What’s an Employee’s Role in Innovation?

employee role in innovationLet’s say you are an employer who is looking to encourage innovation of ideas among your employees. What would you imagine would be the result of rejecting some employee ideas?

Well, probably not what you might think. Recent research has shown that when an employee’s idea is rejected by their organization, it actually can drive innovation by motivating them to come back with new ideas.

Although this outcome is the result of a delicate balance; after all, nobody is going to be interested in trying something again at which they’ve not been successful if they feel ridiculed or belittled for trying the first time. Perhaps the most important step is an overarching one: organizations should cultivate a climate that is inviting, safe, and positive for employee innovators. It’s important for employees to know that the result of their idea has no impact on their job, furthering the feeling of a safe environment. For more tactics on crafting an environment of innovation, read our recent white paper on the importance of employee innovation.

Once the right mood has been set for innovation, it will be much easier to encourage employees to participate in the sharing of ideas, even if their initial suggestions are not enacted. The research showed that those whose ideas were rejected tended to persist in an effort to determine the causes of their rejection. This is another place where the organization can step in and assist—examining with employees ideas which were successful, and how those employees might attain that level with their own ideas in the future. Helping to provide the proper support and motivation can make all the difference.

Along these lines, it’s important for organizations to think more about how they will reject ideas. It is essential to respond to ALL ideas. Nobody likes to live in that limbo of not knowing, so even if ideas are not pushed forward, it is best practice to inform everyone of the status of their ideas. It is also imperative to celebrate the effort that employees have made, even if their ideas are not enacted; employees are far more likely to try again if they feel that their first attempts are appreciated. For more tips on how to respond to ideas, watch our Creating a Culture of Innovation webinar.

What are other strategies you can think of to encourage your employees to continue innovating, even if their ideas are not initially accepted for enactment?

Feature: AQHA Community

aqhaEveryone loves horses, especially the American Quarter Horse Association. The Association, or AQHA, is the world’s largest equine breed registry and membership organization. Located in Amarillo, Texas, AQHA operates for the benefit of members around the world. Members enjoy, among other things: America’s Horse Magazine, participation in competitions, horseback riding programs, corporate partner savings, and record keeping of horses.

Members have always been able to submit ideas for improvement at the organization’s website.  But about six months ago, AQHA upgraded their idea submissions by opening an IdeaScale community. This has been the first opportunity for the crowdsourcing and improvement of ideas.

Submitted ideas are categorized into three campaigns: AQHA Membership, Story Ideas (ideas for stories to be included in AQHA publications), and Horse Showing.

One of the most impactful decisions that AQHA has made with relation to their community is to have active moderation. (The decision about level of participation for moderators is one that each community should consider based on their particular needs; while it works for AQHA, it may not be the best choice for all organizations.)

AQHA administrators categorize ideas in the three campaigns further: recent, popular, active, in review, in progress, completed, requires rule change proposal form, and ended. Many of these designations have a colored tab in the upper right corner of the idea to indicate their status at a glance. AQHA moderators also address “ideas” that are more appropriately labeled “questions,” route members to information about ideas they have submitted that are already AQHA features, inform submitters if a rule change proposal form is needed for a particular idea, and respond to ideas with status updates including when ideas are going to be discussed at the annual AQHA Convention.

This moderator participation has served the community well, allowing for streamlined communication between community members and administrators, while also emphasizing communication among community members. For example, the community can focus its time and energy on other ideas if the implementation of one idea is as easy as a rule change proposal form. On the other hand, if an idea is going to be discussed at the annual Convention, it allows for community members to provide their input and elaborations prior to that point.

Which moderation style works best for you and your community?

Click here to explore the AQHA community, or to submit your own ideas if you are an AQHA member.

Best 2015 SXSW Sessions

sxswThis Friday begins SXSW 2015 in Austin. The annual festival—which includes a focus on music, film, and interactive technologies—was designed as an opportunity for creative people and the companies they work with to meet and share ideas. That continues to be the goal today, and more and more, SXSW Interactive sessions specifically highlight innovation and crowdsourcing.

As these are two of IdeaScale’s favorite things, here are five suggestions for sessions to check out if you are attending SXSW:

1. City 2.0: Why Local Government Bets on Civic Innovation
This session explores the usefulness of civic innovation (a.k.a. utilizing citizen ideas to tackle real urban problems). We love this idea, as we have many local governments doing exactly this with our platform!

2. Innovation Through Impact Filmmaking
Exploring the connection between filmmaking and the growing ability for international communities to be connected to causes that drive impact, this session features Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Kweku Mandela.

3. NASA Prizes: Dream It, Make It, Win It
Representatives of the NASA Prizes and Challenges Program will share how some of their best ideas come from “citizen inventors” and how you can get involved, get innovating, and win prizes!

4. Innovating Diversity and Inclusion in Tech
Presented by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, this session explores and expands on how innovation is served by emphasizing diversity and inclusion in tech fields.

