Category Archives: Essay

Innovation Possibilities: What Companies Should Really Focus On

Concept of six ability in human brainThere was a time when a designer might say “A camel is a horse designed by committee.” It was a disparaging metaphor to warn you of what would happen if you designed anything by a committee with no unifying vision. The metaphor also implies (by some interpretations) that input of any kind from a committee would seal your fate and doom your project.

Times are changing (and for what it’s worth, camels are amazing). Working in large groups is now more manageable, and the idea of a lone designer is fading into obscurity, at least to the extent that we’ve been given better tools to communicate and collaborate.

Social media and cloud computing have contributed enormously to collaborative problem solving and creative thinking. Cloud-based services have become game changers for technological advancement. Business models that have embraced collaborations over the Internet have brought sorely needed resources to inventors/co-inventors and collaborators alike.

Brainstorming in the cloud: In terms of intellectual property, it presents an interesting twist to our history. The contribution of independent inventors has been in decline since the 1880’s. In the 1930’s, independent inventors were responsible for about half of all U.S. patents; a turning point with respect to who contributes most to U.S. innovation.

With the introduction of social media and cloud computing, the virtual dichotomy that existed between independent and corporate innovators began to break down. Instead of approaching banks or individual investors for capital, many inventors have been supported by crowdfunding campaigns. Likewise, the practice of developing contacts through traditional word-of-mouth introductions have been replaced with online entrepreneurial groups. Sites like are driving in-person meetings all over the country.

As the landscape of R&D has changed, so has that of academic and scientific endeavors. Sites like zooniverse and invite anyone to join and help solve scientific problems.

Innovation doesn’t always develop into a patent or research paper. The same basic crowdsourcing model can be applied to any area of ideation, whether it be a political/social policy, the floorplan of a new church, the next great science fiction series, or a musical composition.

Although this article focuses mainly on the Internet for enhancing human collaborations, the theme of cloud computing extends to the idea of combining the power of many computers to solve complex problems.

Managing Ideation: The Internet has become the conduit for a flood of ideas, almost too many to appreciate or exploit. Innovation management has evolved in response to that persistent torrent of creative thinking. Although the business models vary for each social network, the first three steps are the same:

1. Create a network from which collaborators can develop and share ideas.

2. Attract innovative organizations, groups, corporations, etc. to your network, where they can apply their collective skills.

3. Provide a project management environment as a service, where organizations are given the ability to efficiently collect, refine, and build on the best ideas.

The process itself is analogous to a conversion funnel, where a large number of ideas enter the funnel. As ideas undergo further development and scrutiny, some will be deemed unviable and rejected. The remaining ideas are brought to fruition. A more refined explanation categorizes ideas as “breakthrough” or “incremental” and are put through different processes, one slightly more confined than the other.

A. Breakthrough Innovation: This is innovation which is fundamentally unique. In some circumstances, it’s referred to as “game-changing” or “disruptive” because it often forces competitors to rethink their own innovative path.

B. Incremental Innovation: This involves the further development of an existing product or process. It is the addition of innovation for the sake of enhanced performance/functionality or an adaptation to an alternate use.

Some sites create work environments for the benefit of others as a service, while Quirky, for example, collects ideas as part of their own product development program. Both models involve the same basic steps, which pools and directs talent for bringing ideas to fruition. Such collaborative efforts make the creative process flexible, and highly functional. In fact, it lends itself very well to mobile applications and cloud services.

The concept of “idea management” and the events that led to its emergence are representative of a significant shift in our culture. It promises to take the process of technological advancement to a level unlike anything in human history.


Guest Author, Ivan SerranoThis guest post is authored by Ivan Serrano, a business journalist and infographic specialist located in Northern California.

The Basics Of Crowdfunding: How Crowdfunding Works

This article is a guest post by Bradley Taylor. Bradley Taylor is a freelance writer from Derby, England, UK who writes about all aspects of the automotive industry (among other subjects). You can connect with Bradley on Twitter and Google+. 

Crowdfunding is the collective pooling, donation, or financial support of a person, group or project that occurs mostly on the Internet. Its use has ramped up dramatically from when it first began and is now very common for a wide range of activities and purposes. Crowdfunding is used to raise money for disaster relief, support political campaigns, finance artistic and creative endeavors, local civics projects, start up companies, scientific research and more. Crowdfunding is also taken to mean when a company is funded by selling off smaller, divided shares to finance it and get it going. Crowdfunding draws its concept from the practice of crowdsourcing, or the occasion of someone reaching a certain goal as the result of small donations and support from a vast amount of people.pic2Image source

How Crowdfunding Works
Crowdfunding works by using a crowdfunding platform, usually a website hosted online, that allows people to click on profiles for projects, proposals, individuals and groups and to donate to these causes. In 2012 there were over 400 crowdfunding platforms that were used to donate to creative work such as journalism and blogs, for causes such as music as well.

