Category Archives: IdeaScale

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.

A Closer Look at the 2014 Innovation Award Winners

OIAwards2014A few short weeks ago, while we were all still occupying the year 2014, we announced our 2014 Open Innovation Award winners. We pointed out two best practices that were used by all three of our award winners: social media engagement and ease of participation. Were you curious about how the winning organizations utilized these practices? We will quench that curiosity with a closer look.

Social Media Engagement

Social media engagement was an important strategy for all of our winners. Whether it was an effort to increase the innovation community via social media outreach or whether investigating social media accessibility as a concept, all three found it imperative.

The latter was true for the Department of Labor’s ePolicyWorks initiative, which set up three dialogues to specifically investigate the accessibility of social media platforms for people with disabilities. This was especially useful in the final two of the three dialogues, as ePolicyWorks was seeking insight from participants outside the disability community about the state of social media and STEM employment for people with disabilities.

The Sunshot Catalyst Initiative at the Department of Energy utilized their Twitter account to garner approximately 11% of Sunshot Catalyst’s active members. The team also emphasized how social media outlets are valuable sources for crowdsourced participation in an innovation community.

Likewise, Scentsy—a company which uses consultants to sell products directly to users—wanted to check in about needs and desires of their customers. They used social media in order to promote successfully completed ideas including what would become the top selling warmer in company history, the Mason Jar warmer. This promotion of completed ideas in turn became an encouragement for the community to get involved and submit ideas in the future.

Ease of Participation

Another important aspect of their winning strategies was making participation as easy as possible for their respective communities. The Department of Energy’s Sunshot Catalyst accomplished this by giving users step-by-step screenshots of the process. By providing their community with easy instructions for participation, the Sunshot Catalyst team made participating more accessible.

The Scentsy team made participation easier by providing every opportunity and point of entry as possible for their involved consultants. Not only did they utilize social media channels, as previously mentioned, they also integrated links to their IdeaScale community throughout the Scentsy system, making it especially easier for consultants to get involved.

The Department of Labor’s ePolicyWorks created shareable communications—both for social media platforms and other spaces—in advance of the formal introduction of the dialogue online. Understandably, they realized that participation is easier when those you would like to be involved in the conversation are aware that it will be occurring, and even have an opportunity to consider in advance what their contribution to the conversation might be.

How might your organization make participation easier? How might you utilize social media to further engage your community?

Employee Engagement—Better for Employers

Employee Engagement 1What is the benefit to organizations and employers in making sure their employees are engaged? Sure, it seems clear that there are positive outcomes for employees themselves, but how does that reflect back on the organizations for which they work?

One of the most persistent problems these days is employee discontent. There are scores of articles written about why and how workers are unsatisfied with their positions, attempting to explain why there is often such a high turnover rate of employment. Among the reasons for this is that employees feel undervalued by the organizations for which they work. Using employee engagement, especially by asking for their suggestions and opinions, allows employees to feel a sense of agency in their workplace. When employees have agency, they feel necessary and important to the process, and are understandably more likely to want to stick around.

As a recent IdeaScale white paper expounds, when the rate of turnover is lower, it ultimately saves organizations money in not having to constantly train new employees. In other words, it is in everyone’s best interest that companies keep their staff happy and involved.

For four other key benefits of employee engagement for employers, click here to download the recent white paper about employee engagement and the City of Atlanta.

Stay tuned for our blog post on how employee engagement makes work better for employees on January 20.

Advice about Open Innovation from Greektown-Casino

OIAwards2014IdeaScale is pleased to have completed another year of Open Innovation Awards. This year, we learned a lot about engagement, innovation metrics, and more from our winners and we invited one of our runners up to join us in an interview about their open innovation program: Lori Snetsinger from the Greektown Casino.

Located in the heart of Detroit’s premier entertainment district, the Greektown Casino-Hotel provides best-in-class gaming choices, exceptional accommodations and award-winning restaurants.

