The Value of Open Innovation in the Workplace

4986000566_5b2a19eeb2_oLast month three federal agencies were recognized as one of the best places to work in government. Among the agencies, NASA, the Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Communication Commission were recognized for achievement in management, employee engagement, and training.

Each of them were interviewed about how they achieved this status and although all of them are IdeaScale customers, it was the PTO that noted the premium that is placed on employee input. The statement from Focarino acknowledged “I think we will continue with our very heavy focus of getting employee input, whether it’s through Ideascale and letting employees vote to prioritize things they want management to explore and look into, or having more town halls and keeping an analysis of the Employee Viewpoint Survey data going. And we will continue to look for areas we need to improve.”

What is unsurprising about this statement is that employee engagement has a proven value in increasing both employee satisfaction, as well as improving the bottom line. One government researcher noted that implementing IdeaScale increases customer satisfaction – the same is true of employee satisfaction. Numerous clients have noted this effect in their workplaces, as well.

The questions remains: why? Well, there are numerous reasons, but here are three:

1. People feel more satisfied when they feel heard. An employee engagement program allows the employees to feel as though they are playing a real role. Even when their thoughts aren’t implemented, employees feel considered and therefore as though they are playing a larger role within the company.
2. Increase the likelihood for workplace incentives and recognition. Most open innovation programs at least allow for professional recognition, if not out and out rewards of varying degrees. Offering new avenues for reward often increases satisfaction.
3. Progress Leads to Excitement. As much as people are shy of change, they are also excited by a lively, active workplace that is capable of growth. Showing that a company is committed to change shows that there is a possible future.

Why do you think employee satisfaction increases with open innovation? What programs have you seen in your workplace?

External Collaboration: Going “Too Far” as a Business Model

tseliotThe following is a guest post by Estel Maskagna. Estel is a freelance and creative writer whose work has been featured on PreScouter. She writes on subjects covering innovation, green tech, and environmental topics. She is passionate about self-learning and intellectual exploration.

Integrating customers and lead users in a company’s innovation process is a revolutionary trend that has been picked up by many companies in recent years. Famous examples include personal financial software company Intuit and the custom-designed t-shirt eCommerce company Threadless. Both companies ask their customers for input regarding their innovation and product development. Radical as that may be, some companies venture even further in the quest for valuable information. Not only do they take the innovation process beyond the company lab and to customers, they even collaborate with partners outside their direct market. Is external collaboration in the interest of innovation actually innovating too far?

‘Too far’ means going beyond ordinary collaboration schemes such as interdepartmental partnerships and customer/supplier integration. It means extensive networking involving all kinds of groups in society that are normally out of range of usual business operations. A paint company would normally have homeowners, builders, and designers as its primary customers. But the city anti-air pollution task force would not be on its list of leading prospective partners. However, partnering with the city officials might lead the company to develop a special brand of paint which absorbs specific toxins from motor vehicle emissions and neutralizes them, thereby contributing to the city’s anti-air pollution efforts. Such a scenario highlights the potential of unlikely external collaboration in innovation.

In a recent article featured in the PreScouter Journal, Kande Kazadi uses the real life example of DHL Solutions and Innovations to point out the advantages of external collaboration and secondary stakeholder sensing. In order to develop their current concept for urban logistics, DHL reached out past its typical primary stakeholders (customers and suppliers) and towards secondary stakeholders far removed from the company’s direct market.

“DHL invites academics, politicians, citizens, and public authorities to help to tackle the challenge of decreasing urban traffic and embrace a greener economy. With the right capabilities in place, firms can become a nexus of value creation with multiple types of stakeholders actively co-creating new products and services with the firm.”

