Culture First, Innovation Second: 3 Tips to Better Work Culture

image curtesy of chris meller via flickr

image curtesy of chris meller via flickr

Every organization that looks to build a sustained innovation program has to develop an in-house innovation methodology, adopt innovation software, and build a great team, but it also has to create a culture of innovation designed to get the results that they’re looking for. And it’s no surprise that companies with a poor culture, generate poor results. The sad fact of the matter is that 70% of all organizational change efforts fail.

So savvy innovation leaders sometimes begin by building a better innovation culture. They design better methods of communication, better workplace policies, and new modes of collaboration. If you’re someone who’s looking to impact innovation culture, here are three ways to get started:

Build in Time for Free Play:
Great ideas always seem to come at the oddest times, brushing your teeth, driving in the car, taking a jog. Everyone likes to point out that some of the market leaders are doing just this. 3M and Google offered their employees that celebrated “20% Time” to try out new ideas outside of their job description. This freedom of schedule allows for more elastic thinking and a broader team mentality.

Give up Rewards:
When we really take a look at what motivates creative individuals, we see the research tells us to get away from carrots and sticks – rewards and punishments. While these concepts “work,” it isn’t in the way you’d think.  To truly create a culture of innovation research tells us: skip the gimmicks and move towards needs-based cultures.  Author Dan Pink laid out the three needs to focus on in his book, Drive: The Truth About What Motivates Us. When we focus on Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose employees have the freedom to do great work and the support and skills to maintain it. Meaningful work requires internal rather than external motivation.

Train Team Members to Communicate More Effectively:
Participating in open innovation requires at least a modicum of trust from participants: trust in the program, trust in the administrators, trust in the rest of the community. Much of this trust is generated by the way the community perceives those participants, based on how they communicate. Working to communicate empathically and build that language into the workplace is important.

IdeaScale knows that one of the largest hurdles to overcome in building an innovative culture is managing communication. That’s why IdeaScale is offering a complimentary webinar about Creating a Culture of Innovation that is focused on communication strategies for innovators. Register for our August 27th webinar here.

How to Succeed in Crowdsourcing: Know Your Crowd

trymyuiCrowdsourcing has led to success in every field imaginable. Crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe allows entrepreneurs to raise the capital required for new ventures. Crowdsourcing can yield disruptive innovations or cost saving improvements to organizations and businesses of all sizes, it can be utilized to reach out to groups of citizens or customers. However, with great customizability comes the need for true optimization. You’ll need to do some strategizing before your campaign goes live.

Step 1: Find your crowd
Are you looking to your employees for ideas? Will you be crowdsourcing the public for their input? Knowing if your campaign will be internal – drawing from employees and experts within your organization, or external – reaching out to an unknown audience, will affect how your structure your site.

Step 2: Determine your data
Users can discuss, create and promote ideas but you’ll want to determine which data is relevant to your aims before you build your community.  Just like a surgeon wouldn’t take a chainsaw into an operating room, you’ll need to select the proper tools.

Step 3: Create your community
Creating an engaging campaign that inspires participation and customizing a community that makes that participation easy for your crowd are equally crucial to building the ideal community. Remember, you and your team have all the insight here – but the crowd that will be going to your innovation site and investing their time are new to it.

Step 4: Optimize for users
Ease of use will determine the amount of time and effort your participants will spend contributing. Time that could be spent voting or ideating, could easily be lost to confusing navigation. Find the rough spots by bringing new eyes in as you develop UI. Crowdsourced UI usability tester TryMyUI allows you to remotely see what your users see. Assign tasks, and observe the audio and video of sample users as they navigate through your UI. By testing out the UX pre-launch you can meta-innovate with TryMyUI users guidance, and restructure until you’ve created the best setup for your innovators.

Keeping Citizen Engagement Engaging

Starting at the national level with the Obama Administration’s open government initiative in 2009, there have been many attempts at crowdsourcing in various governments and public agencies.

From his campaign, President Obama realized that we can now scale up collaboration and participation – and create a 21st century version of the old New England Town Meetings that, while not perfect, did a pretty good job of engaging residents.

