IDEASCALE BLOG

Tag: Innovation

Four Real-World Examples of Innovation in Healthcare

Innovation is changing how we care for each other.

Healthcare is constantly in the news as an industry, and if you pay attention, what most catches attention is how desperately it needs innovation. Whether it’s the paperwork in the backend or the need for powerful solutions to complex public health problems, innovation platforms are finding new ways to make the world a happier, healthier place. Here are three promising examples of innovation in healthcare that may inspire others in the industry:

Fighting HIV and AIDS

Dreams is a group dedicated to helping girls and women by reducing HIV infection rates through education and prevention. However, this is a far more complicated task than just explaining the routes of HIV transmission and offering prophylactic solutions: Any approach to reducing HIV/AIDS has to look to social good. Their innovation strategy led them, as an example, to bolster education funding to ensure girls in Malawi finish secondary school, as better education is directly correlated with lower infection rates.

Tackling Addiction

Substance abuse is a major health crisis in America, costing society billions in lost productivity, law enforcement costs, and medical care. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, is hoping to change that by looking into app design. One of the most important factors in reducing the social cost of substance abuse is the ability to quickly gather and report data. NIDA’s most recent campaign was to create an idea for an app that allows citizen researchers and professionals to effectively work in the field, offering NIDA ideas on how the app would work and what tools it should offer. Instead of anonymous survey data, NIDA will get real, concrete data into a genuine problem.

A doctor today has access to innovation strategies undreamed of decades ago.

Eradicating Cancer

Cancer is an enormously complicated family of illnesses, and part of the problem for researchers is figuring out where to marshal a truly enormous set of resources and volunteer energy. The Cancer Moonshot is a multi-stage process harnessing the power of crowds to determine how data should be gathered and studied, which cancers most need the power of the group, and how clinical trials of promising treatments should be developed and run. Winning the war against cancer, like any war, will take every last one of us, even if great strides have been made in the last few decades—and it starts with forming the best battle plan.

Bridging The Last Mile

Innovation is also coming to how we deliver basic services. One of the most fundamental problems with resource allocation and health is what’s called “the last mile.” Getting vaccines, water treatment equipment, and a host of other helpful materials to nations is quite easy: Mostly it’s just a matter of putting it on an airplane and getting the proper permits. It’s getting it to the villages and towns that most need it—that “last mile”—that matters the most, and it’s trickier than you might think, especially in places with barely any roads or other methods of access. Innovation platforms are helping UNICEF come up with bold new ideas to bridge that last mile and deliver healthcare to everyone.

Innovation platforms are changing the world for the better, harnessing the power of crowds to solve the thorniest problems. To see the power of innovation in action, join our newsletter!

The Role of Women in Innovation

Role of Women in InnovationA scroll through my LinkedIn today is pretty powerful. I see numerous organizations profiling and celebrating their “First Female CEO” or “Women in Charge of Blockchain” or “the Female Entrepreneurial Movement.” It’s exciting to see a more balanced future of the workplace and think that pioneering new ideas are already being championed and redeveloped by women. But it has me wondering, what do we know about the role of women in innovation management?

To begin with, we know that diversity (diversity of gender, race, age, socioeconomic status, etc) fuels innovation. In a Harvard Business Review article, it was found that firms with high levels of diversity were 45% more likely to report market growth and 70% more likely to report capture of a new market. Creating space for numerous voices and celebrating those voices (even the ones that disagree with you) will actually help fuel productivity and creative growth, so we should start the discussion there: that there are far more kinds of diversity to consider beyond gender.

But women are coming up and “between 1997 and 2006, businesses fully women-owned, or majority-owned by women, grew at nearly twice the rate of all U.S. firms.” Gender diverse firms are also 15 percent more likely to deliver better financial returns overall. And female entrepreneurship is currently experiencing a surge as more and more women become educated and enter roles traditionally held by men. And a recent finding – one that I find particularly interesting for innovation – female founders are on an upward trend.  It’s an exciting time and I expect that the future of innovation will be shared equally by men and women.