5. Innovation Around the World
This is not one particular session, but rather a noticeable trend during the festival. From Turkey to L.A., from Sweden to Ecuador, if you want to hear about how a certain country or global area is innovating, you can find it here.

Of course, in addition to these great sessions, you won’t want to miss our session on the Global Innovation Competition and best practices for hosting global competitions on Tuesday, March 17 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Click here for more information about that session.

Best Innovation Hour

innovationhourInnovation can happen at any time of day. At any moment, inspiration may strike.

We at IdeaScale have found that the greatest number of new ideas are submitted around 11 a.m. PST, a.k.a. the Innovation Hour. In considering why this might be the best hour for innovation, we surfaced a few possibilities.

To begin with, many IdeaScale users operate in the Pacific Time zone because Silicon Valley is in the Pacific Time zone and as a whole, companies in Silicon Valley make a point of embracing and fostering open innovation; thus, folks working for those companies who would be engaged in innovating are able and supported to participate in that way during their work hours, and we are more likely to see them sharing new ideas during Innovation Hour.

Beyond that, for both Pacific and Eastern Time zones—the latter for which the local time would be 2 p.m. during Innovation Hour—it is a common time to break up the bigger tasks of a work day with smaller, less strenuous tasks. Like, for example, engaging in an innovation community. For West Coast people, 11 a.m. is generally about when the opening responsibilities of a day are taken care of, and a moment can be taken to contribute a new idea that has been ruminating. For East Coast people, 2 p.m. is an hour or two after lunch time, and allows for a great break from that after-lunch project. Knowing that these are great break times for both West and East Coasters, we can understand why there would be greater influx of ideas during those break times.

Along with that idea of a natural break in the work day, there is the fact that the best ideas don’t happen at work. Research shows that only 3% of ideas occur to people during work hours; the other 97% arise during what might be considered “down” times for your brain: during showers, while working out, on vacation, or doing nothing. These breaks not only provide mini moments of brain down times to get some ideas percolating, but also allow a perfect chance to upload an idea surfaced during a previous down time.

Why do you think 11 a.m. PST is the Innovation Hour? What do you find to be your best time for new ideas?

Free New Feature Demonstration: IdeaScale Stages

2015-Stages-personasLast week we updated you on our new upcoming feature, IdeaScale Stages. Stages will allow for the further development of ideas beyond the ideation stage. As the name suggests, the feature presents three new stages that will help to see selected ideas through to their implementation: Build a Team, Refine, and Assess.

The stages will help to facilitate the construction of team members around a particular idea, allow for the introduction of improvements to already presented ideas, as well as documentation for those embellishments, and enable evaluation of the viability of the idea from all angles.

Don’t miss our demonstration of Stages, along with a Q&A following the demonstration, on Wednesday, February 25. Find more information and sign up for the free demo here.

SXSW 2015 Panel: Global Competitions that Change the World

sxsw panelLife these days can sometimes seem hopeless.  Turn on the news and you see negative story after negative story.

However, there is cause for hope. More and more, amidst all of the negativity, we see global citizens coming together to remind us all that the things which bring us together are larger than those which divide us.

Opportunities like the 2nd Annual Global Innovation Competition showcase ideas from those global citizens. The competition is an initiative operating in 8 African and 4 Asian countries specifically to support innovators and entrepreneurs in realizing projects that improve the relationship between citizens and governments.

Once submitted to the competition, ideas are voted upon by members of the communities where they will have an impact, with 75% of votes coming from the global south. and winnowed down to fifty big ideas which advance to the next stage.

The competition has even gone to special lengths to ensure inclusivity, including giving four ideas “wildcards” into the final 50 from countries that are enabled with less information and communications technology. You can read more about this year’s finalists here.

There are many lessons to be learned and best practices to glean from the experiences of the Global Innovation Competition for those who might be interested in hosting their own global competition aimed at changing the world. To that end, we will be discussing those best practices at our SXSW panel on Tuesday, March 17, and would love for you to join us. Click here for more information.

Coming Soon: IdeaScale Stages Live Demo!

stagesPicture this: you’re an organization that is looking for a way to engage your community or to instigate a crowdsourcing challenge. You utilize IdeaScale to gather ideas and have the community participate in voting and elaboration of proposals; essentially, to get the innovation ball rolling.

Up to this point, IdeaScale has been instrumental in getting things started, but now we’re taking it a step further with IdeaScale Stages.

With the introduction of this new feature, organizations will be able to further develop ideas utilizing several stages. In addition to the ideation stage—during which your community can propose and vote upon ideas—now you will be able to observe three additional stages: Build a Team, Refine, and Assess.

2015-Stages-personasFor the Build a Team stage, you will be able to take the ideas that have risen to the top and assign team members from among the community to essentially be point people for further developing that particular idea. That team will embark upon the next stage, Refine, working to build the idea into a robust proposal. Team members will be able to add supporting information for the proposal, including estimates on costs and benefits, as well as overall feasibility of the idea. The final stage allows for an Assessment of the work and evidence that the appointed team has been gathering. Those who are doing the final assessment will even be able to look at proposals side by side to see what might work best or decide which ideas might work best for certain organization objectives.

