Category Archives: IdeaScale

IdeaScale and the NYPD

nypdIn early April, IdeaScale added another organization to its storied ranks: the New York Police Department.

In an article in The New York Times, the NYPD shared their plans to start a pilot program of IdeaScale as an avenue of citizens sharing concerns. The plan is to implement the program in a few neighborhoods in the 109th Precinct in Queens, using the platform specifically for reporting on quality of life issues, at least at the beginning.

The NYPD has successfully built campaigns aimed at connecting with the citizens of New York, specifically via social media. IdeaScale enhances the possibilities further, because it is highly interactive and dynamic. Not only can citizens recommend quality of life improvements around their neighborhoods, they will also be able to vote and collaborate with their neighbors, working together with police as well to present ideas innovate.

Further, it provides folks the opportunity to participate in an easy, low-impact way: they can contribute without having to leave home, which ultimately means they will be more likely to participate.

Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti of the NYPD, in response to concerns that IdeaScale may just be used to reinforce police priorities, said that was not the intention. The NYPD plans to utilize the platform not only responsively, but also by presenting questions about specific topics for feedback from the population.

The introduction of IdeaScale to these communities began on April 8. We look forward to observing how the NYPD’s use of IdeaScale will grow and develop, as well as how they will choose to moderate and interact with the citizens who utilize the platform.

What do you think about the NYPD’s use of IdeaScale?

Finding the Ideas: Where Great Ideas Come From


Image Courtesy of Shutterstock


Our culture places a very high value on creativity. We give TED Talks about it, write books about it, and generally spend a lot of time contemplating it. But despite all this talk, it remains stubbornly elusive. There’s no two ways about it: it’s hard to be creative. It just might be one of the hardest things people try to do.

Creative thinking is affected by your entire being: how you slept last night, what you ate today, what you read before you went to sleep last night—the list goes on. But it turns out that a lot of creativity has to do with your working environment. Where you work affects how you think, and there are many studies to prove it.



Hotels are a great sort of limbo between real life and fantasy. The setting is dingily cinematic, familiar and alien all at once. It seems like strange things could easily have happened in this room, maybe even quite recently. Likewise, all you have in the way of entertainment is pay-per-view TV, so they can become incubators for ideas.

Think about it: you’re alone in an unfamiliar city. What a perfect time to get some real thinking done! Sure, you could spring for the wifi and just connect to the world like you always do, but maybe stay off the grid for a night, and see what your mind cooks up while the internet’s out.

And, research shows you’ll be in good company. The famous author Maya Angelou is said to always have booked hotel rooms to do her writing, finding them to be perfect for removing distractions and focusing on the task at hand. In her words: “I go into the room and I feel as if all my beliefs are suspended. Nothing holds me to anything.”



Image Courtesy of Shutterstock


Trains and planes

Sometimes it can be hard to take the time to get creative because you feel like you should be spending time working on something more immediately rewarding. But time spent traveling is essentially dead time: you have to spend that time moving, and there’s a limit to the amount of other work you can get finished on your way.

But, taken another way, these cramped spaces are perfect little workshops. They’re slightly uncomfortable, so they naturally encourage you to be introspective. The scenery flows by serenely yet quickly, changing, but staying static at the same time. You’re free to let your eyes glaze over as you look through the window and get that thought just right before you put it down on paper.

There’s a lot of evidence that many writers found trains to be excellent sources of creativity and great places to write. Amtrak even offers a writer’s residency, where they say writers can do their work in “unique workspace of a long-distance train.”


In public

Next time you need to make that breakthrough, grab a notebook and head out for a coffee. Take the coffee to somewhere nice and busy, like a central square (or even stay at the cafe if it seems to be a lively place). Sit somewhere a bit further back, where you can see a wide angle of all the action. And just watch. Try to figure out what’s happening with each of these people you can see, their fears, motivations, dreams, and desires. Imagine what it’s like to be them.

This can be a great way to remove yourself from your own context and really inspire some creativity, and better yet—it’s supported by science. A recent study showed that the background noise of a cafe is the perfect balance between loud and quiet, and it allows us to focus without becoming lost in our own minds. Not at a coffee shop? Try Coffitivity, a website that plays coffeeshop background noise so you can focus wherever you are.