Psychology Today published an interesting finding that people will tolerate failure more easily in a man, because he is perceived to be a risk taker and that women are expected to work to steward new ideas through to completion because they are more adaptive. The article proposes making sure that all innovation teams have an equal gender representation, but I would also argue that we should begin shifting attitudes so that innovation failure and success is equally tolerable across both sexes or the workplace will eventually prove an unsustainable environment for new ideas.

And this brings me to a second thought about gender and innovation. Many people think that as one identity begins to excel, it means that another must decelerate, but in innovation (as I suspect, anywhere else), it is not an either/or but a new opportunity to partner as all groups gain the opportunity to learn new skills and in the end what wins is not an idea’s author, but the idea itself.

The State of Innovation in the Financial Sector

Innovation in the Financial SectorFintech funding is increasing. Just over a decade ago, we were spending a little over $5 Billion on financial technology – today we’re spending nearly $78 Billion. Why are we seeing that investment accelerate? Because the financial sector is ripe for disruption and investors want to make sure that they’re part of the financial future which is an industry that is estimated to make up 20% of a country’s gross domestic product.  

Here are two reasons that the financial sector should anticipate disruption:

New Technology. Certainly you can’t go on any website without seeing the word “blockchain” (whether that technology is relevant to the website or not). But that’s not the only piece of emerging tech that is impacting the financial sector: big data and market predictions are certainly developing, crowdfunding technology allows for microfinancing of small businesses, digital security continues to be one of the chief executive’s concerns in the financial sector. All financial institutions are running to keep up or risk becoming irrelevant.

Shifting Customer Trends.  Customers no longer feel like financial decisions and planning are the purview of specialists alone. 46% of affluent Millennials and 41% of affluent Gen X perform research online, make decisions and execute their own trades without ever turning to an expert. And trust in a brand is no longer determined by how long its been around. In fact, 76% of affluent Millennials are open to financial services provided by non-financial brands.

So how do you stay ahead of the curve? Crowdsourcing ideas allows you to ask for signals (like emerging trends) from your crowd, but also empowers that crowd to make suggestions and share ideas that will drive the business forward. That’s why lots of financial institutions are starting by asking their employees for new product ideas, process solutions, and more.

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

2018 Innovation Learning Priorities

2018 Innovation Learning PrioritiesEvery year, IdeaScale asks its customers what they’re focused on learning this year. This information becomes the backbone of our content calendar for the rest of the year for both our customers and prospects: it informs what we blog about, what white papers we research, what sessions we feature at Open Nation, and more. This year, we were somewhat surprised at the top three study priorities that innovators are focused on, but it’s also what you can expect to learn about at Open Nation 2018.

Community Engagement Strategies. Well, actually, there’s no surprise here. This subject is one of the leading themes every year. The good news is that so many engagement strategies are evergreen and can be used time after time, but there’s always something new to try every year (whether it’s a new channel for outreach or a new incentive structure that works better for public sector organizations). It’s a subject that we’ll probably always write about, because if a company can succeed in its communications strategy, it’s far more likely to succeed in its innovation program.

Innovation Metrics and ROI. Now this subject was a surprise finalist this year and in our deeper dive into the subject matter, it’s become even more complex. Innovation metrics and ROI can mean very different things to different companies or even to different people within the same program. For this year, we’re focusing on innovation program metrics (outlined in this infographic) and then also introducing the concept of firmer, longer-term metrics that companies can track after the launch of a new program, product, or service.

Implementation Strategies. This is probably the theme that we were happiest to see appear in our top three. We think that the fact that this is a key concern for innovators this year means that innovation programs are maturing to the point that ideation is no longer enough. Lots of organizations start out simply by asking for ideas – they just want to brainstorm and fill their innovation pipeline. Ideas, however, don’t make you more innovative – it’s the follow- through that defines an organization. So we’ll be focusing on implementation strategies like how to assemble resources, how to make the case for new ideas, how to plan for implementation and more.

If you’re interested in learning more about these themes, consider joining us at Open Nation in Berkeley on October 25th this year. We’ll be discussing all of these topics and more.

What about you? What are you focused on learning this year?

Music for Innovation

Music for InnovationThere is a growing body of research that is dedicated to analyzing what kind of music makes an employee work more efficiently, joyfully, or precisely. Here are a few interesting working theories for music in the workplace.

