Tag: Innovation

Military Invention Day

Military Invention DayTwo weeks ago, my wife and I looked at the weekend weather report – more rain.  If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, then you’ve experienced record breaking rainfall recently. On top of that, our nine month old is like a bull in a China shop right now. So in spite of the weather, staying inside our house all day is not an option. But where would we go to stretch our legs? 

Fortunately, the D.C. area is full of amazing museums which can serve as a fun family indoor activity. And It just so happened, The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation was having a special event last Saturday – Military Invention Day – showcasing examples of today’s leading-edge military inventions. We got to meet scientists, engineers, and even some IdeaScale customers…

We got to meet Petty Officer First Class Kevin Spratt of the US Coast Guard who was showcasing his invention, “The Hammer Hook.” His idea was proposed in IdeaScale to weld a hook to the head of a maul, combining two tools frequently used on a buoy deck. The Hammer Hook reduces clutter on the deck and makes it easier for crewmembers to switch between tools. This type of innovation is a great example of process innovation which looks for new efficiencies that will save time, money, or other resources. 

Other event highlights included the Army’s demonstrations of new Augmented Reality concepts and the Evolution of Night Vision Technology which have some pretty amazing military applications. One of the more fun family-friendly demonstrations came from the Naval Research Laboratory – showing how to generate Energy from Seawater.

According to the event’s website, the daylong festival celebrates the crucial role of invention for the United States, explores the changing relationship between military research and commerce, and gives visitors an opportunity to envision how advances in military technology will impact their daily lives in the future.

Big thanks to the Lemelson Center for putting on such a wonderful event and congratulations to all those representing the innovation and creativity of our armed forces.

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

The State of Innovation in Education

State of Innovation in EducationI was surprised to read the findings of a recent survey in which researchers found that only 38% of graduates reported that their educational establishment was at the forefront in adopting innovations. And yet, I hear employers say all the time that the reason they’re excited to hire folks right out of college, is because not only do they come on board with a wealth of new technological savvy, but they’re also considered to be more creative.  But with our educational institutions stumbling a bit in the face of new technology and change making, what is the state of innovation in education?

If you think about it, universities and educational institutions are almost always breeding grounds for new ideas, prototypes, and creative thinking. After all, universities are the birthplaces of new discoveries: like the accelerating universe, the founding of Zipcar, the identification of new planets, and myriad other things. So which this disconnect between what graduates perceive to be happening and the seeds of so many promising ideas.

The problem is that everything from new business models to new technologies are being discovered and nurtured  in separate pockets of the campus across separate disciplines. Even when innovation is close at hand, there isn’t always someone who is up-leveling, surfacing, and distributing that information so that others gain visibility into that project, as well. That’s one of the key reasons that Entangled Solutions wrote about the rise of the Chief Innovation Officer in the education sector. Sourcing and sharing knowledge is one of their new key objectives.

We’ve been looking at the efforts to introduce innovation into higher education and have noticed a few key idea campaigns that universities always seem interested in running. These campaigns are some of the opportunities for campus-wide learning on which a Chief Innovation Officer could begin their strategy:

Sustainability. Almost every business, school, and individual is thinking about opportunities for going green. Odds are that everyone from your facilities team to your student base has ideas about how to make an impact. Ask them. Diversity. This is one of the most crucial (but also most challenging) subjects to tackle, because it impacts everything from facilities, to admissions and provides the backbone for culture at your institution.

Budget Strategy. Almost every university is looking for ways to become more efficient and people are finding new ways to save money all over campus. Now what if they could share those strategies with everyone else?

Process Improvement. What about new ways for students to access services? What about new career development opportunities for faculty? There are always processes that can be updated and optimized.

10-Year Vision. Don’t make your strategic vision in a vacuum. Find out where others think that you should go. Post your ideas, get feedback on them, or start with a blank slate and have your community tell you what the future holds.

To learn more about innovation in the education sector, download our complimentary infographic on the subject.