A library or bookstore

Sometimes, the most important creation is just brute-forced out of your brain. Sometimes you have to sit and just work at something for hours on end, squeezing every tiny step out of your mind like a damp rag. These are the tough ideas, and they take dedication.

It’s also, unsurprisingly, the perfect place to read, and many studies have shown reading to be essential for stimulating creativity. The library or a bookstore is the perfect place to sit in silence with absolutely no distraction and turn your unbroken focus to the task at hand.


The Automation of Creativity

Not only are people looking for ways to think creatively, but they are looking to remove the burden by letting lines of computer code put the pieces together. Things like business name generators, online logo makers, and copywriting computers are becoming increasingly popular as businesses pursue every avenue to cut costs and save time. Although there is an argument that these tools are the death of creativity, you cannot deny that automation like this requires an immense amount of creativity to design and develop.




Nick RojasNick Rojas is a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles. He has consulted small and medium-sized enterprises for over twenty years. He has  contributed articles to, Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas, or you can reach him at

How Mageneti Marelli Used Open Innovation to Find the Competitive Edge

magneti marelliWhat can happen when you invite open, global innovation into your organization? International company Magneti Marelli found out when they partnered with Open Knowledge to create their Laptime Club.

Magneti Marelli was founded in Italy in 1919. It is committed to the design and production of hi-tech systems and components for the automotive industry.  As an organization, the group’s presence stretches across 19 countries, and is a supplier for the most important car makers in Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

Structured to be a community for motorsport engineers and experts, but also for technology and electronics enthusiasts, the Laptime Club was designed specifically to stimulate creativity and innovation in racing. It was open to the entire global community, and 85% of the ideas that Magneti Marelli ended up receiving were from sources external to their company.

As a result of the group’s large-scale invitation, they received nearly 100 ideas across 6 months of innovation. From these, twenty ideas rose to the surface as idea finalists, and then were further winnowed to two winning ideas to be considered for development.

Two of the most powerful strategies that Magneti Marelli used during the innovation period were their social media outreach and their regular innovation team meetings. The group used the entire digital toolkit in order to promote the innovation community, including blogging, email announcements, and campaigns on social media platforms like Facebook and Google. This allowed them to do the absolute most digital promotion possible. Magneti Marelli also utilized regular innovation team meetings, gathering once a month to look at and respond to new ideas, including reaching out to idea authors for more details about their ideas. Imagine how encouraging it would be as an idea author to not have to wait until the end of the six-month to hear anything about your idea. It likely made idea authors more apt to want to contribute in the future, even if their first ideas were not implemented.

Read more about Magneti Marelli and the Laptime Club in this recent case study.

Help NASA Save the World from Asteroids

nasaOne of the many awesome things to come out of South by Southwest a couple of weeks ago was NASA’s release of a new app, Asteroid Data Tracker, which allows the average citizen to crowdsource the presence of asteroids. Well, the average citizen with a telescope and the asteroid tracker desktop software.

The app and software were created during a crowdsourced competition produced by NASA and asteroid mining company Planetary Resources, the goal of which was to surface a better asteroid tracking algorithm. With this new software, users will be able to take images from their telescopes and use the algorithm to determine whether or not the bodies present in those images are asteroids.

According to NASA, this new algorithm is able to identify asteroids with a 15 percent higher rate than previous algorithms. The reported asteroids that are surfaced by common folks are useful for both NASA and Planetary Resources. NASA tries to keep an eye on all near-earth asteroids, hopefully to avoid any Armageddon-type situations, as well as considering candidates for potential asteroid missions. Their partner, Planetary Resources, would be interested in that as well, since it’s much easier to mine an asteroid if you can get to it.

Click here for more information about Asteroid Data Tracker, and to download.

What other kind of agencies might benefit from engaging in crowdsourcing of this nature?

What’s an Employee’s Role in Innovation?

employee role in innovationLet’s say you are an employer who is looking to encourage innovation of ideas among your employees. What would you imagine would be the result of rejecting some employee ideas?

Well, probably not what you might think. Recent research has shown that when an employee’s idea is rejected by their organization, it actually can drive innovation by motivating them to come back with new ideas.