Unfortunately many of these efforts have been disappointing in various ways:

            –    Fewer people participated than expected.
            –    The forum was “hijacked by fringe groups” – this was one criticism of the early Obama open government efforts because decriminalizing Marijuana turned out to be one of the more popular proposals.  (But see my earlier post “Do Good Ideas Bubble Up From The Crowd?”)
            –    The site went stale, with early excitement evaporating and participation going to zero.  As an example, see the Texas Red Tape Challenge.
            –    Citizens were encouraged to participate and did so, only to find that their ideas were disregarded by public officials, which only increased the frustration among both citizen and officials.

Nevertheless, when they succeed, citizen engagements can satisfy several public purposes.  They are a great way to get help and new ideas, test proposals, understand priorities of voters and educate citizens about the complexities and realities of governing.  Moreover, in response to the general decline in respect for major public, nonprofit and private institutions, crowdsourcing is a way of earning back respect and trust — and convincing a skeptical public that public officials really care.  All of these benefits make it easier for public officials to govern better.

And the successes have provided important lessons.  Most important, like lots of other things, crowdsourcing requires some thought before implementation.

You won’t get the best results if you take a “just build it and they will come” approach.  At the other extreme, you can bury any government initiative in “analysis paralysis”.   A reasonable balance is to plan how public officials will:

            –    Set realistic expectations within their own organization as well as with the public;
            –    Target the appropriate audience for the discussion;
            –    Set up the topic/question in a clear, unbiased way;
            –    Start the conversation with citizens;
            –    Figure out how to manage the conversation and keep citizens engaged; and last but not least,
            –    End the engagement in a way that provides a positive experience for citizens and the government.

When these engagements actually engage citizens, they help redefine the relationship between public officials and the people they serve.  And they can provide a core of solid support from the public that any public official would desire – the kind of support that will carry officials through those bad times when they also make mistakes.

Find out about our new Government Starter Package, and launch your 1st citizen engagement campaign with IdeaScale.

Creating a Culture of Innovation: Communication Strategies for Innovators Wednesday August 27th, 2014 10:00 AM PDT – 11:00 AM PDT

Many organizations know that in order to remain relevant, they need to continuously innovate. While many groups focus on launching innovation programs, the most successful programs focus on creating a culture where innovation thrives.

Join IdeaScale and guest speaker Joe Brummer from Community Mediation, Inc. for a workshop addressing one of innovation’s most common challenges: creating a culture that is conducive to innovation and innovative ideas. Brummer introduces communication tactics that have been successfully applied in other IdeaScale innovation programs.

This presentation will address:
      –    An overview of empathic communication
      –    The value of empathic communication to innovation programs
      –    Various workplace cultures
      –    Changes that you can make in the workplace to encourage innovation

The webinar will be followed by a live Q&A.

Register today!


Joe Brummer is Associate Executive Director at Community Mediation, Inc. He has studied Nonviolent Communication with the International Center for Nonviolent Communication, was trained in mediation at the Community Mediation Center of RI, and attended the training of trainers in Kingian Nonviolence at the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence. He is now presenting workshops based on Nonviolent Communication and Choice Theory for organizations around New England.

Brummer has presented workshops for organizations all over New England including a recent workshop of UNESCO.  He has clocked 100s of hours at the mediation table, and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Community Mediation (NAFCM).

Responding at Cloud Speed

There are numerous benefits to working in the cloud:

        –    the cloud scales to meet a company’s fluctuating needs,
        –    it allows for global collaboration,
        –    the cloud is far more environmentally friendly than its earth-based relatives

However, another key benefit that people often talk about is the ability to move “at cloud speed.” Cloud speed is short-hand for responding to global needs in real-time. Among numerous scenarios, it also means that the gap that used to separate end users from the developers working to create their favorite products is closing, since customers can put in a request and development teams can respond, build, and deploy solutions that update at regular intervals all around the clock.

Essentially, it means that we are able to do our best work with even greater ease. Feedback comes in live, changes go out live. And although the benefits of being so nimble, and so rapid are obvious – the slightly less obvious benefit is how it improves not just customer satisfaction, but employee satisfaction. Teams can see responses to their work in real time and benefit from the cloud-voiced appreciation as well as crowd-based suggestion.

It was this capability (and others) that SAP appreciated about utilizing IdeaScale to collaborate with their customers. Watch this video to learn how Cloud for Customer utilized IdeaScale to assemble and respond to feedback directly from within their tool.

How are you working at cloud speed?

Jump Start Your Citizen Engagement Program: Introducing the Government Starter Package

CitizenEngagement-v2-darkgreenHow can the engagement of the town meeting scale up from a couple thousand people in one location to many more? How do you hear from all the people who can’t show up for meetings, but will show up to vote on election day?

