Reducing Administrative Distractions with the US Navy

photo curtesy of amit sharma via flickr

photo curtesy of amit sharma via flickr

With Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Greenert at the wheel, the United States Navy functions under the motto, “War fighting first.” The duty of these men and women lies in naval warfare. To better allow his sailors to dedicate themselves fully to this endeavor, the CNO tasked Rear Adm. Herman Shelanski and a select group of high ranking personnel with improving and streamlining the day-to-day operations of the Navy.

At the center of their strategy lies RAD (Reducing Administrative Distractions), an IdeaScale platform open to anyone with a Navy issued email. The community is private, but open to all levels of Navy personnel- from junior sailors, to Navy civilians, reserve sailors, and even commanding officers. The Navy  wanted this to be an opportunity for sailors of all designations to join the conversation. IdeaScale provided the opportunity for lower ranking sailors to make suggestions directly to decision makers, in a way where their idea doesn’t have to slowly climb up through the ranks. Speaking to the Federal Drive Show Blog, Rear Adm. Shelanski explained, “a good Commanding Officer does a lot of walking around, and he talks to a lot of the junior sailors.” He continued, “if you set the climate right,” this method can be one of the most effective ways to find out what happens on the ship, what doesn’t work, and how to make the system more efficient.

In RAD, authorized community members post their ideas, suggestions, and complaints under a variety of topics including: Navy Reserves, IT/Website, and training. Sailors may post anything they want under a more general category, but moderators have the option to take down off topic posts. A few tactics were utilized to improve participation. RAD was set up in waves, so that sailors could see the ideas of their peers being taken to heart, and implemented or given a reason why they could not be implemented at the time. Once authorized, community members have the choice of using their actual name and title as their username, a pseudonym, or post and comment anonymously. In this way, even lower ranking sailors have the opportunity to voice their concerns and suggestions without fear of repercussions.

The focus of the campaign was to find the inefficiencies of day-to-day operations, and streamline or “digitize” them, saving time for all levels of sailors. One problem RAD administrators found involved naval permissions, called designation letters. At the time of the campaign, each sailor required a unique designation letter for each permission, for example, parking their vehicle on base. Each designation letter must be issued by the Commanding Officer, totaling potentially thousands of individual letters. Thanks to RAD, a system is being implemented where sailors no longer need to hold on to these letters, and the CO can authorize and maintain certain permissions in bulk.

So far, RAD has gathered over 1,300 idea suggestions. Some they found were already in the works, others they were able to start on swiftly, but a lot of the ideas are worthwhile, but large scale, and will take time to implement.

Building Something Bigger: Crowdfunding Solar Power

image credit martin jakobsen via flickr

image credit martin jakobsen via flickr

Crowdfunding campaigns cover a variety of causes: from the quickey multitool, a pocket device that’ll tackle everyday tasks, to saving a classic drive-in theater. There’s a crowdfunding project for everything, and at least one for everyone to support. What these campaigns have in common, is that they envision an innovative product, cause, or service and then find the backers that would love and be proud to support. We are all a part of the Crowd, that’s what makes crowdfunding so powerful. Financing is no longer in the hands of wealthy backers. With backing from a large crowd, even if the individual investments are modest, a project can acquire the startup funding it wouldn’t be able to achieve through other streams. When enough people tune in, and pitch in what funds  they can, the goal can be something huge- like Solar Power.

Blue & Green Tomorrow cites clean energy installations making up 44% of all new electricity generation installations over the course of 2013, compared with investments in renewable energy installations dropping by 14% in the same period. The public is interested, and ready to take advantage of the benefits of solar power, but the funding is falling behind. Crowdfunding has the ability to directly connect those interested in furthering the scope of this renewable resource with those making it a reality. Interested investors can fund individual projects in solar power like solar generators by inergy or the Solartab. To bring solar power to an entire city, the crowd must pull together in a large scaled operation of information and funding.