A Collaborative Product Development Stage Gate

Product Development Stage GateYou might be surprised to learn that silica sand is used in a wide variety of industries: everything from the oil & gas vertical to products in sports & recreation. It’s amazing that sand can be used for arts and crafts or even water filtration. So a company that provides silica and sand based products actually has a wide range of innovation opportunities as they build out their product portfolio.

For that reason, Covia instituted a company-wide innovation program so that employees from anywhere in the business could share ideas for new products, provide incremental improvement suggestions, create process improvement opportunities and transparently articulate and evaluate that value to everyone in the community simultaneously.

In order to manage a 500% increase in the volume of ideas, the Sustainable Development Business Innovation (SDBI) group instituted a unique workflow for each campaign (there are four major campaigns in the ideation community) and each workflow included several levels of review. Here’s an example workflow from the Product Innovation campaign:

  • Team Review: Sub teams comprising cross-functional Subject Matter Experts (SME-T) are established.
  • Idea Score Screen (ISS): SMEs utilize the ISS for idea reviewing, scoring and relative ranking.
  • Stage Gate® Product Development: The top ranked ideas next move to Gate One of the Stage Gate® process for additional screening by the Stage Gate committee before they are approved to move to Stage One, which is the R&D Feasibility Study phase.

Periodically the SDBI presents promising ideas to leadership who help to remove roadblocks. And the results so far are very encouraging: an estimated $5 million in new revenues from product ideas and an estimated $2 million in cost savings in the process efficiency category. And all of this, because existing ideas are being shared and implemented beyond the bounds of their silos.

To read the full story behind Covia, download the complete case study.

How Innovation Helps Address Sustainability Challenges

Innovation builds more than just better products.

One of the greatest challenges facing business at the moment is sustainability. Getting the most out of the resources you have access to, reducing the amount of resources you use, and finding more renewable resources are good both for society and your bottom line. But creating something sustainable starts with the core resource of any business: The people you work with. Environmental Resource Management, or ERM, recently showcased this with a brilliant innovation strategy.

Getting It Done

ERM’s corporate mission is deceptively simple on paper: Build better ecological security, reduce waste and cost, and help businesses become more environmentally friendly. They’ve worked with businesses across the world to do everything from finding renewable resources for industries to analyzing supply chains to identify inefficiencies and ecological risks companies hadn’t considered.

Don’t be fooled, though: Sustainability isn’t a matter of recommending you install solar panels and recycle more. What works for one company on the ecological front isn’t effective for another, even within the same industry. As a result, client services and uniting expertise is a challenge for ERM. They decided to draw on their employees.

ERM held its first global innovation tournament in 2015, with the goal of using existing technology to build on their offerings to their clients. The tournament, promoted to employees, had three rounds and built on employee feedback using an innovation platform. Employees could like and comment on ideas, and not just offer their perspective but also use the platform as a library of the company’s expertise.

The results speak for themselves: 69% of ERM’s 5,000 employees weighed in on various ideas, watching the tournament and participating. It both built teamwork, and it sparked ideas across the board. And it underscores an important point.

Innovation yields great rewards.

Tapping The Human Resource

ERM knew that there’s nobody who knows your company like your employees, and they used it to their advantage. Employees are bursting with ideas and new approaches to challenges in the field, but it’s difficult to create a platform that lets them share that expertise across the board. How often has the solution to a seemingly thorny problem been solved with a simple email to somebody who’s dealt with it before? Institutional knowledge is incredibly useful, but it doesn’t spread quickly unless you find a way to let it spread.

That was the key advantage of ERM’s innovation strategy. They based it on the concrete, asking for new approaches to technology and processes the company already used. Instead of having to ask around and find somebody to email, employees could share their expertise to a much broader context. In a way, the tournament was almost beside the point, although it certainly offered a great incentive to jump in and comment.

Especially with sustainability, it’s important to draw on institutional knowledge. The key to sustainability is often not building new technology, but better understanding and refining the technology and services you have. ERM used this technique to tap into and spread their institutional knowledge. How will you use innovation strategy to bolster your employees? For tips on how, contact us.

Will Blockchain Change How Financial Businesses Innovate?

Blockchain will change finance, even if you never buy a bitcoin.