If the DHL innovation collaboration makes sense, why doesn’t every company do it? In reality, there are some possible risks external collaboration presents to companies. Relevance is one cause for concern. It is difficult enough to keep track of a customer base’s mercurial moods. Companies employ an army of strategies to stay updated and if possible one step ahead of customers’ demands. Firms pour money on survey campaigns, customer feedback, and eCommerce site metrics tracking among others. Shifting attention and resources for external collaboration might distort a firm’s market sensing strategy and relevance to its target audience. Primary stakeholders might present a straightforward demand to a company, but its secondary stakeholders might signal a need for a different course of action.

Another risk is the very real possibility of getting zero leads or results for a company’s pains. An open innovation platform might receive a thousand ideas, a hundred of which is borderline plausible. Out of these, a company might seriously consider ten, test six or seven… and get one major idea that eventually meets with mixed reviews. While big firms like DHL can handle such scenarios, many companies might not be willing to gamble so much time and resources to innovate that far.

Yet in spite of such concerns, external collaboration continues to attract companies hungry for information regarding the interests of a wide range of stakeholders. One argument is that one company’s seemingly invaluable piece of information might present a breakthrough opportunity for another. To facilitate this, researchers recommend exchange programs between the firm and their external collaborators for effective transfer of knowledge. By stepping into another’s shoes, a firm gains intimate knowledge of the inner workings of their collaborator through firsthand experience.

Then there is the chance of establishing a beneficial, perhaps even profitable, connection. A telephony and communications conglomerate may find it has use for a solar powered charging station a solar power startup is developing. A food packaging company may suddenly see an entomologist’s life work as the solution to its expensive printing problem. Connections like these have been made and it is to actively seek these connections that firms choose to innovate ‘too far’ and collaborate with external stakeholders.

To innovate too far in the context of external collaboration is to draw on the vast resources of a diverse community of minds. Just as intentionally-designed innovation spaces mixes the mailman with the CEO to allow for the opportunity of a random encounter (and hopefully innovation), external collaboration offers an opportunity for meaningful connections across the span of society.

IdeaScale is Glad to Host Chip Gliedman

Chip-Gliedman-PRIn IdeaScale’s upcoming webinar “Managing for Success: Best Practices in Open Innovation In Conversation with guests Forrester and Yale,” IdeaScale is pleased to host experts from both Forrester Research and Yale University. We’d love to introduce our readers to Chip Gliedman, an innovation expert from Forrester Research.

Chip Gliedman is VP, Principal Analyst Serving CIOs from Forrester Research. His research focuses on IT investment strategies, justifying technology investments, IT portfolio management, business technology (BT) alignment, and IT satisfaction. Chip developed the Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) model and program to help clients quantify and communicate the financial value of technology investments and strategies.

Chip has 25 years of experience in the IT industry. He came to Forrester through its acquisition of Giga Information Group. Prior to joining Giga, he was director of business development for Passport Designs, where he managed both the customer service center and the direct sales organizations. In 1992, he implemented a program where technical support agents would be rewarded if their interactions led to the sale of an upgrade or additional product. Chip also held senior positions at Ingres, where he was group manager of desktop and Unix platform marketing, as well as Ingres’ representative to the X/Open ISV council.

Chip has delivered presentations and workshops worldwide to audiences ranging from four to 400. His work on calculating and communicating the value of IT and IT projects was the subject of a cover story in PC Week and has been featured inBusinessWeek, CIO Magazine (US and Canada), InformationWeek (US and Germany), and numerous other business and trade publications. He has also appeared as a panelist on Silicon Spin with John Dvorak on ZDTV.

Chip earned a B.A. in anthropology from Hamilton College.

To learn more about Chip and his work, visit

You can also register for IdeaScale’s webinar today to learn how to scope your own innovation program in light of Chip’s research.

Three Reasons Why Facebook is Not an Ideation Platform

IdeationMany companies think they are crowdsourcing innovation because they engage their Facebook followers in discussion around new products. Here are three reasons why this is faulty thinking:

1. A blunt instrument

Facebook lets followers “like” a comment or idea, and that’s fine if you’re asking people what color they’d like to paint the office walls, or what new flavor they’d like to see in your soda range. Ideas with a high “cuteness factor,” or ideas submitted by a very popular person in the community, may get voted up for the wrong reasons. Any topic with more complex or strategic importance to your organization deserves a more 3-D evaluation.