Citizen engagement programs offer numerous opportunities to new organizations that are looking to get started.


Benefits include:

      -    A satisfied public population
      -    Prioritized government projects
      -    Innovative new ideas
      -    Improved legislation and regulations
      -    Government trend predictions
      -    A new, virtual work force
      -    Redeemed public trust

That’s why IdeaScale is introducing the government starter package, a special offer to help municipal government agencies kick-start their first citizen engagement program.

The Government Starter Package includes:

      -    1 campaign for a public or private community
      -    Unlimited ideas, votes, and comments
      -    Mobile Optimization & Social Integration
      -    A half-day Strategy Workshop with IdeaScale’s Director of Program Development

Sign-up to learn more here!

The Crowd is FEMA’s Most Effective Tool in Innovation

photo curtest of Chris Zielecki via flickr

photo curtest of Chris Zielecki via flickr

For nearly 4 decades the Federal Emergency Management Agency has fought to reduce the devastation brought on by disasters in the United States. From supply, organization, and training pre-emergency, to potential hazard monitoring and methods for relaying danger levels, to efficiently and effectively coping with the aftermath – FEMA strives to keep communities, nationwide safe.

“We fully recognize that a government-centric approach to emergency management is not enough to meet the challenges posed by a catastrophic incident,” establishes the principle behind FEMA’s Whole Community approach. Disasters on the level that FEMA handles require as much experience, knowledge, and manpower – as much help, as possible. That is why FEMA reaches out to citizens, organizations, and the global community of experts to focus and strengthen their efforts.

FEMA’s IdeaScale community is only one avenue through which the organization gains crowd insight, one way in which Whole Community, “reinforces the fact that FEMA is only one part of our nation’s emergency management team.” Broken down into 4 categories, FEMA is dedicated to providing community members with the best support possible.

1. Tech Corps: Disaster relief can be greatly benefitted by technological advancements. Focused on creating a network of skilled and trained tech volunteers, this portion of the community enlists the help of the crowd to fill the gaps in trainee knowledge.

2. Open FEMA: For FEMA, fostering open government means transparency, collaboration, and accountability. To stay innovative, FEMA asks the crowd, how their datasets can be used, or cultivated in the future to increase citizen participation, accessibility, and improve effectiveness.

3. FEMA Think Tank: By far the campaign with the highest level of ideation, this is where individuals and organizations provide suggestions on all manner of improvements to FEMA’s system. Participants have suggested preparedness training for young students, customizing FEMA training and hazard response regionally, and mobile apps that take advantage of GPS to aid victims in finding family, friends, and safety.

Do you have a suggestion? Join the dialogue here.

3 Ways Crowdsourcing is Innovating Health Care

image curtesy of tyler via flickr

image curtesy of tyler via flickr

Health care should be a pinnacle of innovation. A constantly improving juncture of best practices in care, research, and technological advancements. Unfortunately, too many patients’ health care appears stagnant. A lack of transparency coupled with ever-increasing costs for treatment in nations like the United States and a disconnected in knowledge base between patients and providers, have left patients feeling like their treatment is stuck in the past.

All of these negative impressions can be replaced by trust, invention, and knowledge through the same vehicle: crowdsourcing.

1. The crowd as a resource for care providers: Consulting with peers over diagnoses and treatments is standard practice amongst health care professionals. Through crowdsourcing, the breadth of accessible knowledge grows. Professionals worldwide can share their case history – symptoms, treatments, all of the details gained through experience and not just education. Trusted sources in medicine, such as the New England Journal of Medicine are building online communities out of eager health care professionals looking to share their knowledge.

2.  Research: The field of medicine is constantly making strides – changes so disruptive that outdated methods and tools are rendered useless. Institutions of education – from universities to teaching hospitals, as well as research laboratories are dedicated to solving the unknowns and creating the future of health care. When the data cultivated by this assemblage of sources comes together, it quickens the pace of innovation – from cutting edge technology to research and diagnostic methods in countless focuses. Crowdsourcing is the epitome of innovation because it leverages the wisdom of a community, and accumulates it in a way to make it accessible to all members.