The world’s financial system was never built to do the things that it does. If twenty years ago, you’d told your average investor that stock markets would see billions of trades made by amateur investors over their lunch hour, that little bits of computer code would be valued for more than a new car, that trillions of dollars would travel around the world digitally, automatically converted from one currency to another; they’d laugh at you. But yet, the system works. It’s far from perfect, and that’s where innovation from blockchain can change everything.

Fighting Fraud

Modern finance faces a growing problem in the form of crime and fraud. A teenager in one country can steal a credit card from an adult in another, use it to buy a pallet load of televisions, sell those TVs off at a profit, and leave the financial institution and the merchant to sort out the mess, and this happens a dozen times a day. And that’s just the least complicated scam that the financial industry deals with. There’s high-end theft, money laundering, wire fraud, and a host of other issues.

Blockchain is an intriguing solution to these problems. It’s built from the ground up to deal with fraud, after all. In bitcoin and altcoins, the blockchain is a sprawling, public ledger shared with everyone in the altcoin’s network. From the moment an altcoin enters circulation, its provenance and history are carefully tracked. Everyone on the network can always tell you exactly where a specific coin is and where it’s been. It’s a radical form of transparency that even financial institutions unsure of altcoins are ready to embrace, because it’s much harder to hide your money when you have to tell millions how you move every penny. But this is a massive shift many banks are uncomfortable with, where ledgers are visible not just to clients, but law enforcement, reporters, and the curious.

Blockchain can help stop fraud. But that’s just the start.

Better With Blockchain

To be sure, the decentralized nature of blockchains might leave some institutions wondering where they fit in. After all, if two private individuals can engage in a transaction with absolute confidence in its quality and security, where does a bank fit in? But that’s where innovation is important. Part of the problem is banks refuse to see themselves as anything other than filing cabinets for money.

Applying blockchain to traditional financial institutions is still in its infancy. But increasingly the role of a bank is to provide the technology and the support, to be the pillar finance leans on. Most millennials, for example, simply never go inside their bank, and increasingly don’t even pull cash out of an ATM; they transfer money using apps, use auto-debit to pay their bills, and use apps like Venmo to split checks and cover expenses. Banks are the backstop of all these technologies, but they don’t serve the same role as they did even ten years ago. The banks that innovate will survive, and the others—well, they’ll become part of the banks that innovate.

The same is true of blockchain. The public ledger that serves to verify transactions will change finance in a host of ways. It’ll make account details more public. It’ll create more opportunities for customers to automate their finances and investing, making a personal quant for every person closer to reality. The only way for innovators to be at the center of it is to embrace the technology and figure out where they fit. To get a better sense of where your bank fits, join our newsletter for the latest on innovation strategy.

9 Ways Bailey’s Irish Cream Can Help You Innovate

Help You Innovate


It’s a cold, wet Spring, so let’s take a moment (and a sip or two?) to reflect on how great ideas become reality. Specifically, let’s consider the invention of Bailey’s Irish Cream and what it can teach us about idea management strategies that can support and amplify successful ideas.

On December 3rd, 2007, Diageo announced the sale of the billionth bottle of Baileys since it was first introduced in 1973. In the decade since, you can estimate that they’ve sold a further 250 million bottles. If we assume that every bottle of Baileys delivered eight generous servings that suggests that over 12 billion glasses of Baileys have been poured since it all began!


But the story of its invention is both informative and fun (highly recommended). But I’ve taken nine portable innovation lessons from it. Here they are:

Lesson One: Instantaneous Ideas Are Really Ideas With Great Groundwork

“The initial thought behind Baileys Irish Cream took about 30 seconds. In another 45 minutes the idea was formed. Baileys was like that for me. A decade of experience kicked in and delivered a great idea. It wasn’t as instant as it seemed.”

At IdeaScale, we provide an environment so that ideas (and idea fragments) have a place to grow, combine, and mature so that there is an actual place where inspiration can happen.

Lesson Two: Ideas Need a Chance!

“Where Hugh was more likely to intellectualise and think through the appalling consequences of dropping cream into Ireland’s beloved whiskey, I was all for doing it there and then.”