In 2014, the Greektown Casino-Hotel launched “The Cheese Factory” whose goal was to make all 1,500 casino team members feel like they were being heard. “The Cheese Factory” was an IdeaScale community where employees could share their great thoughts and ideas and tell ways to make their company better, while also addressing what needs to be fixed, what would make their jobs easier and what would make customers happier.

The casino formed an internal team called “The Mousetrap Team,” whose sole purpose was to serve this initiative.  This team was 100% responsible for moderating all of the ideas that were submitted.

Greektown Casino shares some additional insight here:

IdeaScale: How long have you been utilizing IdeaScale?
Greektown Casino: We received our first piece of “cheese” on May 16, 2014.

IS: Why is innovation vital to your organization?
GC: The Mousetrap Team’s philosophy is centered around being obsessed with finding a better way.  Our team members are out on the floor every day and know the property better than anyone.  We rely on our team members to provide us with game-changing ideas on how to make Greektown Casino-Hotel the best casino in Detroit!

IS: What’s the most important piece of advice that you can give to someone launching an IdeaScale community?
GC: The most important piece for us was getting the word out to all of our team members.  Less than 50% of our team here has a company email address, so we had custom business cards created that we handed out to every team member during our latest team member rallies.  The cards had the link to the Cheese Factory, as well as our email address to field any questions on the sign-up process.

IS: What are you most proud of in your innovation program?
GC: I think the biggest point of pride has been being able to give our team members a voice in the changes around the property.  Wooden suggestion boxes and verbal communication are great, but oftentimes those mediums lack follow-up.  “The Cheese Factory” allows team members to interact with the Mousetrap Team in a way where they feel their voices are truly being heard.  We respond to all ideas within 72 hours, and begin vetting the ideas with the business immediately.  We are relentless in our efforts to make sure our team members are in the loop for the entire process, and we think that gives everyone a real sense of ownership.

To learn more best practices from OI award winners visit http://ideascale.com/2014-open-innovation-awards/

What advice would you share? What else do you want to learn from OI Award winners?

IdeaScale’s Top 5 2014 Features

Top 5 2014Another one bites the dust. Another year, that is. As 2014 draws to a close, we are taking time to celebrate the year’s many accomplishments; among them, five particular features float to the top. These features have made things easier, more efficient, more aesthetic, and more accessible for IdeaScale users.

1.  Moderator Tags
This new feature is incredibly useful. With it, Moderators can define specific criteria or categories to analyze communities based on the tagging data. Separate from publicly visible tags, these tags are only available to community Moderators and Administrators, although you can extend the visibility to a particular community role as well. This allows for sometimes much-needed categorization and analysis that are not necessarily for public use.

2.  ReviewScale
What if the ideas emerging from your campaign or community are not in line with your goals as an organization? This year saw the introduction of a solution to this problem. Administrators can target ideas that best align with the values and aims of an organization with the new decision matrix software from IdeaScale. Groups who have already started using ReviewScale include the Department of Labor, Yale University, and Kaiser Permanente. Find out more and request a demo here.

3.  Community Refresh
Functionality and compatibility are important, but so are aesthetics. Communities within IdeaScale got a facelift this year when the entire design was revamped. New communities have a sleeker interface, presenting a welcoming look immediately upon viewing.

4.  Community Infographic Generator
Infographics are one of the most efficient, impactful ways to convey information. With this new feature, infographics are generated for you by IdeaScale software using information from and statistics about your campaign. These graphics include information about the engagement of your community with the campaign, sharing statistics like number of ideas shared, amount of votes tabulated, and the time of day when folks were most active. Learn how to take advantage of this great feature with this article from IdeaScale support.

5.  CO-STAR
So I’ve got my ideas; now what? CO-STAR can help you. CO-STAR is an acronym that stands for “Customer Opportunity Solution Team Advantage Result.” Boiled down, this feature helps facilitate the stepping beyond the initial idea phase and developing those ideas into valid business models. CO-STAR focuses on developing answers to questions along those six key criteria included in its name. Companies such as the BBC and Johnson&Johnson have already started using the system.

