Developing Breakaway Competitive Advantage via Social Innovation Platforms (SIPs)

Part Three (of 3) – Leveraging Social Innovation Platforms (SIPs – a.k.a. innovation management, social suggestion boxes or crowd sourcing applications) to transform your company into an innovation leader

In my previous two blogs I covered the first two of three mega-trends that are hitting the social media marketplace for large Fortune level organizations.  In the first blog, I addressed how the use of enterprise social monitoring and intelligence platforms are helping companies leverage key insights from an array of market activity and major trends including competitor activity & weaknesses, key opinion leader sentiment/needs, regulator trends and concerns, political leader and influencer sentiment, public opinion and key public concerns.  In my last blog (2 of 3 in the series), I covered how Enterprise Collaboration Platforms are changing how teams communicate and interact in order to boost corporate productivity.

This third blog in the series is dedicated to a social media trend hitting corporate America that focuses on Social Innovation Platforms (SIPs). This trend has the ability to transform companies into a leader in innovation, enabling them to leapfrog their competition in much the same way Google and Apple have out-innovated many of their competitors. A full 83% percent of respondents in this year’s Bloomberg/Business Week/Boston Consulting Group (BCG) annual survey of top executives said innovation will be a key part of their strategy to benefit from the economic recovery¹. While companies might hire innovators, in order for them to be successful there needs to be a very robust methodology, culture, and process that support these executive innovators.   This blog is focused on a new category of tools that are designed to achieve this culture of innovation.  In the same format as my previous two blogs, I will cover this subject as follows:

A) What is a SIP or Social Innovation Platform (a.k.a. social suggestion box)
B) What are the benefits from using an SIP
C) What are the hottest tools/applications in the marketplace
D) How do you implement this SIP capability

A) What is a Social Innovation Platform (SIP) or Social Suggestion Box?

An SIP is a social media application that allows the sourcing of innovative ideas, content, suggestions and inventions from an array of sources including internal company departments and employees (internal innovation/idea sourcing) and from external stakeholders, customers and experts (external innovation, content, or idea sourcing).  Think of a company suggestion box on steroids and on the global web – that is what a SIP is. Has your company had your SIP of hyper-innovation, thus allowing you to utterly leapfrog your competition? If not, the rest of this blog is a MUST READ for you!

These platforms are designed to increase intra-corporate idea & innovation collaboration, decrease time to market, and to enhance overall corporate productivity. There are two types of Social Innovation Platforms – internal and external. The platforms that source ideas and insights from the general public  are typically called crowd sourcing solutions, but can also be called idea sourcing, idea & insights cultivation, etc.  A SIP can radically change your corporate culture to be more innovative, change oriented, enable out-of-the box thinking and greatly enhance your ability to create great content/ideas/insights/innovative products/services, patents, etc.
The following illustrates the key features and capabilities of a best-of-breed SIP platform:

Social Innovation Platform (SIP) Key Features:

1) Internal & External Idea Sourcing Web Portal
2) Idea & Innovation Content Management with full innovation library taxonomy
3) Online Innovation Community Creation – both internal and external
4) Collaboration on ideas in order to rank, improve, and evolve sourced content and ideas
5) Idea rating, scorecarding, ranking – makes creating and managing ideas easy by enabling the simple management of ‘evaluation teams’ by offering functionality like simple to use workflows, multiple round scorecarding, and idea insight sharing
6) Manages and merges ideas into business proposals & business cases
7) Social project management  to manage and track idea borne projects while monitoring and reporting on the financial value/impact of the overall innovation pipeline

B) What are the benefits – Why are companies, organizations and government agencies adopting social innovation platforms capabilities?

The following list represents just a few of the benefits of implementing an SIP or social suggestion box:

1) Accelerates the participation of Stakeholder and Customers in your Innovation Process – Allows you to Inform your customers about your challenges, encourages them submit, discuss and evaluate great ideas, with ratings and incentives for the top contributions

2) Enables the sourcing of high-impact and game changing business concepts, ideas, suggestions, and product enhancements – from both internal and external sources

3) Boosts the number and quality of incremental ideas – enabling for the development of a culture of innovation within your company or organization

4) Facilitates the process of researching or getting a patent on your sourced ideas by systemically managing and elevating only those ideas that are commercially viable

5) Optimizes the process to systematically manage the flow of business proposals – this can be from ideas sourced internally or from start-up companies and partners

6) Improves ROI on R&D spend by enabling business process environment to create, manage and vet ideas and innovations

7) Motivates key contributors – Motivates your employees by providing a transparent and easy way to handle idea management. Employees feel empowered to submit ideas and innovations in this highly transparent environment.