Although this outcome is the result of a delicate balance; after all, nobody is going to be interested in trying something again at which they’ve not been successful if they feel ridiculed or belittled for trying the first time. Perhaps the most important step is an overarching one: organizations should cultivate a climate that is inviting, safe, and positive for employee innovators. It’s important for employees to know that the result of their idea has no impact on their job, furthering the feeling of a safe environment. For more tactics on crafting an environment of innovation, read our recent white paper on the importance of employee innovation.

Once the right mood has been set for innovation, it will be much easier to encourage employees to participate in the sharing of ideas, even if their initial suggestions are not enacted. The research showed that those whose ideas were rejected tended to persist in an effort to determine the causes of their rejection. This is another place where the organization can step in and assist—examining with employees ideas which were successful, and how those employees might attain that level with their own ideas in the future. Helping to provide the proper support and motivation can make all the difference.

Along these lines, it’s important for organizations to think more about how they will reject ideas. It is essential to respond to ALL ideas. Nobody likes to live in that limbo of not knowing, so even if ideas are not pushed forward, it is best practice to inform everyone of the status of their ideas. It is also imperative to celebrate the effort that employees have made, even if their ideas are not enacted; employees are far more likely to try again if they feel that their first attempts are appreciated. For more tips on how to respond to ideas, watch our Creating a Culture of Innovation webinar.

What are other strategies you can think of to encourage your employees to continue innovating, even if their ideas are not initially accepted for enactment?

Feature: AQHA Community

aqhaEveryone loves horses, especially the American Quarter Horse Association. The Association, or AQHA, is the world’s largest equine breed registry and membership organization. Located in Amarillo, Texas, AQHA operates for the benefit of members around the world. Members enjoy, among other things: America’s Horse Magazine, participation in competitions, horseback riding programs, corporate partner savings, and record keeping of horses.

Members have always been able to submit ideas for improvement at the organization’s website.  But about six months ago, AQHA upgraded their idea submissions by opening an IdeaScale community. This has been the first opportunity for the crowdsourcing and improvement of ideas.

Submitted ideas are categorized into three campaigns: AQHA Membership, Story Ideas (ideas for stories to be included in AQHA publications), and Horse Showing.

One of the most impactful decisions that AQHA has made with relation to their community is to have active moderation. (The decision about level of participation for moderators is one that each community should consider based on their particular needs; while it works for AQHA, it may not be the best choice for all organizations.)

AQHA administrators categorize ideas in the three campaigns further: recent, popular, active, in review, in progress, completed, requires rule change proposal form, and ended. Many of these designations have a colored tab in the upper right corner of the idea to indicate their status at a glance. AQHA moderators also address “ideas” that are more appropriately labeled “questions,” route members to information about ideas they have submitted that are already AQHA features, inform submitters if a rule change proposal form is needed for a particular idea, and respond to ideas with status updates including when ideas are going to be discussed at the annual AQHA Convention.

This moderator participation has served the community well, allowing for streamlined communication between community members and administrators, while also emphasizing communication among community members. For example, the community can focus its time and energy on other ideas if the implementation of one idea is as easy as a rule change proposal form. On the other hand, if an idea is going to be discussed at the annual Convention, it allows for community members to provide their input and elaborations prior to that point.

Which moderation style works best for you and your community?

Click here to explore the AQHA community, or to submit your own ideas if you are an AQHA member.

Best 2015 SXSW Sessions

sxswThis Friday begins SXSW 2015 in Austin. The annual festival—which includes a focus on music, film, and interactive technologies—was designed as an opportunity for creative people and the companies they work with to meet and share ideas. That continues to be the goal today, and more and more, SXSW Interactive sessions specifically highlight innovation and crowdsourcing.

As these are two of IdeaScale’s favorite things, here are five suggestions for sessions to check out if you are attending SXSW:

1. City 2.0: Why Local Government Bets on Civic Innovation
This session explores the usefulness of civic innovation (a.k.a. utilizing citizen ideas to tackle real urban problems). We love this idea, as we have many local governments doing exactly this with our platform!

2. Innovation Through Impact Filmmaking
Exploring the connection between filmmaking and the growing ability for international communities to be connected to causes that drive impact, this session features Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Kweku Mandela.

3. NASA Prizes: Dream It, Make It, Win It
Representatives of the NASA Prizes and Challenges Program will share how some of their best ideas come from “citizen inventors” and how you can get involved, get innovating, and win prizes!