Make sure your idea management process is set up to avoid the trap of prevailing assumptions and encourages participants to feel comfortable proposing out-of-the-box ideas.

Lesson Three: Good Ideas Require Experimentation and Refinement

“We mixed the two ingredients in our kitchen, tasted the result and it was certainly intriguing, but in reality bloody awful. Undaunted, we threw in some sugar and it got better, but it still missed something.”

“We went back to the store, searching the shelves for something else, found our salvation in Cadbury’s Powdered Drinking Chocolate and added it to our formula. Hugh and I were taken by surprise. It tasted really good. Not only this, but the cream seemed to have the effect of making the drink taste stronger, like full-strength spirit. It was extraordinary.”

Good ideas hardly ever arrive fully formed. How are you tracking updates, improvements, and allowing others to build themselves into the process?

Lesson Four: Good Ideas Need Champions

“Over the years I have come to the conclusion that the real heroes of ideas are not the people who have them – they are the people who buy them.”

“Whatever we were doing, no matter what he thought of the taste, he knew what we were aiming for. Just a nod, that’s all he gave us. Not a yes but better than a no. Mac would be the man who would have to run with this. And he did.”

Good ideas need to exist in a marketplace where leaders and people with authority can learn about them and then take a chance on and invest in good ideas. How else are they going to discover them?

Lesson Five: Ideas Need to be Marketed

“Names can be tough and often really easy to reject with a comment like “I just don’t like it”…Being words, not graphic designs, they are within everyone’s purview so anyone can reject them. Getting to Baileys as quickly as we did was unusual. Indeed, as I discovered in later years, it was incredible.”

But it’s not just about the name, everything with a new idea needs to be packaged!

Lesson Six: Rapidly Prototype

“The next step was packaging, and we needed a bottle. Not being confident enough in the overall idea to suggest spending money on a new mould which could have run to several thousand pounds, we looked around for an existing bottle and Tom found one for an Irish whiskey brand that the company distributed called Redbreast. We decided we’d use that.”

Turn your idea into a potential reality as quickly and easily as possible so that your audience can have a better chance at understanding and contributing to your idea. Feedback starts the moment you’ve left the blank canvas behind.

Lesson Seven: Involve Others

“I wrote out a design brief and asked Amy to show it to him and get him to submit some designs as soon as he could…. A couple of days later Bob delivered… he had sent about 20 for us to choose from. Amy laid them out on our table and Tom, Hugh and I looked them over and immediately lit on one.”

“There was a huge buzz seeing an idea begin to assume a physical form. I was no designer so depended on other people to perform this magic.”

Good ideas become great ideas when you build a team around them.

Lesson Eight: The Role of Feedback

Feedback and validation is, of course, critical to the selection of an idea but the lesson here is to make sure you know what feedback you’re looking for. When Baileys finally had a potential bottle, label and name, the team took it to a bar for some market research. They served it to a group of men who declared it to be a “girly drink”. While it seemed like this could be a disaster for their new idea, they paid attention to all the feedback this group produced:

“After this what man was going to openly lay claim to liking “a girl’s drink”? It was an absolute no-no. But when we looked at their glasses every one of them had been drained. It might not have been their kind of drink, but there was nothing wrong with the taste.”

It was this keen observation that helped give the Bailey’s team the confidence they needed to take their prototype to Dublin and present it to executives.

Lesson Nine: The Best Ideas Take On Their Own Life

“No matter how well an idea is received, it is a complex entity and changes are inevitably made. The Baileys team now had to make its own imprint. The first thing they did was to remove the word “chocolate” from the description Irish Cream Chocolate Liqueur.”

Here’s why it matters, “As soon as they started making an imprint on this strange new idea they began to assume ownership. And once they owned it they would commit to it.”

Cheers to great ideas!

Connecting the Dots between DevOps and Innovation

How can DevOps encourage innovation?

DevOps, short for development and operations, is all about breaking down “silos” in organizations. It’s not enough that one group does the work of designing a product or a service and that the other puts it to use. Instead, they need to communicate with each other, to understand how each side approaches the opportunities and challenges that are presented by their jobs. So how does breaking down these silos touch on innovation, and what lessons can DevOps teach us about being more innovative?

