Why Does the Government Need Innovation Now?


Innovation seems to be the buzzword these days when it comes to technology, business, policy, and everything in between. The Partnership for Public Service, Deloitte, and Hay Group  recently released their 2014 report on the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. The top ranked agencies, NASA, the State Department, and the Commerce Department have remained constant for the past two years. These agencies have also consistently ranked higher than their other government counterparts for innovation. Why are government agencies focused so heavily on innovation lately?

As the government is experiencing budget cuts, agencies need innovative ideas to create more efficient and improved services and ways of doing business. However, federal agencies often face a number of challenges other than limited budgets; lack of employee engagement, low levels of employee motivation, traditional policies, and an absence of new ideas all impede an agency’s ability to advance. Focusing efforts on innovation is an opportunity for agencies to address and overcome these challenges.

What are some other reasons governments are innovating?

•Attract more potential employees. Millennials look for workplaces that have reputations of innovation and creativity when looking for jobs

•Increase your employees’ satisfaction by rewarding innovative ideas

•Increase employee engagement with new projects and policies

Read more about government agencies that are working to implement innovation into their ways of doing business and how IdeaScale fostered a platform of ideas that ended up saving the government $42 million by 2014. What opportunities do these agencies have to further improve and to save the government more in the future?

Innovations in Measuring and Managing Drug Addiction Treatment

NIDA-blogThe National Institute on Drug Addiction has issued an exciting new challenge that breaks the boundaries between research specialties to improve the quality of drug addiction treatment. The Challenge, including the official rules and submission criteria, can be seen here: http://nida.ideascale.com/

Group and individual submitters are competing for part of a $100,000 prize pool. “Innovations in Measuring and Managing Drug Addiction Treatment Quality” will accept white papers describing solutions up until June 1, 2015 at nida.ideascale.com. Once registered, individuals can utilize the Forum section of the site to build teams that expand the breadth of their knowledge and research background.

The white paper should describe:

•  Novel quality measurement and management system.

•  How the concepts behind this novel system could be used to improve the quality of addiction treatment.

•  The research or other gaps that need to occur for these quality improvements to be established.

•  How these new measurement and management systems might be evaluated.

This challenge is open to anyone, including experts and researchers familiar with as well as those outside of the field of drug addiction treatment. The mission of this Challenge is to expand the knowledge and research that goes into quality measurement and management for addiction treatment. Through Open Innovation, NIDA seeks novel ways to evaluate the quality of treatment so as to improve the evaluation system.

Why to Buy an Open Innovation Platform

cirtixAre you considering utilizing an open innovation platform within your organization? Are you planning to build that platform yourself?

Well, you might want to reconsider whether the decision to build your platform is the best one for you. A recent IdeaScale case study focused on Citrix, a multinational software company, which has had a company mandate in place since 2001 to gather internal and external new ideas.

After outgrowing the previous model of feedback via email, Citrix decided it made the most sense to implement an open innovation platform. Like many other organizations, Citrix had it in mind to build and use their own platform. It makes sense, right? They’re already a software company, and they surely have all of the skills needed in order to create something of that nature.

However, Citrix quickly realized that their company-built platform was not as feasible as they imagined; most notably, the costs of maintaining the system were much higher than anticipated. But Citrix was in luck, because they found IdeaScale and never looked back.

In addition to the cost-considerations, there are five other big reasons that it might make more sense to buy—rather than build—your open innovation platform:

1. Less time to market implementation.
2. IdeaScale provides the experts for troubleshooting and maintenance.
3. Greater agility to customize, and less time to do so.
4. Increased ability to scale up or down as needed.
5. Higher probability of polished and aesthetic end product.

What more do you need to convince you? You can read more about Citrix and their experience with IdeaScale in this recent case study.

Citizen City Planning

citizen city planningHave you ever had an idea that would make the city you live in better? Chances are you have. Did you have the opportunity to share your idea with the decision makers of your city, and feel like you were heard? Chances are you haven’t, which is kind of strange given that citizen city planning is one of the most effective, useful, advantageous options for city planning.

In an IdeaScale study, three particular advantages to crowdsourced planning were surfaced: quicker changes, less risky changes, and appreciated improvements.

In December, we looked more in depth at a government agency that exemplified the two latter advantages. The Fairfax County Parks Authority recently entered a multiple-stage campaign to acquire ideas, evaluate, and enact improvements to the parks. This campaign will allow for the Parks Authority to be sure that changes are appreciated; after all, if the changes were suggested by citizens, those citizens are likely to appreciate them! Further, if citizens have the opportunity to examine the ideas put forth by the Parks Authority itself, those citizens are more prepared for the potential outcomes and are able to provide input along the way.

While the Fairfax County Parks Authority is moving slowly and steadily through the process, there are definitely instances where the “quicker changes” advantage applies. For example, the planning initiative in Huntsville, Alabama served to affirm some changes which were already in the pipeline, and could be accelerated as a result of confirmation from the population that the ideas were on the right track.

The big question is, seeing evidence of these positive outcomes, why would governments NOT crowdsource with their citizens to make community improvements?

To read more about the benefits of citizen city planning, including specific city examples, download Citizen City Planning: Collaborating with Citizens for a Better City.

Open Challenge: the National Institute on Drug Abuse is Innovating Addiction Treatment

NIDA-blogOpen Innovation is at its most powerful when used to discover new opportunities and new methods. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has set forth an open innovation Challenge to improve the quality of drug addiction treatment in this fashion. Offering a total prize pool of $100,000, NIDA calls on anyone, including researchers and experts, to present new systems and metrics for the measurement and management of drug addiction treatment quality.

Drug addiction is a disease that affects countless individuals in the United States and around the world. Innovative approaches that combine the latest science of addiction and its treatment with an understanding of how to motivate and manage quality improvement will enhance the treatment system’s ability to provide the best care possible.

Open Innovation is about breaking down barriers. That’s why NIDA is seeking participation not only from researchers in the field of drug addiction treatment, but also those with experience in other treatment fields and those specializing in quality measurement and management.

Submissions must outline a novel system for measuring and managing drug addiction treatment quality, identify the current state of research, and describe the research that would need to be done to fully realize their proposed system. Individuals are welcome to submit solutions, but NIDA encourages registrants to build a team and submit a group solution since the most complete solutions likely will draw upon knowledge from multiple fields. The Challenge, including the official rules and submission criteria, can be seen here: http://nida.ideascale.com/. Registrants can find collaborators and build diverse teams through the Forum page on the challenge site.

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 Visual.ly, Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas, or you can reach him at NickAndrewRojas@gmail.com.

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?