Of course, IdeaScale Assessment Tools enable users to assess ideas based on critical dimensions such as desirabilty, feasibilty and business Impact. These metrics can be customized to the sponsor’s needs and topic, resulting in more credible results in your organization.

2. Followers ≠ Innovators 

Who follows your brand? People who love it, are passionate about it, and want to be publicly associated with it. That’s great for building brand enthusiasm, but are these people likely to be innovators?

In one research study, respondents with the most social media connections and were also the most active in social media were not likely to be prolific idea generators or divergent thinkers. They were not necessarily Early Adopters of new products either. So Facebook CAN be part of your innovation process, but remember, fans only represent your current, highly loyal fan base and are statistically more likely to be Early Mass Adopters or Late Adopters (read: followers). They are not innovators, and in fact are more likely to reject unfamiliar new ideas.

3. Like a conveyer belt

Facebook moves along like a conveyer belt – the kind you load your groceries onto at the grocery store. Posts move along and can get buried under more recent posts. So if you use Facebook for ideation, a great idea uploaded before a long weekend (for example) isn’t likely to get a lot of eyeballs, or be voted up. Or a great idea that is poorly expressed may not go viral. And any idea can get buried in chatter.

IdeaScale allows moderators to ensure all ideas are seen and evaluated equally, regardless of who submits them or when. So you’re less likely to overlook a badly timed or “sleeper” idea.

With all that in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Whether you use Facebook fans or your own employees to source ideas, ask yourself:

a. How relevant is a “like” or a “vote?”
How credible are these criteria likely to be at the C-suite level of your organization? Do you need more nuanced idea assessment? Ask us about the IdeaScale Assessment module.

b. Do you have proven innovators in your community, or just fans?
Use Facebook fans to understand how Early Mass/Late adopters may react to new ideas, but don’t expect them to innovate, or let them have veto power over new and disruptive innovations. Ask us how we detect and recruit true innovators.

c. Are you moderating ideas to deliver true crowd wisdom?
Make sure your crowd works like a crowd, not a mob. Active professional moderation and the right workflow ensures the four conditions for successful crowdsourcing are maintained: diversity, independence, decentralization and aggregation. Ask about IdeaScale professional moderation and training.

If you want to learn more, you can contact me at @skuzin, or and we can discuss IdeaScale’s Advisory Services offering and how you might benefit.

Innovation Spotlight: State of Minnesota

mn-winners-230x297In case you hadn’t heard, IdeaScale recently announced the winners of its open innovation awards contest. Our panel of judges selected five winners from an array of submissions that outlined great IdeaScale business practices and now we’ve had the chance to ask a few of our winners their thoughts on best practices. This interview features responses from James Kauth, Director of Innovation at the State of Minnesota:

IdeaScale: How long have you been utilizing IdeaScale?
Minnesota: We launched our first campaign in early June 2012.

IS: Why did you start utilizing innovation software?
MN: Our State CIO Carolyn Parnell’s vision is to leverage the cost savings through efficiencies from the State of Minnesota multi-year, enterprise-wide IT Consolidation effort to focus energy on effectiveness of government by launching an Innovation Program. This has the dual benefit during the consolidation of identifying new skills, roles and projects that align with new and presently unknown business verticals.

IS: Is this a practice you can see being valuable to other state organizations? Why?
MN: Definitely. E-democracy models call for interactive government, what better way than an online forum to directly share ideas and opportunities to engage in delivering tangible results that matter to constituencies. The McKinsey Global Institute released a report in October Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information that details a $3-$5 trillion opportunity that exists in government data systems. Demand for government-business and government-citizen interaction is on the rise and with this incredible potential will establish innovation as a political priority.