What do you think about these features from 2014? Which features made the most difference for your organization? Which features would you like to see in 2015?

2014 Innovation Award Winners

OIAwards2014The 2014 Open Innovation Awards winners have officially been chosen! This year we had many wonderful entrants, and we are incredibly pleased to announce the winners in each category.

Department of Labor—Best Engagement Strategy
The Department of Labor is the winner of the Best Engagement Strategy for their ePolicyWorks campaign. The campaign aimed to gather insight about the accessibility of social media platforms and employment opportunities for people with disabilities in STEM fields. Click here to find out more about the Department of Labor and the winning campaign.

Department of Energy—Best Moderation Strategy
The Department of Energy is the winner of the Best Moderation Strategy for their Sunshot Initiative. The Initiative is a national collaborative effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade. Click here to find out more about the Department of Energy and the winning campaign.

Scentsy—Best Innovation
Scentsy Inc., an Idaho-based candle warmer company, is the winner of the Best Innovation award for their Family IdeaShare campaign. This campaign resulted in, among other things, a suggestion that became the top-selling warmer in Scentsy history. Click here to find out more about Scentsy and their award-winning innovation.

Congratulations to our winners!

Two particular strategies stand out as best practices from which we can all take a lesson: social media engagement and ease of participation. All three of our winners took full advantage of the social media outlets available to them to encourage user contributions. This was especially true with the Department of Labor, whose campaign focused on social media availability for people with disabilities. Additionally, all three made a point of making participation as uncomplicated as possible; involvement is understandably more likely when it is manageable. For example, the Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative included step-by-step screenshots of the process for users.

Winners will receive an Apple iPad Mini, a discount on their 2015 IdeaScale subscription, and a stylized and shareable press packet. They will also have the ability to fast track a feature for 2015 and be able to activate one of the higher-end features free of charge. Congratulations again to our winners!

What might your organization do to be more engaging, have better moderation, and strive for the best innovation?

Community Feature—Fairfax County Park Authority

FCPAJust southwest of Washington, D.C., across the Potomac River, is the County of Fairfax in Virginia. Home to the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, not to mention Mount Vernon, estate of one George Washington, Fairfax County is also home to a thriving parks department known officially as the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).

The FCPA recently concluded a two-month long call to arms for Fairfax County residents to voice their opinions on their parks, as part of a long-standing commitment to evaluate the needs and interests of community members. In summer of 2014, the FCPA started their IdeaScale community out with several park authority generated prompts as conversation points about improvements, prompts like how trials are used and “I would use parks more if…” From those initial starting points, citizens added their own topics.

This seems to have been perhaps the best choice that the FCPA has made: allowing residents to collaborate on ideas that are proposed by other residents, with little or no interjection from the parks authority. For example, when somebody suggested that the county was in need of some baseball complexes to help ease the load on school baseball fields, other members jumped in with suggestions of where potential baseball complexes might fit.

Ultimately the FCPA will have to assess whether those suggestions are realistic or doable with their resources, but it surely shows the strength of crowdsourcing within a community, as all members are entirely invested in the result. It allows those ideas that are the most impactful to the most people to rise to the top based solely on the concerns of those within the community. It also illustrates the FCPA’s commitment to serving their population’s needs, that they would observe the process and not interject with naysaying and impossibilities.

Now that the information gathering stage of the evaluation is complete, the FCPA is honoring and considering the contributions of the populous by developing a survey which will be sent to 15,000 residences in early 2015. From there, the results will be tabulated and action items will be shared, with development of ideas beginning in late 2015. In the meantime, the parks authority is keeping everyone apprised with updates of the process via their website. We look forward to seeing what improvements are most essential to the Fairfax County Park Authority. What kind of changes would you like to see in your community?