Music can help in task efficiency. One study found that if you’re completing repetitive tasks, listening to music will make an employee perform their task faster than a counterpart without music.

Ambient noise can help improve creativity. But be carefu! If you listen to that noise (music or otherwise) at too high a volume, the creativity level begins to drop back down.

Introverts and extroverts have different responses. Introverts prefer the clarity of silence when they’re working, whereas extroverts like to have some music on in the background.

Happy music is better for teams. When researchers played happy songs (like “Yellow Submarine”) members of teams were more likely to perform activities that contributed to the good of the team (as opposed to their behaviors when they were listening to more aggressive or less well known songs).

At IdeaScale, almost all of us listen to music throughout the workday. We all have our pet theories: Joby swears by drone metal to really dig into a bit project while I appreciate lyricless, but optimistic electronic music. Rob just knows everything about The Boss.

Well, one of our innovation strategists, Whitney Bernstein, took some time to crowdsource an “Innovation Playlist.” She asked our customers, our partners, and us to share music that we like when we’re trying to be creative and she created “Workshop Tunes.” The thing that’s particularly fun about this crowdsourced list is that there’s something for everyone. There’s no study to prove whether or not it’ll help you be more innovative, but you might take a tour through innovative personalities and their music tastes all the same. You can find the playlist on Spotify, listen to it, and tell us what you think.

What sort of music do you listen to when you’re innovating?

The Complex Relationship Between Innovation and Risk

Risk vs. reward can be a hard thing to balance.

All of business, it has been argued, boils down to weighing the likely rewards of a decision against the likely risk. The problem with any innovation strategy is that, at some point, innovation runs into this equation. Any innovation, to some degree, is a risk. It’s just a question of weighing that risk against the reward.

Risk And Innovation

The fundamental problem is that neither risk nor innovation is an objective property. Something that seems an obvious innovation to a forward-thinking executive can seem like a pointless luxury or just an intriguing, but unlikely to pay, side alley to a more conventional one. A business making profit hand over fist isn’t going to want to risk profit, while a business with nothing to lose either way won’t be bothered by one more roll of the dice. Neither of these perceptions is wrong, either; a CEO of a huge, profitable company is probably smart to be more conservative with his risk, considering the jobs that might be lost, while the garage-based side hustle team should swing for the fences.

So, as you work on your innovation strategy, part of that needs to be an assessment of your appetite for risk. Many large companies have been found to keep innovation within a certain fence; they want to see innovation on their product lines, not entirely new product lines arriving. So get a sense of the risk and how much potential reward is truly worth it before you innovate.

If you’re a mouse, why bother? If you’re a human, why wouldn’t you?

Rolling The Dice

The truth is that often risk and innovation balance each other out early on in the process. It’s easy to pitch the idea of building a flying car, but even the most ambitious automaker probably rules that idea out rather quickly. But breakthrough ideas, or even just innovations that might push your company further, or cost a lot of money, do come through. So how do you balance out the risk?

To start with, ask yourself this: Where did the idea come from? If you’ve been developing it because customers keep asking you to fill this specific need, for example, then your innovation has a market. Another way of looking at this is to ask what problem this specific innovation solves for your customers. An idea with a built-in market is far less risk than a blue-sky solution.

Secondly, what’s the needed scale to prove it works? Google is a superb example of this; in any given year, they will pilot thousands of innovations in carefully designed small experiments that are dirt-cheap to run and potentially yield massive dividends. A $50,000 pilot project is a lot more palatable as a risk than a $500 million product launch.

Finally, what are the likely rewards for taking a good risk, and the likely costs of not taking one? Self-driving cars are an excellent example. It’s not clear yet what the market is for the self-driving car. But for the passive safety features self-driving car technology pioneers, like automatic braking and lane assist warnings? The research into a self-driving car pays for itself in that scenario.

Innovation is the lifeblood of any company, but risk is one of its fundamental dangers. A careful balance of the two, and collecting as much knowledge as possible, will help you better innovate and take the big, smart risks when they really matter. To learn more about innovation and risk, join our newsletter.

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.