It’s About Communication

One of the biggest problems DevOps is designed to solve is fairly simple: Independent groups just don’t talk to each other, and may not even have the tools to know where to start. Think about how your company is arranged. How easy is it to even find the desk of someone in a department you don’t usually work with? Who’s your point of contact if there’s an issue? How do you follow up?

It seems shocking that businesses can be in a situation where the right hand has no idea what the left is doing, but it happens more often than you might think. One of the most commonplace examples is in marketing where cultures collide, often with disastrous results: Coca-Cola has been attempting to shake off the urban legend of “bite the wax tadpole” for years. But often these can be tiny little issues that make a big difference. Ask somebody whose left hand is dominant what it’s like to live in a world where everybody assumes you use your right; for many companies, it’s the same situation.

And you’ll often find that by building this communication, it’s not just easier to do business. It’s also easier to innovate.

Process starts it. Innovation finishes it.

Innovation And DevOps

Innovation often comes from communication and different perspectives. In fact, it’s common that an idea developed for one application finds its true niche somewhere else. Originally, cellophane was designed as a waterproof coating for cloth, but when it peeled away easily from the tablecloths it was applied to, it quickly dawned on the chemist who invented it just what he had.

DevOps is all about cultivating different perspectives and reconciling them, much like you do when you’re gathering and refining ideas. In fact, you’ll likely find that reconciling innovation processes is often part of building a better DevOps approach. After all, both sides need to know exactly what the other is thinking.

It also helps unite your teams to have them bounce ideas off each other, and it streamlines the innovation process. One of the oldest gags in innovation is somebody building a brilliant ship, plane, or other vehicle and then discovering they can’t use it because it won’t fit through the door. United teams discussing innovation strategy ensure the doors are wide enough for innovation to fly.

Most importantly, though, it helps build common ground. The more teams work on an idea together, the more invested they become in its success and the more careful they are to ensure it soars. A DevOps strategy is important to any growing business just to function, but you’ll find it often bears innovative fruit. To see how you can build more innovation in your company, join our newsletter.

How to Boost Innovation by Recycling Existing Ideas

Recycling Existing IdeasWhen it comes to innovation, businesses can often find it seemingly impossible to generate completely new ideas. In these early stages of product development, it can sometimes seem like all of the good ideas have already been taken. However, maybe we don’t need completely new ideas; simply a reinvention of an old classic.

Mark Twain famously said in his autobiography ‘Chapters From The North’ that;

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages”.

When you apply this train of thought to innovation, it becomes apparent that some of the most successful products and services in human history were developed by recycling existing ideas.

Take the iPod for example. First launched in October 2001, Apple‘s portable music device has revolutionised how we all listen to and download music. However, what you may not know is that the iPod was initially devised by recycling an existing idea.

After all, the first portable MP3 players hit the market in 1998 and by 2001 there were over 50 different models available through which you could download and play music from your computer. What Apple did with the iPod was reinvent an existing idea; they took the core concept of an MP3 player, scrutinised the complaints that consumers had about these cumbersome and inadequate MP3 devices, and developed a new product which remedied these solutions. As Bill Fischer highlights in his ‘Innovating The iPod’ article;

“The goals articulated by the leadership were surprisingly simple, broad yet precise. For the hardware: A thousand songs in your pocket; for the software: so easy that your Mother could do it; and for the project: and on the shelves in eight months! The team could get to work without feeling constrained by the way the vision was presented – they were both totally focused and liberated at the same time!”.

The end result was a 6.5 ounce device with a 5GB hard drive that could hold 66 hours of music. This lightweight, technologically proficient reinvention of existing MP3 players was an global phenomenon that has since sold more than 400 million units since 2001.

One of the fundamental aspects of the iPod‘s success was Apple‘s ability to recycle existing ideas and expand upon them. Businesses can deploy these same principles within their own innovation strategies. First and foremost you need to identify the most popular product or service which currently exists within your field of industry and then scrutinise its strengths and weaknesses. In the case of the iPod, Apple were able to take the benefits of a portable music player and remedy the key consumer complaints such as inefficient storage space, cumbersome hardware and confusing user interfaces.