‘8) Empowers Teams and Departments – Encourages team empowerment and contributions and inter-departmental cooperation on ideas, innovations, patents, etc.

9) Delivers increased Control over Intellectual Property and Digital Assets – Single/integrated environment for innovation, idea and idea proposal/business case management

10) Increases the appetite for increased intra-organizational change and the appetite for innovation and entrepreneurialism. Complimentary to this is the need to support the implementation of an SIP with a heavy dose of change management as this implementation represents a paradigm shift in the organization’s appetite and acceptance of change (pace of, rewards for, change agent & innovator recognition, etc. )

11) The overall goal of the increased innovation derived from these SIP is to decrease the time to market with products and services that have increased market relevance and can leapfrog the competition in terms of market demand. 

C) What are the hottest tools/applications on the SIP or Intra-Social Application market?

Almost all SIPs are relatively new to the marketplace and few have been deployed to several Fortune-500 level companies.

Leading SIP Software Vendor & Tools – Includes Idea Management and Crowd Sourcing Applications

1) Brightidea Innovation Suite. Included in this solution are the Brightidea’s WebStorm, Switchboard and Pipeline modules. The Suite combines enhanced idea collection functionality in WebStorm and proposal management and development in Switchboard and social idea/innovation management in Pipeline. Leading multi-national companies including Cisco, Wyeth, American Express, Kraft, Sony, Bayer, British Telecom, etc,  use Brightidea software to execute targeted internal campaigns to solicit ideas and feedback from employees on everything from new product development to cost saving and process improvement ideas. Cross-functional and inter-departmental brainstorming is possible through a software platform that is similar in nature to Facebook and enables companies to monitor the process of innovation and socialization from concept to monetization. Brightidea software not only concentrates on the front end of idea collection/prioritization that creates an idea repository & management environment for ideas across organization and departments, but also offers a systematic, streamlined way to turn ideas into actionable & ROI driven business proposals. These proposals can then be prioritized within the organization that facilitates ‘best idea maturation’ and delivers on what matters most, measurable business ROI and results. Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Well established company with over 10 years of experience
b. Constantly innovating and improving their platform and solutions
c. Many top tier clients have implemented their solution

2) Chaordix Chaordix is a crowdsourcing solution that began in 2006 and began as a crowdsourcing community to discover new business and technology ideas. It attracted 55,000+ members and several thousands of ideas from the crowd.  The Chaordix crowdsourcing platform is a proven, flexible engine to tap communities for vital business insights to innovate, improve operations, and reduce the risks of competing in the marketplace. Chaordix software makes it simple to seek, manage and analyze input from a crowd. What sets the Chaordix technology apart is its proven scalability to handle large crowds, ability to mitigate bias in voting and crowd behavior, and social networking sophistication that helps to engage both similar and disparate crowds. Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Well established company with over 10 years of experience
b. Very scalable and flexible platform – able to scale to large & complex crowdsourcing requirements
c. Leadership team provide deep thought leadership in innovation management

3) Cognistreamer. CogniStreamer® is an idea management software solution.  CogniStreamer® Innovation Portal is an open innovation and collaboration platform where internal colleagues and external stakeholders align to create, enrich and assess innovative ideas within strategically selected ‘category’ topics. Their downstream analysis, ability to direct conversations within the platform and integration with e-mail and other outside systems is reportedly best-in-class. The CogniStreamer® portal module is an ideal collaborative and management platform that invites users to actively build a strong idea & innovation pipeline. In addition, it provides a powerful resource for internal and external knowledge collaboration and sharing. The CogniStreamer® framework module is used by companies that include Atlas Copco, Bekaert, Case New Holland, Cytec, Imec, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp.  Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Very capable senior leadership team w/10+ years of experience
b. Smooth graphical look and feel
c. Leading methods and approaches on cultivating innovation

4) Hype Software – HypeIMT.  HypeIMT is a leading software solution for idea and innovation management supporting the entire new product development process from idea development to the commercialization of a new product. This product also offers a systematic process for capturing, rating, comparing, and selecting ideas to ensure only the most viable ideas receive project funding. Flexible and customizable, HypeIMT allows companies to custom design the innovation management process, in order that it will support an array of very specific product development strategies. Several of the Global Fortune 500 companies, including General Electric and Procter & Gamble, are already utilizing HypeIMT to manage their Innovation process.  Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Well established company with over 10 years of experience
b. Well established customer base
c. Privately held German company, but profitable since inception

5) IdeaScale  IdeaScale is another leading crowdsourcing solution and enables ways for companies to solicit ideas and allow customers to rate, discuss, and brainstorm ideas for the company.  The process commences with ideas being posted within the IdeaScale community. Every idea submitted can be expanded via comments and additional insights from each of the participants of the community. Through a voting system, the ultimate value of an idea is determined by participating voters, while also allowing people to share their opinions and insights as to why the idea, in their opinion, will or won’t be successful. Via this voting system, any idea can be voted to the top of list or de-valued down to the bottom of the list of ideas. Companies using IdeaScale include Subaru, Choice Hotels, Wired Magazine, Boy Scouts, Reuters and Fiserv Risk and Compliance Solutions.  Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Relatively inexpensive solution – can be used by smaller businesses
b. Mobile application allows submitting of ideas ‘on-the-go’
c. IdeaScale made Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest-growing private companies.