Star of the HBO television shows “Mad Men” and “Parenthood” Zosia Mamet made headlines in 2012 by attempting to use crowdfunding through the site Kickstarter to raise $32,000 to do a music video with her sister Clara as part of the musical duo “The Cabin Sisters” but raised only $2,783 of a $32,000 set goal. Because the Mamet sisters could easily afford to pay for the effort themselves and the crowdfunding model is designed for those relying on the kindness of strangers, they were heavily criticised for the effort.  In particular some of the gifts offered in exchange for funding such as $2,000 for a 45 minute Skype call brought the Mamets additional criticism.

What Crowdfunding Can Be Used For

In addition to crowdfunding being tested as a possible driving force for art and individual quests in general, it has become a possible defining factor in the days to come when it comes to the industry of independent film production, music, and start up companies. Community music labels can be used on crowdfunding platforms by fans and individuals as a way to promote and get a music artist they like in the recording process. Crowdfunding is projected to be particularly substantial in funding films that have relatively skimpy budgets that fall under the $10 million range. Campaigns that are directed towards financing already successful and beloved projects that are a natural progression and will have an audience are more likely to be successful. Lending in the place of banks has been tried but not really been wildly popular enough to be remotely a threat to contending with the banks.

History Of Crowdfunding

The concept of crowdfunding has been used for a very long time. In the 17th century, Praenumeration was used to fund book printings as a subscription business model. Joseph Pulitzer urged Americans in his newspaper “The New York World” in 1884 to donate money towards building the Statue Of Liberty’s pedestal when it had run out of funds. $100,000 was donated by individuals over the course of six months with over 125,000 donating small amounts of $1 or less to help save the Statue’s Pedestal. British rock group Marillion had its entire U.S. tour funded by $60,000 of crowdfunding donations in 1994 and went on to use the practice to finance four later albums. Zach Braff raised $3.1 million this year through massive support and donations from fans using the crowdfunding site to fund his film “Wish I Was Here”.

How Crowdfunding Is Changing The Face Of Achievement 


Image source

Crowdfunding is a revolutionary vehicle. It connects people to ideas and allows them to explore and pursue different ideas and goals that people are trying to achieve. It has connected fans to the artists and allow them to personally support those whose visions, imagination, and goals seem worthy to them. From helping in community projects to donating to efforts that help people recover from natural disasters and support efforts to increase quality of life, crowdfunding allows people to support what they deem to be worthy. Just one of the many ways that crowdfunding is people supporting people through the combined effort of many individuals reaching out through the world wide web and making a difference.

Crowdsourcing Means Many Things

6101415124_7e87da0cd8_oI recently read an article about use of crowdsourcing. In it, the author discussed a twitter chat and follow-up series of surveys that asked travelers what they were looking for in a hotel. The results might not surprise you, but I do hope they inform lodging providers of how they can turn a traveler’s head. 

Needs: free Wi-Fi, shuttle service, complimentary breakfast
Eh: free parking, noise-free zones, room service, kid-friendly services

What really struck me about the article, however, was that the author tagged this initiative as “crowdsourcing” when it might have recently been flagged as “customer research.” This reminded me that there are numerous services and projects that fall into even the open innovation category of crowdsourcing.

So we’ve been thinking about how some of our customers applied it and came up with some common use cases and created a white paper called “What Can You Ask the Crowd For?”

Here are a few of the common questions that people use the crowd for:

What Do I Need to Know About My Industry?:
Just like, crowdsourcing market research takes the opinions of the crowd and amasses it into actionable understanding.

How Can I Be More Sustainable?:
With so many businesses focused on going green and maintaining environmental best practices, many businesses are focusing on ways that they can work to meet business bottom lines while also minimizing their carbon footprint and are reaching out to their network for ideas on how to do that.

For other ideas on how crowdsourcing might serve your company, download our tip sheet “What Can You Ask the Crowd For” here.

Crowdsourcing and the Future of Car Insurance

6466387191_b683eaa038_oThis post is guest written by Kelly McMurtrie of She has outlined an introduction to crowdsourcing in the insurance industry.