The city of Portland, Oregon’s Burueau of Planning and Sustainability has introduced one such campaign with ‘Solar Forward.’ Their goal is, “to offer community members a way to engage in the development of new, clean, local renewable energy systems on public buildings like community centers, schools and libraries.” Their site explains that most private dwellings do not make ideal locations for solar panels to be installed. Those wanting to support solar power in Portland can contribute to Solar Forward, so that the city can establish it’s solar network in the most effective configuration. In the long run, Solar Forward hopes to pay back their funders for the portion of the energy savings that their donation produced.

A US startup called Mosaic pairs interested investors with vouched for projects. Founded by Dan Rosen and Billy Parish, Mosaic is a “Kickstarter for solar.” More than $7 million have been raised through the web platform so far. Last month Mosaic opened their platform beyond funding commercial projects, to funding private home projects. With the ‘Mosaic Home Solar Loan‘ program launched in it’s home city of Oakland, California, Mosaic has joined RGS Engery in installing solar to private residences with crowdfunded money. The program treats the installation costs as a loan, for homeowners to pay back with small installments over 20 years.

The goal of crowdfunding isn’t just to raise funds, but to raise a cause. A good campaign compels the crowd to help by speaking up, spreading the word, AND participating in startup financing. Right now, crowdfunding is allowing for the advancement of solar power, globally. The success these campaigns have already seen should be a testament to the effect of support from the Crowd.

Getting Over the Popularity Contest


image credit to marco digitalstream via flickr

image credit to marco digitalstream via flickr

Leveraging crowd wisdom works on the premise that individuals or organizations can benefit from a collective group of knowledge. One way to measure the crowds’ opinion is to present a subject or idea and invite the crowd to vote on it. If it’s popular, it rises to the top and could be considered a mandate from the crowd to follow-through on the suggestion. However, companies sometimes forget that voting is just one mechanism and not necessarily the whole truth that a crowd has to offer. Measuring ideas against business objectives, for example, or mining qualitative responses for themes or meaning can provide an even greater range of insight. Let’s consider a few popular ideas that don’t always equate to quality.

-The Macarena. In 1994, there was no school dance that escaped the Macarena. The song by Los del Río was an international hit in 1995, 1996, and 1997 and appears at number 7 on Billboard’s All Time Top 100. It also ranks at No. 1 on Billboard’s All Time Latin Songs. And despite the catchy hook and despite its insistent re-play, no one is arguing that the Macarena was a musical breakthrough or something that will remain a long-remembered achievement.

-Teflon. Despite the fact that the non-stick convenience continues to hold widespread traction in the market, it has also been warned against year after year by health organizations like the Environmental Working Group and Let’s also talk about how it now stands in as a term for candidates who maintain their popularity no matter how many bad things they come up against. Rob Ford is a current popular example – “The Teflon Mayor.”

-The Twilight Saga. Let’s make no mistake – this film is at the height of “popular” which has yielded nearly $1.5 billion in ticket sales. However, in spite of its vast commercial success, both the substance and the literary craft of the novel have been criticized . No matter how long the story remains a phenomenon, it will never be regarded as a ranking piece of literature. Decision making (particularly business decision making) is an ongoing, rich, complex process that requires a lot of inputs (including an idea’s popularity). IdeaScale wants to ensure that successful innovators have more tactics to evaluate crowd information.

Join us for a complimentary webinar featuring IdeaScale’s Suzan Briganti, SVP of Strategy, as she introduces innovation analysis and its methods. Register today.

Global Crowdfunding Day

Global Crowdfunding Day

image via

Believe it or not, this Saturday April 5th is the 2nd annual Global Crowdfunding Day. The event was created in April 2013 to mark the one year anniversary of the JOBS act being signed into law. The bill received solid, bi-partisan support. Building on the growing popularity of crowdfunding to get small businesses up and running, the bill shapes the legalities of acquiring capital to open up financial opportunities for small, and new business ventures.

Crowdfunding allows new, innovative ideas to be actualized- even when the creators do not come to the table with the startup capitol required. Opening the playing field to more ideas increases competition, and pushes the innovative conversation further, faster. As these campaigns get their funding and turn into businesses, new jobs are created.

