners that met their six criteria.

How Does Social Good Relate to Social Responsibility?

Social responsibility is closely related to social good, but they are not the same thing. Social responsibility is the idea that businesses should balance, making a profit with activities that benefit society. For example, having a program where you encourage employees to volunteer is a way to practice social responsibility, but it’s not the same as creating social good as part of your company’s operation.

However, there are places where social responsibility and social good overlap. Organizations that have giveback programs that help humanitarian agencies generate social good are an example of how they overlap. A company that commits itself to “running green” to help the environment, and encourages others within the industry to follow suit, is doing so as well.

Innovating For Social Good with Crowdsourcing

If you’re looking for the best way for your company to participate in producing social good, what better process is there than asking society at large? Crowdsourcing allows you to ask your community – or even the global society – to suggest innovative ideas that your company could implement to affect a large number of people in the best, and largest possible way.

Crowdsourcing requires some planning. Here are some important tips to make crowdsourcing work for your organization:

  • Use the Right Technology. Having a system that allows you one single place to gather ideas, evaluate them, and determine how best to execute them is vital. IdeaScale is one platform that gives you that capability.
  • Pick the Right Rewards. People love to compete and win. To encourage contributions, pick rewards that appeal to your crowdsourcing base. This doesn’t have to be monetary. It could be an impactful donation to an organization of their choice, for instance. In IdeaBuzz, participants get rewarded with donations to their favorite charity in exchange for participating.
  • Follow Up With Action. Nothing is more frustrating to a group excited about making a difference than to see no action taken on great ideas. If you do this, you’ll hurt morale both within your organization and within your idea community. Be prepared to implement!

Mobilizing the Masses

If you want to make a big impact on the world, you often need a large group of people to do it. Don’t limit the ideas to your own leadership or staff.  Instead, look to the community around you, and the community around the world for ideas on innovating for social good.

Take some time to think of ways your organization can help make a big difference to a large number of people. To discover how others are innovating for social good, download the DREAMS Innovation Challenge case study today.

Five Product Innovations that Evolved Over Time

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

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

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

Listerine – From Surgery to Your Bathroom Counter

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

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

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

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

Avon Skin So Soft – From Moisturizer to Hiking Companion 

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

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

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

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

WD-40 – From Bombs Away to Squeaking Hinges 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slinky – From Stabilizing Ship Instruments to a Favorite Toy 

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

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

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

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

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