Similar innovation strategies can be noted within all fields of industry; from the technology sector to the entertainment industry. For instance, horror director George Romero is heralded by many as the innovator of the modern horror genre due to his iconic movie franchise Night of the Living Dead (1968-2009). Regarded by many moviegoers as the progenitor of modern zombie shows such as The Walking Dead, what you may not know is that Romero actually created his iconic ‘living dead’ monsters by recycling key archetypes from existing horror movies. As British actor Simon Pegg explained whilst reflecting upon Romero’s legacy;

“Romero adopted the Haitian zombie and combined it with notions of cannibalism, as well as the viral communicability characterised by the vampire and werewolf myths and so created the modern zombie”.

In this manner Romero was able to analyse the core principles of conventional movie monsters such as a vampire or werewolves, ascertain the key aspects of what made them scary, take out the tired clichés that moviegoers would expect, and create something new that would truly shock and captivate viewers in equal measure. The end result was a critical and commercial success; transforming a small-scale film with a $114,000 budget into a iconic viewing experience which grossed $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally; thus earning over 150 times its budget!

The success of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead franchise is a shining example to businesses that you do not need a massive budget to recycle existing ideas and boost innovation. Irrespective of whether you manage a start-up or a large corporation, the concept of recycling existing ideas can be achieved by carrying out targeted research within your field of industry, scrutinising the key principles of existing ideas and ascertaining their strengths and weaknesses. This practice can be achieved through brainstorming sessions which will enable you to generate a list of possible products and services which you can then test by presenting them to focus groups, conducting feedback surveys and holding one-on-one interactions with your target market.

This is where IdeaScale can help. The idea management platform utilizes crowdsourcing so that your business can suggest possible product ideas to an actively engaged community who will vote and comment upon the effectiveness of your ideas. By taking advantage of this streamlined innovation process, you can evaluate, enhance, and prioritize the ideas which are best suited for implementation in a cost-effective and highly efficient manner.

With studies showing that more than 85% of the best global brands have used crowdsourcing in the last ten years, taking advantage of these crowdsourcing resources can help your business to stay one step ahead of your industry rivals.

Ultimately, by carrying out targeted research, devising new ideas and testing them out using IdeaScale, you can efficiently take an old idea and recycle it into something with which your clients will actively want to engage and recommend to others. If you would like to learn more about the ways in which your business can boost innovation by recycling existing ideas, please do not hesitate to contact our IdeaScale team today and to subscribe to our IdeaScale mailing list.


This is a guest post authored by Amber Tanya, a writer from Kent, England. Miss Tanya has worked as a ghost writer servicing multiple international news and automotive publications. Miss Tanya also holds a First Class Honours degree in English Literature from an esteemed British University. She primarily writes technological, travel and scientific articles but is versatile and enjoys writing across a broad range of other topics. You can contact Miss Tanya at [email protected] Miss Tanya can produce outstanding content upon request and can adapt her writing style to suit the tone of your brand.

Mindfulness and Innovation

The start of a new year is so motivating. A fresh start, a new leaf – we usually enter a year with a lot of good intentions and plans to make positive changes in our lives. I know it can be tricky to stick to your resolutions, but I like making these promises to myself. This year I decided to integrate mindfulness into my life. The basic concept is simple: pay more attention to the little things in life, focus on what’s important and set aside time to be good to yourself. This can include meditation and yoga but also short exercises you can incorporate into your daily life.

So, what does mindfulness have to do with ideation and innovation? A lot more than you might think. I’m sure anyone who has done creative work of any kind has hit a mental roadblock before. Sometimes your brain just won’t let you be creative. You might be tired or overworked, experiencing a lack of sleep or just have other things on your mind.

This is where mindfulness can help you out. Take a 5-minute time out or use part of your lunch or coffee break to refuel your creativity. I would like to share three short exercises that can help you in a pinch.