IS: Why do you think your engagement strategy is so successful?
MN: #1 is the organization’s willingness and curiosity to engage. Without them, there would have been no further steps to pursue. There was a big risk of cultural collapse if the strategy wasn’t successful, which was a powerful motivator for the next sentence. #2 is hard work and research. Working with people and organizations that helped us leverage their experiences and avoid pitfalls from the past.

IS: What are you most proud of in your innovation program?
MN: The governor’s office learned of our event, and within an hour, determined to adjust their strategy to leverage our experience and tools to publicly launch The Unsession –State government’s first open ideation event for Minnesotans.

To learn more about State of Minnesota’s innovation program, visit IdeaScale’s resource page.

Two Prevailing Themes from Winners of Open Innovation Awards

OpenInnovationAward-winner-v4The 2013 IdeaScale Innovation Awards were designed to celebrate organizations that have demonstrated the most effective utilization of the IdeaScale solution. Each winner submitted an entry in one of the five categories: Best Engagement Strategy, Best Moderation Strategy, Wildest Innovation, Savings Expert, or Efficiency Expert.

As you know, winners in each of these categories receive a discount on their IdeaScale license for 2014 and the opportunity to fast track a feature on the IdeaScale 2014 feature roadmap (among other things).

The winners represent a diverse group of organizations, ranging from a nonprofit to a university, from a commercial business to a state IT department. In their submissions, they were asked to share an overview of their “open innovation initiative,” as well as a description of their engagement strategy.

While each of the organizations had their own unique realizations while implementing the IdeaScale solution within their communities, there were two themes that transcended and seemed overarching strategies for promoting successful innovation.

The introduction of crowdsourcing to a community necessitates a thoughtful communications and structuring plan. The Cerebral Palsy Alliance, in explaining their engagement strategy, outlined the physical changes they enacted in the workplace, creating an Innovation Space in the corporate offices. In an effort to foster a new ethos of innovation and collaboration, they also incorporated verbiage reflecting such into the job descriptions of each of their staff members. The State of Minnesota’s Information Technology agency emphasized the importance of crafting strong network promotions and establishing infrastructure prior to the launch of the campaign. Yale University ITS stated, “Becoming a more innovative organization means changing the culture.”

The second, and perhaps the most poignant, of these similarities was the capacity to engage and provide agency to network members. As these winners have learned, the more that you are able to allow constituents to contribute in a way in which they can see the results, the more invested they feel in the choices that are made. This refers to both the allowance to suggest changes, as well as the ability to express opinions on others’ ideas. Moreover, when all community members are made to feel heard, authentic conversations can begin, and from that comes true collaborative and innovative ideas.

We can see the evidence of this so clearly in the numbers from University of North Carolina-Wilmington, who related that in the 2012-2013 school year, “more than 4,000 users cast over 5,200 votes and posted 813 comments on 94 ideas submitted by faculty and staff.” The ideas that were submitted at Marriott Vacations Worldwide, through The Idea Depot, resulted in an idea being implemented which is projected to save the company over $100,000.

You can find out more about the 2013 Innovation Award winners here. 

IdeaScale’s Top 10 2013 Features

IdeaScale has had a busy and productive 2013 and we couldn’t be more excited about all that’s to come in 2014, but even as we charge forward into the future, it’s nice to take a look back and see all that we’ve accomplished. 6623488319_73b096724d_o

To that end, we’ve chatted amongst ourselves and we’ve narrowed the massive list of 2013 new feature highlights down to our favorite top 10 that have been introduced in the past year. And we’re also glad to tell you why.