Keeping crowdfunding thriving is a cause we can all get into. If you have an idea you want to bring to life, it might be time to look to crowdfunding to get to the next step. The campaign itself will introduce you to a broad audience pre-launch, allowing you to build a brand as you build your product. Look into crowdfunding events near you, and learn from the best.

But you don’t need to be a crowdfunder to participate. Now that you’re a convert, spread the word on crowdfunding- it’s effectiveness improves with exposure. It’s a growing thing, the more people are exposed to crowdfunding, the more success campaigns will see, and as more campaigns see success, they’ll gain more exposure, inspiring more innovators to take action.

You can always support crowdfunding directly, too. Take a look around, and you’re sure to find a project that interests you. Supporting a cause is fulfilling, and most campaigns offer incentives to donators. You can be the first to get new cool products, and will be kept up on it’s progress through design and production phases.

Harnessing the Ideas of Innovation

John Paul Farmer (Sr Advisor to the US Chief Technology Advisor) and Nicole Sunstrum (Dir of Social Media at the University of Michegan)

John Paul Farmer (Sr Advisor to the US Chief Technology Advisor) and Nicole Sunstrum (Dir of Social Media at the University of Michegan)

We’re either three weeks post SXSW Interactive, or 49 weeks in preparation- depending on how you like to look at it. At IdeaScale, we’re still buzzing with the excitement over the 2014 event we were lucky enough to take part in. Our panelists spoke about how their crowdsourced campaigns harnessed the potential of the crowds in their respective fields – government and university.

We heard from Nikki Sunstrum, the Director of Social Media for the University of Michigan, on shaping the stream of ideas from a crowdsourced campaign into their fullest potential. John Paul Farmer, Sr Advisor to the US Chief Technology Advisor, spoke about getting the public involved in government innovation by opening up the ideation cycle through crowdsourcing. Both are inspired by the potential laying dormant in their audiences, and eagerly encourage tapping into that potential- in any industry.

If you weren’t able to make it out to Texas, you can catch up with our video How Government Harnesses Ideas with Crowdsourcing. Learn how these two representatives of different industries led crowdsourcing campaigns into successful change with IdeaScale.

Play Matchmaker, Bringing Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing Together

crowdsourcing word cloudToday’s post comes from guest blogger, David Reynolds. Reynolds is an internet marketing specialist, rogue blog contributor, and devoted cyclist.

There’s a new voice in town and the good news is, it comes with cash, but the great news is- the voice is yours. Called new media by some, the coming together of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding has allowed creative-minded individuals the ability to ask people what they want, and then ask for their financial help to make it a reality. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hitRECord, which asks internet users to put together ideas around a theme that is ultimately edited together for TV, demonstrates the power of this new way of giving the faceless consumer crowd a say and a stake in the creative process. Here are few recent projects that saw big pay offs.

Veronica Mars 

In 2007, when the cult TV series Veronica Mars was cancelled, fans were outraged and took to the internet to make sure that everyone knew it, according to The Guardian. Rob Thomas, the writer and producer of the show, heard their cries, even if the CW Network and Warner Bros. didn’t. Rob Thomas took to the newfound crowdfunding idea and used Kickstarter to find the money to film a Mars movie. Originally trying to come up with $2 million, the Kickstarter campaign brought in $5.7 million, with the first million accumulating within the first five hours. To add to the success story aspect, the movie made $2 million on its limited release first weekend, as Indie Wire highlights.

Digital Wallet

Google Wallet, Square, and Passbook all made a run at creating an electronic wallet app, but, according to Tech Crunch, Lemon has grabbed the gold medal. They did it by simply asking customers what they wanted, and then delivering the goods. Lemon’s digital wallet platform, which has been acquired by security giant Lifelock for $42.6 million, was the product of cleverly crowdsourcing ideas, and bringing these ideas to angel investors to the tune of $8 million in 2011. You can learn more about the ID theft protection agency’s acquiring of Lemon on Mashable.