Have you met the insurance industry yet? The answer, for crowdsourcers, is a resounding, “Yes.” They’ve met and had coffee, and now the relationship appears to be blossoming into something deeper.

The introduction happened in 2001, when Allstate launched a successful Kaggle campaign called “The Claim Prediction Challenge.”  More than 1,290 entries were submitted by expert statisticians attempting to create an algorithm that could successfully predict injury liability based solely on the characteristics of an insured vehicle.

The company gave entrants three years’ worth of data on insured vehicles and the injury claims associated with them. Each team worked to find a link between each vehicle and the payments made on their claims using metrics ranging from the number of cylinders in the engine to the actual length of the car. After three months, a winner emerged, with an algorithm 271% more accurate than Allstate’s previous model for predicting claims. Today, the carrier uses this crowdsourced solution in its product and pricing strategies.

But things haven’t stopped there. Some insurance giants want to use crowdsourcing to tap into a strategy that could change the way the industry regulates rates. That’s a big idea.

Changing the way people pay for car insurance

If you’re not an insurance expert, the term “telematic usage-based insurance” may sound like coverage for Doc Brown’s flux capacitor. But it’s not really that far out there: It’s a new type of coverage that offers dynamic rates based on changes in risk – and it’s gaining some traction by crowdsourcing driver data.

Companies such as Progressive, Liberty Mutual and Allstate have developed telematics devices – a device you plug into your car that transmits real-time data about policyholders’ driving practices. It tracks mileage, speed, time-of-day information, driving actions (such as sudden stops) and much more. With this technology, drivers and insurance providers operate within an immediate feedback loop that offers more accurate rates based on driver risk.

For example, if a policyholder who once commuted to work every day suddenly starts taking public transportation instead, his insurance company could immediately reflect that reduction of risk – driving fewer miles cuts the chances of an accident – by lowering his insurance rates that month. In an age of instant gratification, rewards such as this could prove to be a powerful incentive for drivers to adopt safer driving habits.

Changing behavior behind the wheel

A car crash occurs in the U.S. every 4.8 seconds, and the Insurance Information Institute reports the average cost per injury claim to be close to $15,000. So, what’s the best way for insurance giants to test the effectiveness of reducing these figures through telematics systems? With a crowd.

A large number of top providers have begun collecting driving data from employees, corporate fleet vehicles, interested policyholders and other sources. Most recently, Allstate launched a crowdsourcing campaign to test its Drive Wise system among a large group of employees and agency owners. Based on more than 11 million miles and 350,000 hours of driving data, it found that telematics usage-based insurance has great potential to change behavior behind the wheel:

At the beginning of the test, only 25% of participants scored in the ideal driving “safe zone” (rated by speed, sudden stops and more). By the end of the test, the number of drivers practicing safer activities behind the wheel rose to 75%.

Insurance and crowdsourcing in the future

What does this mean for the future of insurance? For one, telematics will put drivers in control of their own car insurance rates – the safer you drive, the more savings you earn. Plus, crowdsourced data seems to indicate that these systems will likely play a huge role in helping to reduce accidents, injuries and property damage claims – which translates into lower insurance costs across the board.

In return, the insurance industry could help transform the way the public thinks of crowdsourcing. It’s bigger than problem-solving in a group of experts or a way to fund a Veronica Mars movie. With tests and patents also on the way for detecting distracted driving, drunken driving and even texting while driving, crowdsourcing could play an integral role in saving lives, preventing accidents and cutting costs. Not bad for a relationship that’s still in its early stages.

This article was contributed by Kelly McMurtrie, a writer for Kelly has been writing content for and other major brands since 2011 after graduating from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in Media Arts.

IdeaScale Case Study PDF: OpenMaps iPhone Application

OpenMaps is a feature, rich, fast, and accessible mobile application that displays and edits open map data of, the free editable map of the whole world. In early 2010, OpenMaps introduced the Ideascale iPhone feedback widget as part of the OpenMaps iPhone application in order to track bugs and feedback from within the application itself.

“We collected feedback via email, Twitter and GetSatisfaction too, and still do. The IdeaScale iPhone widget was simply supposed to be an experiment. It turned out to be a hit as we received much more user feedback than before. It seems people really like giving feedback right from within the application.”