Today I Noticed

Grab a piece of paper and write down the words “Today I noticed…“. Use the remaining time you set aside for this exercise to list everything that comes to mind. Don’t limit your thoughts and simply list everything and anything you noticed that day. It can be anything from a new billboard you saw out of the corner of your eye on the way to work or a coworker’s new haircut. Maybe you recently started working out and are starting to notice the first hints of a six pack? Whatever it is, write it down. This will make you focus on details and really think about things which can enhance your creativity.


Is something on your mind? Funny question, actually. If you’re like me, your mind is constantly racing and you’re always thinking about something. This exercise can help you if there is one thing in particular that you feel is blocking your creativity. Maybe it’s an argument with someone you care about or a task that is overdue. It doesn’t matter – anything can become so consuming that we can’t let our minds be free. My suggestion: draw a mind map! Write your biggest thought or worry in the middle of a piece of paper and spend just a few minutes writing down every thought connected to it. Sometimes having it all out there on a piece of paper helps see the bigger picture makes you feel lighter.

Object Focus

Pick a random object – a stapler, a paperclip or anything else that is small and within your reach. Take a piece of paper and write down as many uses for this object as you can. Again, don’t limit yourself, if you think of building a stapler fort or making a rug out of paperclips, write it down. The focus on a particular object makes it easier to come up with ideas and the openness to anything that you can think of can help reactivate your brain and your creative spirit.

These simple exercises can help a busy mind settle down and get into a creative state. The right mindset is essential to generating quality ideas. There are numerous use cases for these exercises — here are some examples:

  • Inspire your users and help them with ideation
  • Brainstorm ideas for your next campaign
  • Restore calm and focus in a noisy workshop or seminar
  • Start a prototyping workshop to bring community ideas to life

What other mindfulness practices do you use in the workplace? Do you see the relationship between mindfulness and innovation?  

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

This post is by Chloe Guenther, Innovation Consultant at IdeaScale

Going for Gold: Achieving Olympic Level Innovation

“The Olympics remain the most compelling search for excellence that exists in sport, and maybe in life itself.”
– Dawn Fraser (3-time Olympic medalists)

Hundreds of the world’s best athletes parade into the stadium for the opening ceremony.  Each is smiling and waving to the crowd, celebrating having made their winter Olympic team.  As they gather in mass, you can feel the comradery begin to give way to their competitive spirt. Every participant realizes to beat the best they will have to be at their best. Their preparation and training got them this far, but the games are just beginning. And similar to your business, success depends on your people’s ability to consistently out-think, out-create, and out-perform the competition. Is your organization prepared to compete for the future? Would your organization medal in innovation or miss standing on the winner’s podium all together? To answer this question, consider how effective your enterprise is at executing these foundational innovation tasks.

Strategizing: Setting direction and priorities for innovation
Exploring: Uncovering unmet needs and significant opportunities
Generating: Creating many high potential ideas
Optimizing: Iterating and improving the value of ideas
Selecting: Making good choices among new ideas
Developing: Designing, building, and testing new products and services
Implementing: Delivering innovative solutions on time and within budget
Commercializing: Launching and scaling up new businesses

The inability to complete these tasks on a consistent basis across the enterprise and with external partners leads to low returns on your enterprise’s total innovation investment.  Typically these organizations find their pursuit of the new to be slow, haphazard, and episodic. This lack of innovation fitness is high risk in today’s hyper fast and competitive economy.  Few enterprises can afford to have their high potential ideas end up being stalled from the start, diluted beyond recognition, or crushed by an overweight bureaucracy.  Which is why measuring your fitness level and identifying gaps is a great start toward improvement and market success.

Necessary, But Not Sufficient

However, having a general understanding of your innovation capabilities is not the same as knowing how to best use them to get results.  Being fit is advantageous in all sports, but it doesn’t ensure you will be a winner.  Consider the athletic profile of different athletes and the training they do to compete.  There is a reason that weightlifters are not usually good fencers and swimmers are rarely world-class hockey players. Different sports require different capabilities and fitness programs, and so do your innovation efforts.