Daily Twist

This Nabisco Oreo cookie campaign is the perfect mix of fun crowd interaction and great marketing. For its 100th anniversary, Nabisco gave people a blank Oreo template and let them redesign it. The creativity ran rampant with a Gay Pride cookie, a Mars Rover Oreo, and a sweet treat in the shape of Elvis’ head. More importantly for Nabisco was that the 100 days of the Daily Twist saw an increase in social media interacts of 110 percent, which is especially significant when you consider they have 27.7 million fans on Facebook, according to Adage.

Hidden Radio

The formula for combining crowdsourcing and crowdfunding is a simple one; ask people what they want, and they will help make it a reality. Hidden Radio successfully ran this equation when they created their multiple directional speakers. In 2012, Hidden started with a solid sourcing campaign to find out what people needed in a sound system and to establish a price point. From there, they launched a Kickstarter campaign, asking for $125,000 to create the device. Good ideas and some nice marketing payed off, they received almost one million dollars from the campaign. The idea worked so well that they tried it again with their speaker upgrade, asking for $90,000, and receiving more than $700,000.

How Crowdsourcing Improves Customer Satisfaction


photo credit kristian niemi via flickr

Your business is already established. You have a solid following, and a successful product. You’re ready to grow, but unsure of the direction. It’s time to let the crowd step in. Utilizing crowdsourcing is an inexpensive yet effective way of guiding growth. It is also an excellent way to bolster customer relations. Asking for your customers’ input shows that you value their opinion, and following through shows your commitment.

Who knows your brand better than your customers? Through crowdsourcing, you can establish a forum for the crowd to directly share their thoughts on your product with you. Creating this forum gives you the chance to guide the conversation, and keep it relevant. Social media and customer support lines can only provide the information that customers choose to share with you. Through crowdsourcing you can put forward the questions that you want answered. Your crowd can provide you with ideas for new products, bring to light problems with current products, and weigh in on potential products before you sink your resources into production. When you put out products that customers have already pre-approved, or even specially requested, it serves as a reward for the crowd’s efforts. This shows them just how in-tune you are to innovation, crowdsourcing, and the happiness of your customers.

Participating in the process through crowdsourcing improves customer satisfaction. Showing customers that you value their opinions will make them more dedicated to your brand. When customers see the results of the crowdsourced conversation come to life, they’ll be more eager to share their input in the future. Use your crowdsourcing campaign as a way to educate the public about your brand. Even impossible idea suggestions can be an opportunity for transparency, and strengthening your relationship with customers. Not only will this make them more likely to add more to the discussion within your crowdsourcing community, but out in the real world, too. And when they spread the word about your brand, they’ll do so as educated, satisfied participants.

How to Leverage Collective Wisdom: Getting Beyond the Top-Voted Idea

photo by LWVC via flickr

photo by LWVC via flickr

IdeaScale’s advisory services team uses proprietary techniques in order to mine collective crowd wisdom to develop pipelines of winning innovations. This method has produced highly successful concepts, insights and new products. In this engaging webinar, IdeaScale presents the benefits of going beyond a “vote and stack” approach to crowdsourcing.

The most successful innovators do more than just scrub communities for popular ideas, they develop new insights and concepts based on the collective crowd wisdom.

Hosted by IdeaScale and featuring Suzan Briganti, SVP of Strategy, this complimentary webinar will include:

-an introduction to innovation analysis,
-insight & concept development overviews
-methods of insight validation

In addition, attendees will be invited to participate in a live question and answer session at the end of the presentation.

Join us and register for this complimentary webinar today.

Citizens Step In: Crowdsourced Security

photo by megadem via flickr

photo by megadem via flickr

Over the past few days, US cities and towns have taken time to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Each one celebrated the holiday in unique fashion, showcasing their city and their citizens. The goal is always the same- get everyone out to celebrate, and bring the community together. Citizens play the role of participant in the parades,community activities and events. Those who enjoy the events rarely find out just how much work goes into staging something on such a large scale – from the planning, to the events themselves, to the security surrounding it all. Newport, Rhode Island realized how much of a lost opportunity this is, and this year, they asked their citizens for a little help.