1. Idea Ownership. IdeaScale has always wanted to empower change and innovation at every level of an organization: from full-scale enterprises down to the individual. Adding idea ownership gives workflow managers the ability to assign stewardship of an idea to a particular owner or champion. One of our Open Innovation Award winners uses this very feature as part of their winning moderation strategy.
2. Pre-Defined Tags. Since we’ve introduced this new feature, we’ve had several community administrators say that it truly helps them to organize the conversation. Loading up pre-defined tags helps people hone their idea generation.
3. Campaign Custom Fields. This particular feature has helped departments specify what sort of information is required in a submission – whether it’s a cost-savings estimate or a link to a YouTube video – that information can now be requested on a per-campaign basis.
4. Idea Recommendation. This is the type of feature that keeps members coming back for more. Now every idea page also shows similar ideas for members to vote and comment on.
5. Team-Based Idea Submission. In a tool that’s all about collaboration, we think this feature particularly suits our values. Everyone should be able to collaborate and be recognized for their work in generating and then stewarding an idea. IdeaScale now allows you to build teams around inspiration.
6. Pairwise Comparison. Now we’re getting into some of the features that have really built out the IdeaScale tool when it comes to moving ideas further down the innovation funnel. Having this additional tool to evaluate ideas allows the next phase of implementation to be informed with even more data.
7. Custom Workflow. For many of our subscribers, time on IdeaScale is in addition to time in their daily work life – so anything that makes moderation and evaluation easier is highly valuable. That’s why we built custom workflows. And now, once an idea reaches an assigned comment or vote threshold, it is automatically routed to the next person, stage, or phase in a plan.
8. Innovation Widget. This feature is the tiny package that packs a big punch. The whole IdeaScale experience in a tiny web-embeddable widget means that feedback and innovation can begin anywhere and everywhere. And we are all about casting the net wide.
9. Assessment Tool. Our assessment tool is one of the most flexible, review-oriented tools that we have. No matter what the goal is (cost-savings, efficiency, product development, and more), this feature helps our clients organize and prioritize what is next for some of their best ideas.
10. Enhanced Challenge Offering. Perhaps most exciting is our new challenge format that allows companies to set a competition for their subscribers, employees, or the general public, and then evaluate responses in an open or closed setting and award money or other prizes. Some of our favorites? The Department of Energy’s American Energy Data Challenge or Ushahidi’s Making All Voices Count. What challenge will you launch next?

Of course, this is all in addition to numerous other changes and improvements, including enhanced badges, new data visualization tools, and so much more. If you want to learn more about these (or any other IdeaScale features), be sure to contact us.

Stay tuned for more in 2014!

Join the IdeaScale Best Practices Conversation

4171232930_ab9c6ec1f9_oIdeaScale prides itself on being a flexible and unique tool that helps numerous companies meet their innovation goals (however disparate the programs might be). However, because our technology is flexible and applicable in multiple formats, it is hard to issue a definitive set of best practices to our clients as the success of each community is highly dependent on community goals, processes, etc.

However, IdeaScale was able to compile a set of commonly-asked questions that are posed within the innovation industry and are offering a webinar at the end of January that aims to answer some of these questions. And to offer our listeners the full range of expertise, we’re inviting Chip Gliedman of Forrester Research to answer such questions at a high-level and the innovation team from Yale University to speak about how they answer such questions in practice within their own IdeaScale community.

Some of the questions that our guests will answer, include

- Is innovation best when wide open and boundless or is it more effective when it is targeted?
- Who are the key players in an innovation program?
- What is the lifecycle of an idea?
- What is a good rate of implementation?
- And many more

However, we want to offer you the opportunity to think of a few more questions to ask. Please submit all new questions before the end of the year so that we can see if it’s possible to answer them within the scope of the webinar.

And if you haven’t already, register today.

Tactical Innovation: Playing to Win

3393943653_5908499e59_oThe following is a guest post by Estel Maskagna. Estel is a freelance and creative writer whose work has been featured on PreScouter. She writes on subjects covering innovation, green tech, and environmental topics. She is passionate about self-learning and intellectual exploration.


In 1959, chess grandmasters Mikhail Tal and Vasily Smyslov locked mental horns in a now-famous chess battle played in Yugoslavia. Tal, a tactical player, initiated a very strong line of attack against his world champion opponent. While Smyslov defended well, the battle ended when Tal made an audacious sacrifice and delivered a crushing tactical blow to his opponent. Tal’s winning tactical move was awarded a Brilliancy Prize game and made him famous as a chess master.