6) Imaginatik –  A core component of Imaginatik’s solution is an module called Idea Central. Idea Central is a web-based application designed to help organizations maximize the benefits from the creativity, expertise, insights and ideas of employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders and even third parties. Imaginatik’s solution also includes a idea portfolio monitoring function for Idea Central, a module that can be customized to provide project leaders, managers and ‘idea participants’ the ability to track ideas as they mature from raw idea to potential commercialization candidate. Portfolio Monitor offers community users visibility into current and past ‘idea projects’, allowing stakeholders to track the progress of their ideas. Portfolio Monitor also allows the conversion of ideas from Idea Central into other project management tools in order to facilitate the seamless flow for transitioning ideas that escalate into full commercialization projects. Imaginatik has provided Innovation and idea management solutions to companies such as The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, Boeing, Pfizer, Xerox, World Bank, Goodyear and Cargill. Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Well established company with over 10 years of experience
b. Strong consulting background with an proven ability to help clients become more innovative (i.e. help clients capture ROI from the solution)
c. Many best practices has been derived from experience on large international clients

7) Spigit –   Spigit is a leading provider of collective idea management software, connecting employees, customers, business partners and other 3rd parties for collaborative innovation development. Spigit is used by several of the Fortune 500 companies as a means of combining crowdsourcing and social networking to source ideas, rate and mature ideas with the highest potential, and then promote only the best ideas to implement and commercialize. A very innovative aspect of the solution, Spigit also includes a literal idea marketplace whereby company employees can buy and sell shares of ideas. Spigit customers include AT&T, Lloyds Bank, Allstate, New York City and over 100 other companies. External recommendations for Spigit include CIO Magazine’s list of 20 companies to watch in 2011 and JMP Securities hot 100 private companies for 2011. Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Recent to the market but with slightly more innovative approach to idea management
b. Very strong list of top-tier clients
c. They have strong financial support ensuring they will likely to continue to be a main contender over the next several years

Niche & Specialty SIP Software Vendor & Tools (Sample)

The companies below are considered niche players in the SIP market in that they source very specific innovations and content from vendors, customers and stakeholders.

1) Brand Tags Brand Tags is an interesting concept in that it solicits people via the internet to tag associated words that come to their mind when they think of a particular brand/product/service. Responses are then compiled into ‘tag clouds’ displays that reports back which words are thought of most often. To date, Brand Tags thousands of companies have participated in this ‘brand tagging’ and there are now ~2 million tags on their website.

2) CrowdSpring CrowdSpring assembles and leverages a large community of creative designers to provide an effective, easy and relatively inexpensive logo and custom graphics design service for smaller businesses and organizations. Persons can post design projects or copywriting projects, specify the price range they are willing to pay and then choose from a wide range of concepts/ideas/designs submitted from the CrowdSpring design community around the world. On average, there are more than one hundred submissions per project. The price paid for crowd designed logos or taglines start from around $200 USD.

3) CustomAdart CustomAdart asks a crowd of creative professionals to develop your perfect image at the price range you set. This concept is allowing companies to migrate away from the traditional stock photography model by allowing advertisers to post specifications for very custom and specific shots and then getting community members to submit their best images/graphics/photos to satisfy the desired specifications.

4) Fellowforce was founded to connect organizations to an array of high quality ideas, innovation and solutions. aims to open up organizations to outside participation from experts, consumers, and other interested parties to generate powerful new innovations and solutions via networked innovation via collaboration. enables open innovation, idea generation and problem solving to a multitude of organizations worldwide. This is the first open platform that covers a very diverse set of business areas such as business & strategy, human resources, marketing, sales, customer service, innovation process management, design, engineering, IT, and supply chain.

5) InnoCentive  InnoCentive is based on a straightforward concept in that, if a company is unable to solve a problem on its own, why not use the power of the Internet to see if other Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can solve the problem? This concept has resulted in the establishment of the world’s first open innovation marketplace with a global network of ~200,000 ‘problem solvers’. In this network, you can find engineers, scientists, inventors, and business people with expertise in life sciences, physics, engineering, biology, chemistry, math, marketing, human resources and computer science. Companies can post their challenges and problems on the InnoCentive website, and offer registered problem ‘solvers’ substantial financial awards for the best submitted solutions.  Problem solvers compete to win monetary prizes offered by various companies. Over 1,000 challenges have been posted thus far by nearly 200 firms, including large/global companies such as Procter & Gamble.