Enter VizSAFE, a Rhode Island based software company that uses crowdsourcing to foster safer communities. Use of their website is free, as is the VizSAFE app for iPad, iPhone, and Android. Users tell VizSAFE’s map the ‘area’ they are interested in. This area could be as small as a neighborhood, or as big as a few states- the choice is the user’s. Once their area is determined, users choose which ‘channels’ to receive alerts from. When someone posts to a channel (such as crime or medical) that a user is subscribed to, the user receives a notification. The notes, images, and videos from users are posted in real time, encoded with the precise location the data was taken at.

Newport, RI has partnered with VizSAFE in maintaining local channels on crime, safety, and municipal to better help law enforcement, emergency responders, and the city itself. In preparation for their Saturday St. Patrick’s Day Parade, local law enforcement asked the citizens of Newport to download the app, and get ready to use it.

The recent holiday was meant as a trial run with the app. As Newport’s VizSAFE user crowd grows, the city will see more benefits. Just as with all crowdsourcing, the more the group participates, the bigger the payoff will be.

5 Apps to Maximize Your Time While Working on the Go

Mobile business

Today we have a guest post by Jennifer Robinson. As a stay at home mom, entrepreneur, and PR consultant, Jennifer knows how to make the most of a busy schedule.

It’s not enough to manage, lead and inspire. Today’s entrepreneurs must be savvy accountants, networking gurus, and smooth salesmen. Well-run businesses rely on a jack-of-all-trades approach to operations. The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that more than half a million new businesses open each month. Competing with the growing market of entrepreneurs leaves no room for complacency. It’s important to stay on top of everything, even once you’re established. The latest apps adapt to your dynamic schedule so you can take on the world from your smartphone.

Note to Self

Big ideas seldom arise from stale environments. Those few moments when pen and paper are in-hand do nothing for the creative spirit. On-the-go innovators find inspiration through sights and sounds of their ever-changing surroundings. Stop letting great ideas fall through the cracks. With Evernote, users can store, organize, and share their texts, photos, and voice notes so nothing is ever forgotten. Better yet, the app syncs with your devices so you can find important information from your tablet, desktop and smartphone.

Team Work

Remember the days of solo entrepreneurship? Self-accountability took a certain amount of tenacity, organization, and determination. Now that you’ve built a powerhouse of like-minded colleagues, switch gears to a leadership state of mind. Hold your team to the same standards and encourage a culture of accountability. With the Asana app, users can manage tasks, organize emails, and track team collaboration. Save time spent reading emails, attending meetings and analyzing status reports. By staying connected with your team, you’ll be up-to-date with deadlines, completed tasks, and project progress.

Social Butterfly

Of all the day-to-day operations you oversee, social media is likely the most time consuming of them all. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn—the list goes on and on. Managing your business’ social life is a full-time job. Luckily, Hootsuite provides a one-stop shop for social account management. It schedules messages, monitors conversations and tracks analytics. Your audience expects to hear from you daily. Keep in touch each day without spending hours socializing online. Schedule advanced posts in a single sitting so you can set it and move on with your business.

Get Paid

For creatives, money matters rank low on the priority scale. Being an innovator is about bringing ideas to life, not bookkeeping. At the end of the day, getting paid is what keeps your dream alive and growing. Keeping up with your financials doesn’t have to be a dreaded experience. With Intuit, you can accept payments and track invoices on the go. This app syncs with QuickBooks to do the bookkeeping for you, taking the hassle out of billing and collections.

Stay Connected

Gain traction by nurturing both personal and professional network connections. A stack of business cards tossed on your desk won’t do much for relationship building. Keep your connections in the palm of your hand with CardMunch by LinkedIn. From the app, you can snap a picture of a business card and the information is converted to a contact on your smartphone. You’ll also have access to contacts from your LinkedIn profile to help grow your professional network.