4. Innovating Diversity and Inclusion in Tech
Presented by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, this session explores and expands on how innovation is served by emphasizing diversity and inclusion in tech fields.

5. Innovation Around the World
This is not one particular session, but rather a noticeable trend during the festival. From Turkey to L.A., from Sweden to Ecuador, if you want to hear about how a certain country or global area is innovating, you can find it here.

Of course, in addition to these great sessions, you won’t want to miss our session on the Global Innovation Competition and best practices for hosting global competitions on Tuesday, March 17 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Click here for more information about that session.

Best Innovation Hour

innovationhourInnovation can happen at any time of day. At any moment, inspiration may strike.

We at IdeaScale have found that the greatest number of new ideas are submitted around 11 a.m. PST, a.k.a. the Innovation Hour. In considering why this might be the best hour for innovation, we surfaced a few possibilities.

To begin with, many IdeaScale users operate in the Pacific Time zone because Silicon Valley is in the Pacific Time zone and as a whole, companies in Silicon Valley make a point of embracing and fostering open innovation; thus, folks working for those companies who would be engaged in innovating are able and supported to participate in that way during their work hours, and we are more likely to see them sharing new ideas during Innovation Hour.

Beyond that, for both Pacific and Eastern Time zones—the latter for which the local time would be 2 p.m. during Innovation Hour—it is a common time to break up the bigger tasks of a work day with smaller, less strenuous tasks. Like, for example, engaging in an innovation community. For West Coast people, 11 a.m. is generally about when the opening responsibilities of a day are taken care of, and a moment can be taken to contribute a new idea that has been ruminating. For East Coast people, 2 p.m. is an hour or two after lunch time, and allows for a great break from that after-lunch project. Knowing that these are great break times for both West and East Coasters, we can understand why there would be greater influx of ideas during those break times.

Along with that idea of a natural break in the work day, there is the fact that the best ideas don’t happen at work. Research shows that only 3% of ideas occur to people during work hours; the other 97% arise during what might be considered “down” times for your brain: during showers, while working out, on vacation, or doing nothing. These breaks not only provide mini moments of brain down times to get some ideas percolating, but also allow a perfect chance to upload an idea surfaced during a previous down time.

Why do you think 11 a.m. PST is the Innovation Hour? What do you find to be your best time for new ideas?

Free New Feature Demonstration: IdeaScale Stages

2015-Stages-personasLast week we updated you on our new upcoming feature, IdeaScale Stages. Stages will allow for the further development of ideas beyond the ideation stage. As the name suggests, the feature presents three new stages that will help to see selected ideas through to their implementation: Build a Team, Refine, and Assess.

The stages will help to facilitate the construction of team members around a particular idea, allow for the introduction of improvements to already presented ideas, as well as documentation for those embellishments, and enable evaluation of the viability of the idea from all angles.

Don’t miss our demonstration of Stages, along with a Q&A following the demonstration, on Wednesday, February 25. Find more information and sign up for the free demo here.

SXSW 2015 Panel: Global Competitions that Change the World

sxsw panelLife these days can sometimes seem hopeless.  Turn on the news and you see negative story after negative story.

However, there is cause for hope. More and more, amidst all of the negativity, we see global citizens coming together to remind us all that the things which bring us together are larger than those which divide us.

Opportunities like the 2nd Annual Global Innovation Competition showcase ideas from those global citizens. The competition is an initiative operating in 8 African and 4 Asian countries specifically to support innovators and entrepreneurs in realizing projects that improve the relationship between citizens and governments.

Once submitted to the competition, ideas are voted upon by members of the communities where they will have an impact, with 75% of votes coming from the global south. and winnowed down to fifty big ideas which advance to the next stage.

The competition has even gone to special lengths to ensure inclusivity, including giving four ideas “wildcards” into the final 50 from countries that are enabled with less information and communications technology. You can read more about this year’s finalists here.

There are many lessons to be learned and best practices to glean from the experiences of the Global Innovation Competition for those who might be interested in hosting their own global competition aimed at changing the world. To that end, we will be discussing those best practices at our SXSW panel on Tuesday, March 17, and would love for you to join us. Click here for more information.