What inside
Learn how OpenMaps collects feedback right within the iPhone app:

  • Collects hundreds of suggestions for future versions
  • Created and implemented 13 new features based on direct user feedback
  • Rapid response to each bug while communicating with users
  • Tracked what features and suggestions were most popular
  • Established the Ideascale widget as one of OpenMaps’ premier offerings

More Info:

Collaborative Democracy: Beth Noveck on Reengineering Civic Life

The following are remixed highlights of Beth Noveck’s talk “Transparent Government” that she gave as part of the Long Now Foundation‘s Seminars about Long-Term Thinking.  As with Noveck’s original talk, these highlights, as remixed by Hassan Masum, are made available under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 2.5 license and originally appeared on the award-winning WorldChanging blog on August 10th.

We have been concentrating decision-making power in the hands of too few people – whether legislatures, or cabinet officials, or bureaucrats and agencies like the patent office. We construct our institutional practices around the notion that this is the best way that we have to make decisions. Even though we do not have a system of monarchy or aristocracy, we still believe in the notion of political expertise, and the notion that we have to rest power at the center.

What exacerbates this problem is that we are making long-term decisions that affect the fate of our planet. The fate of our economy, and of major systems of health care and education and environment, are being decided by people who are in short-term political positions. We have a disconnect between the long-term effect of what we do, and short-term electoral cycles. Continue reading

Reconsidering disposable social media

A few years back, when I had a fun idea or a piece of media to share, I would post it to my personal blog. Nowadays, like so many other halfassed bloggers, this type of thing gets relegated to 140 characters or is posted to facebook as an update. I’m grateful that my readers and I have years of content accessible in the archives, but am remorseful about the amount of content that hasn’t been posted to my personal space since the blowup of social media.

Some of my favorite Twitter feeds are those of my favorite comedians. There is obviously no shortage of funniness in the world, but I often get thinking about how disposable and… I dare say wasted their brilliant humor is on Twitter. Is there really no better way to harness these genius ideas than flicking them into the tweether? Sometimes I think of these mini-bursts of comedic genius as funny bricks which could potential build a funny palace but are instead scattered about in this wasteland of funny bricks (and all kinds of other bricks). All hope is not lost, and I have great hope and confidence that there will be a Twennaissance to breath new life into underappreciated and overlooked genius. To put my money where my mouth is, I just bought

This past weekend, tech guru Leo Laporte posted to his blog (remember Leoville?) for the first time in a month. In what would turn out to be a thoughtful tirade against social media, Leo announced that his Google Buzz had been broken—sending out nothing and failing to feed his Twitter stream—since August 6th… and no one noticed or brought it to his attention! This is unbelievable when you consider Leo’s rabid following. He’s garnered 17,000 followers since Buzz’s launch and is followed by well over 200,000 people/robots on Twitter.

This unnoticed absence is perplexing, but speaks volumes about social media. It suggests to me that Google chose a fitting name for their service– Buzz has been added to the other vuvuzelas of the social sphere to create a cacophony of content that makes it challenging for anyone to give a shit about 98% of the noise that comes their way. Certainly, social media has its place. And that place might just be permanent. But it’s incidences like Leo’s that put things into perspective. Let’s all take a step back and figure out the best way to deliver our content and document our best thoughts and work. Let us not allow our best ideas fall on temporarily deafened ears when we could be putting them somewhere for posterity.

Regretfully, not long after Google rushed to fix the issue causing his problem, Leo’s tirade was paved over like an embarrassing blackout. The Saturday blog post that ended “Screw you Google Buzz. You broke my heart.” was followed up earlier today with an apology to his followers on Buzz and to the folks at Google for his tantrum. Weeeeaaaaaak. But at least he made a great argument and gave us something to chew on last Saturday. And unlike a tweet or Buzz or whatever, people might actually refer back to to the blog post after a few hours.

  John Basile · Idea Scale blog contributor

Based in Oakland, California, John Basile is a regular contributor to the IdeaScale blog. He is also the founder and CEO of Scraster Professional Screencasting.

One Decision That’s Not Crowdsourced

If you’re a regular reader of the IdeaScale blog, you’re aware of the enormous popularity of the crowdsourcing trend. Every savvy internet marketer, business head, and government agency has turned their attention to the value of crowdsourcing, as if it’s a fountain of actionable knowledge. And for the most part, it is. Crowdsourcing is speeding the plow across the board—whether it be improving customer experience, the creation of new government initiatives, or the flash-funding of emergency relief.