3. Bridging the gap between patients and professionals: In the past, medical knowledge has been a resource possessed solely by the health care elite – inaccessible to the average patient. In a time of transparency, continual education, and open access brought on by connective technology, patients are no longer satisfied with the distribution of information. Rather than a lot valuable time and funds to a second opinion, patients can crowdsource a diagnosis, and rest assured that they did everything they could, and still reach a wealth of experience and insight. Check out ‘Not Alone in a Crowd’ for a few crowd resources. Garnering a 2nd or 3rd opinion has never been so easy, and patients have never been more confident.

Catalyst and the Capital: the US Department of Energy Takes a Shot at Solar

In 1995 43% of all photovoltaic, solar, panels were produced in the United States. By 2000 that number had sunk to 27%, and in 2010 it had dropped all the way down to 7%. Enter the US Department of Energy initiative: Sunshot. Launched in 2011, Sunshot is focused on making solar power available and affordable to all americans.

The Catalyst public innovation challenge, built on IdeaScale, brings citizens and residents together to face today’s solar challenges together, with their collective knowledge and the Department of Energy’s resources. The challenge is broken down into 4 stages:

1. The Ideation Contest: Between 5/21 and 6/20 submitters presented current problems in the technology, manufacturing, and engineering of solar. Participants in this public forum could comment on submissions, beginning a conversation around these problems and how to start coping with them.

2. Business Innovation Contest: Individuals and teams will have between 7/24 and 8/13 to build a business plan around 1 of the ideas suggestion in the first challenge phase. Teams will create a 5 minute video description of their plan for the public to view.

3. Prototyping: Up to 20 winners will be selected from the Business Innovation Contest to move on to the prototyping phase. All participants of the third phase will be granted access to $25,000 worth of software to develop their solution. The Department of Energy will provide training and consultation at the onset on this development phase. After 60 days, each team will participate in Demo Day to publicly present their minimum viable product.

4. Incubation Contest:  Judges will award 5 winners from the Demo Day presentations, each will receive $30,000 to develop their product. After 6 months these winners progress will be evaluated by the judges, those that successfully meet their development targets will be awarded an additional $70,000.

The Catalyst Challenge is financed by the America COMPETES Act for creating opportunities to meaningfully promote excellence in technology, education, and science. SunShot aims to increase solar power to 27% of the US’s total energy consumption by 2050. A major factor in making this goal a reality is decreasing the cost of solar in the upcoming decades to a point where it matches less renewable sources. Making solar a financial option will fuel its growth, which in turn will create an estimated 390,000 jobs.

It’s All about Engagement

photo curtesy of erika via flickr

photo curtesy of erika via flickr

Crowdsourcing can result in disruptive ideas, in ideas that will improve efficiency, new product ideas, ideas with impressive return on investment. Innovation is a necessary tool for all industries, which allows any organization to reach beyond a small pool of decision makers and harness the insights and ideation of the crowd.

How can you guarantee your crowd will participate in your crowdsourcing campaign? How can you ensure engagement levels to validate the resources put in? Innovation is about shaking things up – about finding a new way to handle an old problem. Do not let that trick you into thinking it is a fully organic process, innovation takes planning.

The first step in producing engagement is defining how you’ll measure for success. In crowdsourcing there are 4 kinds of engagement:

Initial Idea: One way to measure is by how many ideas are submitted. Often number of votes is the best measure of your campaign’s reach.

Idea nurturing: Measuring engagement by how many participants comment on submissions is a more accurate measure of group ideation and idea development.

Voting: If you’re looking for the most popular votes, larger number of voters and votes cast results in more statistically reliable reports.

Number of participants: Whether they vote on only a few ideas, or submitted a dozen ideas, the number of participants reached by a campaign can be a measure of successful reach.

To engage the crowd, you must determine which crowd you’re reaching out to. There are three basic sources for crowdsourcing:

Internal and Pre-Existing: The days of the all-knowing CEO have passed, reaching out to employees – of every level, taps into a much larger

External and Pre-Existing: For organizations interested in marketability and product development ideas, the desired crowd will be customers. Let the end-user tell you what they want and why – they come fully versed and eager to share their thoughts.

External Solicitation: At the core of innovation is Henry Chesbrough’s thesis that staying competitive means capitalizing on both internal and external sources.

IdeaScale has developed an Innovation Starter Kit to assist organizations in innovation. With your parameters in place, find out how to target for engagement in our Community Engagement Tip Sheet. Download the kit here for more tips and tools on planning, establishing, and moderating your campaign.