6) Philoptima, llc. Philoptima, llc.™ enables foundations, donors, and grant makers to describe a challenge to the idea community and to post cash prizes to incentivize ‘idea solvers’ to solve the issue put forth. This collaborative system facilitates participants coming together to collaborate and solve a wide variety of community and public interest related problems by connecting consultants, researchers, and subject matter experts that offer best-in-class solutions via a web-based open innovation community.

7) Poptent  Simply stated, Poptent enables crowdsourcing for advertisements.  Poptent is a relatively new start-up that solicits crowdsourced advertising ideas and content from an array of global creative talent. The company brings together a vibrant community of filmmakers, actors, comedians, graphic artists, animators and then connects them with companies who need their advertisement creative services. Companies and/or brands can post their requests for an advertisement or specific ad content, which is then developed and submitted by Poptent’s pool of global creative advertising talent – all via a robust web collaborative crowdsource application.

‘8) ThinkTank4  ThinkTank4 is a social collaboration & idea management platform that is used primarily by larger consulting companies. ThinkTank4 is a structured collaboration platform for professional services which enables content sharing, project collaboration and best practice/intellectual property management. ThinkTank aims to increase profitability by enabling consultants to deliver more client value via reduced cycle time and reduced manual effort.

D) How do you implement this capability – what are the steps and considerations on implementing this capability within your organization and company?

Social Media innovation platform (SIP) implementation success requires comprehensive visioning; with stepwise implementation, guided both by an innovation paradigm shift & culture change, roadmap and integrated project plan.
I have developed this capability for several Fortune 500 companies and the capability can be enabled via four (4) Major steps as follows (Summarized):

1) Step #1: Develop an innovation culture prior to implementing the SIP in order that the automated process will not be met with resistance. This includes the following:
a) Re-engineer performance metrics and employee KPIs to recognize and reward the most innovative within the company
b) Develop pre-automation innovation contests
c) Develop an innovation newsletter and intra-net site
d) Put forth innovation or idea generation challenges with substantial rewards and visibility from upper management to the top participants and winners
The bottom line here is that, if you don’t have an innovative company culture, implementation of a SIP will likely lead to shelf-ware and a system very few utilize to its full potential.

2) Step #2: Develop a SIP Implementation Strategy & Roadmap including the following:
a) SIP  Strategy/Vision, Objectives, Business Drivers, Critical Success Factors, Community/ Forum Listening Strategy, Key Metrics & Performance Plan, Organizational Plan, Change Management Plan, Communications & Risk Management Plan, monitoring policies, governance plan
b) Put together an implementation roadmap and a centralized PMO to manage the implementation of the roadmap/SIP vision
c) Form your SIP strategy & vision with key stakeholders

3) Step #3: Social Media Technology Platform Evaluation & Selection
a) Identify potential SIP platform & community management vendors
b) Develop Needed SIP Requirements and Capabilities
c) Perform Technology Platform Vendor Selection
d) Onboard Vendor
e) Build a techno-functional architecture to support the roadmap

4) Step #4: Develop SIP Program Pilots & Deployment Plan
a) Develop Pilot Project & Deployment Plan
b) Develop SIP management processes that provide organizational confidence and exercise process excellence transparency to solidify user/stakeholder buy-in and acceptance.
c) Develop Technology Pilots
d) Develop  Program Pilots
e) Invest in Organizational change management to instill solid user/stakeholder adoption
f) Develop Organization & Process Pilots
g) Deploy Pilots and Programs including
1.  Center of Excellence Deployment
2.  Multi-Channel Integration
3.  Policies/Processes
4.  Roles, Rules, Responsibilities
5.  Change Management, Change Management, Change Management

That last bullet point is not a typo as I would honestly say that the #1 key to success in implementing this type of software is an extremely capable change management program. This type of software requires a behavior change on the part of your employees and management and it won’t come easily.   I can say this with confidence – If you are not considering a heavy dose of change management as part of this implementation, your implementation is most likely going to fail!

In summary, SIPs are gaining a great deal of Momentum.  Many Fortune 500 companies are either planning to implement this enterprise capability or already have.  Is your organization planning on implementing this potentially game-changing capability? If so, give me a call at 518-339-5857, as  I call help you achieve world-class programs that enable you to surpass your competition and bring your organization or agency to the next level of innovation.


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