The Four Innovation Sports

Using the simple and practical framework described below can help you decide how best to allocate your enterprise’s time, creativity, and resources across what I call “the four sports”.  The framework divides innovation strategies along two key variables; the enterprise’s Offerings (the products, services, and experiences they provide) and their Market (the customer segments they serve).  The strategies are further refined depending on whether they are focused on Existing or New Markets and Offerings.


Level Innovation

1: Bobsledding—The primary innovation goal is to lead the core business to peak profitability over the long run by getting employees to help continuously improve performance.  With no new markets or products to develop, the bobsledder mindset and training routine is geared toward avoiding crashes and getting teammates to optimize their timed sleigh runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks ahead of the competition. Managers encourage their workforce to come up with new ways to run the current business better, faster, and cheaper.

2: Ski Jumping— The primary innovation goal is to extend product lines with incremental improvements and next generation offerings.  Think of Apple refreshing and prolonging their computer line with the colorful iMacs. Given new jumping techniques and the fact that distance records are broken on a regular basis, your enterprise cannot stop performing at a high level. The good news is you know the market so the run down the ramp is a familiar one and the muscle memory needed to gain the necessary lift and extension for your new products is well ingrained.

3: Figure Skating—The primary innovation goal is to leverage something the enterprise does well into a new space.  This pivot requires the enterprise to take its basic skating skillset and develop compelling programs to impress new judges at every round of the competition. Each set of judges will expect extraordinary levels of artistic and technical achievement in order to give the routine high marks. Think of the splash Apple made when it opened its own exclusive retail stores around the world. Companies that successfully leap and land a double axel into an adjacent market draw on their existing innovation capabilities while aggressively gathering insight into new customer needs, technology trends, and market dynamics.

4: Biathlon— The primary innovation goal is to convert breakthrough ideas into bold new products and businesses.  Here Apple really had to “think different” as they disrupted the music industry with the iPod and iTunes. Like biathlon athletes, game changing innovations typically require companies to call on a diverse set of skills (accelerate and maintain high speed on skis, navigate obstacles and uncharted territory, use riffles to shoot high potential targets, etc.). These capabilities are needed to generate novel ideas, leverage new technologies, apply new business models, attract new customers, and exploit markets that aren’t yet mature. The risk is high, but the financial returns and benefits of first mover advantage can be great.

Innovating at the Top of Your Game

“If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.”

  • Mark Spitz, Olympic swimmer

Winning in each of these sports requires a high level of innovation fitness and a sound strategy that aligns the key tasks, structure and people of your enterprise toward a common goal. I highlighted the problems and potential solutions for an out of sync organization that is not “fit for purpose” in previous articles. These writings offer details on CO-STAR or the STEP model and the advantages of taking a systematic approach to enterprise-wide innovation.

Most enterprises are heavily oriented toward bobsledding—and must continue to be, given the risk involved in adjacent and game changing initiatives. But if that natural tendency leads to neglect of more-aggressive forms of innovation, the outcome will be a steady decline in business and relevance to customers. It is the disruptive innovations that often lead to gold medal performances and spectacular growth.

Gaining a Competitive Edge

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”  

  • Wayne Gretzky, hockey icon (1978–1999)

It makes sense to survey the enterprise’s innovation ecosystem. A comprehensive assessment will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of current capabilities and how much time, effort, and money are allocated to the four sports. With a clear picture of the present, managers can more aggressively compete for the future.  They can determine if they are on target and adjust their strategies accordingly—usually by scaling back bobsledding innovation efforts to those focused on the highest-value customers, encouraging more figure skating and ski jumping into new markets, and creating conditions more conducive to breakthroughs solutions.

The companies we’ve found to have the strongest innovation track records can articulate a clear innovation strategy. They have put in place the tools and capabilities to manage the four innovation sports as parts of an integrated whole. They keep track of their overall medal count, and not just the wins in a single event.  By figuring out how to measure, monitor, and manage innovation fitness within an overall portfolio strategy, they can harness its energy and make it a reliable driver of success.

Innovation Self-Assessment

Act quickly, there is no time to wait, the Olympics are under way. Take this free survey to evaluate your organization’s current innovation capabilities. If you have questions about the survey or how to enhance your enterprise’s fitness level in time for the 2020 summer games, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected]