Tag Archives: engagement

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?

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.

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?

3 Goals of Sustainable Innovation

Goals of Sustainable InnovationWe’re all familiar with a contest model of crowdsourcing. A contest model often presents a targeted, prompted invitation to participate in a crowdsourcing moment, usually with a deadline. But what happens after the deadline is over? Many organizations are moving beyond that traditional contest model and aiming for sustainable innovation. Here are three goals of sustainable innovation for which to strive:

Continuous engagement. If exciting changes are happening all of the time, rather than within the deadlines of a contest, there’s much more reason to be invested. Sustainable innovation incentivizes stakeholders both inside and outside the organization to stay engaged.

Collaboration. Like a snowball rolling downhill, when innovation has no boundaries, it can grow exponentially. And like that snowball, it is made greater by as many contributions as possible. When accomplished judiciously, sustainable innovation allows for everyone at all levels of involvement with an organization to feel heard and necessary in the process.

Enacting the most impactful innovations. When there are no restrictions on innovation, there is time to fully develop and realize the best ideas, and enact those that are able to have the biggest impact.

To learn more about techniques and best practices for sustainable innovation, as well as about the Department of Energy’s Sunshot Catalyst Program, join us on December 9 for our webinar, Sustainable Innovation: Moving Beyond Slingshot Challenges.  Click here for more information, and to register for this complimentary webinar.

It’s All about Engagement

photo curtesy of erika via flickr

photo courtesy 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.

It’s Raining Features! A Tour of IdeaScale’s Latest Functionality

3776946155_e812869823_oFor those of you that want to ensure success for 2014’s innovation programs, IdeaScale is offering a complimentary webinar review of all IdeaScale new features on Wednesday, March 19th at 10am PDT.

Hosted by IdeaScale and featuring Audrey Zuro, Director of New Business, this conversation will include a tour of IdeaScale new features and their benefits. This includes custom workflow, pairwise comparison, challenge-modeled innovation and more.

The benefits of such programs can include
• increased engagement
• higher quality submissions
• innovation program efficiencies
• and much more.

In addition, Zuro will briefly discuss previews of other features that are in the works for the rest of 2014.

Join us and register for this complimentary webinar today.

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. 

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!