To learn more about IdeaScale Stages, you will not want to miss our free demonstration on Wednesday, February 25 at 11:00a.m. PST. Register here, and stick around after the demonstration to participate in a Q & A!

Cat Café Crowdfunding: What You Can Learn about Funding Your Passion Project from the Meow Parlour

tabbyYou may or may not have heard about the Meow Parlour, the first of what is sure to be a truckload of kitty cafés around the country. The Meow Parlour was introduced for many people through Kickstarter and allows patrons to rent access to their space and spend time with roaming, adoptable kitties. However, in an article on Entrepreneur.com, Meow Parlour co-founders Christina Ha and Emilie Legrand expressed that their main purpose in putting their project on Kickstarter was NOT to raise funds (although that didn’t hurt).

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Meow Parlour crowdfunding is this: If YOU would like to see something around that doesn’t currently exist—especially if it involves cuddly balls of fluff—you can almost certainly find other people who will help make that dream a reality.

Beyond that, Ha and Legrand pointed out two other particular benefits of going to Kickstarter to fund the Meow Parlour. First, the donors constituted a great guinea pig pool with which to test out their concept and business model before officially opening their doors. They offered their first donors a chance to experience the café, and were able to observe how the cats behaved as well as gauge an average stay for customers.

Second, a Kickstarter campaign is oftentimes a superb marketing strategy. It’s an easily shareable piece of information about a forthcoming project, it gets people excited. It provides an opportunity for outreach that is very difficult to duplicate away from an online setting.

What will be your cat café? More importantly, what is stopping you from making it happen?

5 Top Questions to Ask When Starting an Innovation Program

planningSo you want to start an open innovation program at your organization or company. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out where to start. As with any new program, there are a number of factors that you should consider before you embark. Today we’ll look at five top questions to think through.

1. What goal are you trying to achieve? First and foremost, consider what you are trying to achieve with your open innovation program. Are you looking for cost-cutting methods? Are you looking to engage your employees? Are you trying to connect with your consumers about their wants and needs? Evaluating your goals at the beginning will make it much easier to evaluate whether you’ve reached those goals at the end.

2. What are the stage-gates for each part of your process? This essentially means determining timelines for the different stages of your program: pre-launch planning, idea collection, idea refinement, idea review, and implementation.

3. Identify your target audience. Who are you hoping to reach? Once you know the answer to this question, you will be much better able to determine how to reach and engage that target audience.

4. How much participation are you expecting? Knowing your target audience and how to reach them is just a first step. Knowing how much participation can help define realistic team member responsibilities for dealing with responses.

5. Evaluate resources and responsibilities for team members. When this is one of your first tasks, it can help set the parameters for several of these other questions, as well as numerous other questions. It can also help you to assess where you might want to reallocate resources in order to accomplish one of your described goals.

These five questions are just some of the top questions and should not be considered an exhaustive list. For more insight into the benefits of open innovation as well as further items to consider before starting out, click here to download the Innovation Starter Kit.

Employee Engagement—Better for Employees

Employee Engagement 2Two weeks ago, as part of our focus on employee engagement and a recent white paper from IdeaScale on the City of Atlanta’s experience with the subject, we evaluated reasons why employee engagement is beneficial for employers. This week, we will be taking a closer look at why employee engagement is beneficial for employees.

While this one may seem like a bit of a no-brainer—“employee” is part of the term itself, so it would be fair to assume employees would benefit—there are some less obvious positive results for employees as well. As we mentioned in our previous post, employee unhappiness is a huge problem these days. In addition to the feelings of lack of fulfillment, employees then have to struggle with the choice of continuing in an unhappy environment or moving on and starting over in a new situation.

However, when employees are made to feel engaged, they are more likely to feel fulfilled and invested in the organizations for which they are working. This in turn leads to higher work enjoyment and increases the likelihood of longevity.

Acumen Solutions, an IT consulting company in Virginia, has been working on increasing employee engagement and investing in their employees for a while. Acumen Solutions strives to make the workplace more than just a workplace, focusing on all aspects of employee’s lives. This includes presenting personalized gifts for both professional and personal milestones in employee’s lives, as well as encouraging wellness with challenges against other office locations. Employee engagement begins at the very first day of employment, when new employees are paired with a buddy.

All of these steps help to illustrate to employees that they are valued and that the work they are doing is important and impactful to the organization. This line of engagement and communication also helps to create openness in organizations, contributing to a more social and community-driven environment.

Celebrating work and personal accomplishments and encouraging healthy life-work balance are a great start, but what seems to be missing is an opportunity for employee feedback. Providing an outlet for honest and constructive feedback, suggestions for improvement, and collaboration would further emphasize to employees that their voices and opinions are central to the larger organization.

To learn more about employee engagement and the City of Atlanta’s particular experience with it, click here to download IdeaScale’s recent white paper.