The difference between the two grandmasters was Smyslov played to finish while Tal played to win. Both were in the game, but one had a definite plan of action to reach his goal of winning. A similar tactical approach can prove to be a game changer in a critical innovation project. Unless one has a tactical approach, a great deal of time, energy, and resources will be lost for nothing.

Just like chess grandmasters, build lines of attack to achieve your goal. This may mean exploring new ideas for advancement or dealing with specific issues that hinder progress. Learn how to play to win in innovation with these tactical steps.

-See and plan ahead. Tactical players foresee difficulties as well as opportunities even as they are engaged in the present. They identify possible scenarios that will bring benefit and then maneuver the game towards their desired play. Innovators must also plan and see ahead to gain ground and progress.
-Do not waste advantages. Just like in any game or battle, innovators need to utilize advantages to the maximum. Otherwise it would be lost or worse, gained by the competition, translating to a greater loss to your side.
-Create opportunities. While tactical players and innovators stand alert for any advantages that might come their way, they do not merely wait passively. Tactical innovators also create opportunity with carefully executed moves and course of action.
-Make every move count. Observe how grandmasters play in a high risk, competitive game. They rarely waste a chance to advance their game with every move they make. Indeed, their attack begins right from the first pawn advancement. Even if a move seems senseless to their audience, grandmasters make sure that it will serve a purpose. It might be to distract attention from a developing line of attack or to rescue a valuable piece from possible peril. Or it might simply serve to discombobulate a focused opponent. Whatever the purpose, each move counts and contributes to the attainment of the player’s goal. Innovators also need to make every resource, hour, and effort expended to count towards their ultimate goal.
-Build on your success. Just as chess masters do not win a game in a single brilliant move, it is also important for innovators to build on their small successes. Each advantage gained should lead to another and strengthen one’s game overall. Building on one’s success and progress fits into the general tactical approach that leads to achieving one’s goal.
-Don’t lose momentum. Holly Green in Prescouter Journal says, “Today’s markets reward boldness, so dare to take risks. Look for opportunities that offer huge upsides with minimal downside, and outline ways to mitigate or minimize the risks.” This doesn’t mean that you have to lose momentum if you make a mistake, however. “Get comfortable with a certain amount of failure, because when you take risks you will fail some of the time. When you do fail, fail fast and learn from your mistakes.” Don’t let one or a couple of mistakes set you back for the whole game. Learn from it, recalibrate, and plunge ahead for the win.

Prime your innovation game with a tactical approach and play to win!

Managing for Success: Best Practices in Open Innovation – In Conversation with guests Forrester and Yale

newsflashJoin IdeaScale for a comprehensive exploration on how to best organize an open innovation community on Friday, January 24th, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. EST.

Hosted by IdeaScale and featuring Chip Gliedman of Forrester Research and Yale University’s IT Innovation Alignment Team, this conversation explores innovation best practices in a broad view, but also in practice within an IdeaScale community.  In the discussion, the speakers will address questions like:

-Is innovation best when wide open and boundless or should such programs be more targeted?
-Who are the key players in an innovation program?
-What defines successful engagement within a community?
-What are some tactics for improving ideation engagement?
-And much, much more.

An Introduction to the Speakers:

Chip Gliedman is a vice president, principal analyst at Forrester Research and serves CIOs. His research focuses on IT investment strategies, justifying technology investments, IT portfolio management, business technology (BT) alignment, and IT satisfaction. Chip developed the Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) model and program to help clients quantify and communicate the financial value of technology investments and strategies.

Yale ITs The Innovation Alignment Team is composed of Lou Rinaldi, Bryan Kazdan, and Karen Polhemus. They are collectively charged with providing leadership, technical expertise, ambassadorship, and metrics reporting in the field of Yale IT innovation. This team is focused on leading innovative programs.

Register Today!