Like any trend, however, crowdsourcing is not the cure-all or universal answer to decision making or getting things done. This was made refreshingly clear to me yesterday when listening to Binah, a radio program from KALW in San Francisco. The show featured our Poet Laureate Kay Ryan reading from and discussing her work at the SF Jewish Community Center. During a Q/A session towards the end of the program, an audience member asked “What is the process of selecting a Poet Laureate?” The answer was… the opposite of crowdsourcing. And pretty fascinating, really.

First, let’s answer a few questions you might be curious about. What exactly is the Poet Laureate? The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Librbary of Congress serves as a kind of national spokesperson to raise awareness and create a greater appreciation of poetry in America. We have our national Poet Laureate, and other countries and each of the U.S. states have their own laureates.

Our national Poet Laureate, who serves from October to May, is appointed each year by the Librarian of Congress—a single individual. The Librarian’s decision is informed by his/her appointees, the current Laureate, and by a community of critics close to the Librarian, but it’s a decidedly individual decision, which is obviously uncommon in our often bloated democratic process.

I might eat my words (or delete this post) when the Library of Congress decides to turn the process of selecting a Poet Laureate over to IdeaScale, but for now, it’s refreshing to know that some decisions are confidently left to the power of one. Agree or disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below.

If you’re not familiar with the work of Kay Ryan, you may want to click on a few of the links below. There are also a few links for you to learn more about the post of the Poet Laureate.

More info:

  • About the post of U.S. Poet Laureate
  • About Kay Ryan
  • Kay Ryan on KALW radio program Binah
  • Kay Ryan on
  • Kay Ryan on Wikipedia
  • John Basile · Idea Scale blog contributor

    Based in Oakland, California, John Basile is a regular contributor to the IdeaScale blog. He is also the founder and CEO of Scraster Professional Screencasting.

    Facebook Questions on the way

    We’re going to go ahead and assume you’re on Facebook. Fair enough assumption, right? Now, we’re going to assume that once in a while, you see a friend post a dumb question to their feed that has a very google-able answer. You might be a smug, not-so-friendly friend and link them to their answer with the help of Let Me Google That For You. Sometimes, though, questions are posted to Facebook because they aren’t Google-friendly. And in these situations, sometimes the best place to go is where you have a network of friends who are happy to share their knowledge.

    Facebook is stepping its other foot into the realm of crowdsourcing with a new tool called Facebook Questions, which will put an “Ask Question” button on a user’s profile. When the user posts a question, it will be visible not only to their immediate network of friends, but the entire Facebook Community as well. One particularly cool feature of Questions is an integrated poll that will allow the post author the opportunity to get a huge response in terms of popular opinion.

    Leveraging their incomprehensible amount of user info, Facbook Questions will show questions to respondents based on their interests. Likewise, those looking for answers will be able to browse and search Questions by using the keywords with which the questions were tagged when created.

    The service is still in closed beta, but will be available to all of Facebook’s 500 million+ users soon. What do you think of the concept? Will Facebook Questions be a useful resource or a diluted clusterlump? Please leave your thoughts.

    More info:

  • Let Me Google That For You
  • Facebook blog post about Facebook Questions
  • Does Facebook Questions stack up?
  •   John Basile · Idea Scale blog contributor

    Based in Oakland, California, John Basile is a regular contributor to the IdeaScale blog. He is also the founder and CEO of Scraster Professional Screencasting.

    The President’s SAVE Award, powered by IdeaScale

    As you know, IdeaScale is used heavily by dozens of federal agencies. One of the most active federal government communities powered by IdeaScale is The President’s SAVE Award. Now in its second year, The SAVE (Securing Americans’ Value and Efficiency) Award was established to enable Federal employees from across the government to submit their ideas for efficiencies and savings as part of the annual Budget process. Last year, the Executive Office of the President of the United States received 38,000 SAVE Award responses in just three weeks. This year, the SAVE Award project was expanded so Federal employees could not only submit ideas, but also vote them up or down as a community. IdeaScale is very proud to host the site, where over 145,000 votes have been cast already and ideas will continue to be shared until the deadline on Sunday, July 29th. The winner of the SAVE Award, announced in September, will be the individual who proposes the most valuable idea. But… in greater scheme of things, we’re all winners when our government runs more efficiently.

    More info:

  • The President’s SAVE Award community on IdeaScale
  • The official White House website for the SAVE Award
  • Last year’s SAVE ideas in action
  • Criag Newmark’s HuffPo post about the SAVE Award