Some Tips on Innovating with Kindling

Companies often come to us looking to solve a particular challenge in their organization or for help with their innovation program as a whole. We enjoy working with them, and they find that Kindling provides a structured approach toward innovation and problem solving, while integrating throughout their organization, increasing communication, and reducing organizational barriers. We’d like to offer some ways in which Kindling can help with innovation in your organization.

1. Find out what your company can be doing better
Ask your employees where they see room to improve. What are the biggest inefficiencies in your company? Where is there room to cut costs? Everyone in your organization has ideas—listen to them.

2. Organize conversations around ideas
Eliminate the email CC problem. Not on an email chain? Getting too many emails? Include all participants from the beginning and reduce the risk of missing someone who might have shared a game changing idea.

How We Used Kindling at AfterCollege to Engage Everyone in Idea Generation

It’s easy to talk about idea management. It’s much harder to do it in practice. Including everyone in idea generation, in a way that is productive, takes effort. Collecting feedback on each idea can be tedious. But we know involving everyone in idea evaluation leads to better outcomes.

If implemented thoughtfully, you can remove a lot of the barriers, and reap the benefits. Let’s take an in-depth look at how we did both at my last company.

Engaging Everyone in Idea Generation
Within my first month of starting at AfterCollege, I knew I wanted to roll out an idea management solution. Our team was engaged. They cared a lot about the work that we were doing and I wanted to make sure that everyone had an opportunity to be heard.

Want a Fresh Start in Innovation? Ask. Cultivate. Value. Reward.

Ah, January, the beginning of the New Year. The holidays are over, everything that happened in 2013 is the past, and we’re already almost into the second month of the year. Now is a time of reflection, new beginnings, and looking onward. A magical time of year for businesses as they now start anew.

While some may not see this similarity, for me, the New Year is like Spring Training in baseball. Everyone looks at the upcoming year with high aspirations and lofty goals for how they will perform. The signings during the offseason, the conditioning they did to prepare, and everyone coming back 100% healthy can invigorate a fresh outlook. For businesses, the start of the New Year is similar in that it comes with aspirations for high performance in the upcoming year, how they will grow, and how they will succeed in their market.

The challenge for both is execution.

What learnings from the past year will they try to use so they are not inhibited by the same types of roadblocks? For businesses, this is an opportunity to examine their innovation efforts and how to do better in 2014. Below are a few quick tips on how to make your innovation efforts even better in 2014.

1. Ask Your Teams How to Improve
In the latter end of last year and first couple of weeks in January, you probably spent a good portion of time reviewing 2013 performance and what 2014 should look like. The reality is that while many of the things you had set out for in the beginning of last year may have been achieved, there are probably a number of areas that did not do so well and need attention this upcoming year. Added reality, your business and/or the market may have changed, which also might be impacting how to focus your efforts for the upcoming year. While there will always be primary goals and metrics, i.e. profit, market growth, customer retention, etc., there are so many other factors that will contribute to your success.

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Categorized as Innovation

Keep Employees Engaged in Innovation with Responsive Design

We live in a multi-device world where we spend our time in front of a variety of digital screens: laptops, projectors, plasma televisions, CRT monitors, retina LCDs, Hi-DPI smartphones, tablets, phablets, and more.

Placeholder image of devices

Choosing which device to use depends on context: where you are, how much time you have, and what you want to accomplish. Great ideas, however, don’t care about context. And they won’t wait until you’re sitting in front of your office computer to materialize.

At Kindling we understand this, which is why we’ve built a responsive web application that enables you to capture, share, and collaborate on innovative ideas no matter where you are or what electronic device you have available. Supporting multiple contexts through responsive design means more participation from users, which means more collaboration amongst people, which means better ideas for your organization. Everybody wins!

Why Innovation Programs Fail

We write often on this blog about the actions that lead to long-term success with your innovation program, but this time we thought we’d share some of the common reasons we’ve seen that can contribute to failure.

Reason 1: Missing Feedback Loop
A lack of a feedback loop from decision-makers to participants is the most common contributor to the failure of an innovation program. Ensuring a feedback loop is therefore the best action you can take to sustain the program over months and years.

There’s a universal truth about people and their workday—they are tremendously busy. We see this consistently across all of our customers and prospects. And busy people full of ideas are willing to give a new innovation program a try. But then time passes. If decisions are not being made, and participants see that nobody is listening on the other end, people can sniff this out and determine that further participation is a waste of their time.

Busy people don’t have time to speak into the void, so they don’t. And as much as momentum drives participation on launch of the program, it can drag it down when there is no feedback loop from decision-makers.

The bottom line: if you’re going through the energy to launch an innovation program, follow through on the commitment you’re creating for your team and make sure to make decisions. No feedback loop means no sustainable innovation program.

Reason 2: Incompatible Culture
Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz around building a culture of innovation. Why all the focus? Can culture really drive the likelihood of success with an innovation program?

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Categorized as Innovation

How Evaluating Ideas is Like Finding the Right Halloween Costume

It’s Halloween, the day anyone who likes a chance to get dressed up or an excuse to eat candy has been waiting for.

For many, finding and designing a Halloween costume for yourself or your children is daunting. There are several factors to consider: What’s your budget? Do you like wearing face paint? What will the weather be? How much time do you have to buy or construct your costume? Are you shooting for a best costume prize?

Finding the Right Halloween Costume
After many years of struggling to find the right costume, I’ve finally discovered the process for finding the perfect Halloween costume:

How a Startup Uses Innovation Technology (Wrapping Up)

In this Series, we’ve shown you how our Product, Marketing, Sales and Customer Services Teams use Kindling among themselves, within the company and with our key customers and partners.

Using our product has allowed us to better communicate with each other and with our customers, to solve problems as they arise and to find areas of the product that need improvement. Zooming up a bit, we’ve also learned several key lessons along the way. Some of these were hard-earned, and many apply to any start-up. We figured that sharing these would be a good way to wrap up the Series.

Lesson 1 — We Don’t Know Everything.
We’re smart, but we don’t know everything. By asking both our employees and our customers how we need to get better, we acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. With every idea submitted, regardless of its source, we are reminded of that very true fact. A start-up needs to be a listening and learning entity, because you’re trying to create something anew in an uncertain, often risky environment. Only by listening and quickly adapting can you navigate towards success.

Are you asking the right questions of your employees? Your customers are trying to talk to you, are you listening?

How A Startup Uses Innovation Technology (Part 3)

Kindling was born to address a need — a growing group of designers and technologists were finding it difficult to keep track of ideas and the discussions around these ideas. We were trying to address the problems that were emerging as we scaled the business . We didn’t have a way to centralize ideas, to manage the feedback from our customers, to communicate with our remote employees, or a non “gut” way of determining what development items should take priority over others. Email was failing us.

Kindling owes its success not just to selling our software, but also to using it. This post is an introspective on how we at Kindling use our own product (or dogfooding, in context of software). From Product Management to Development to Sales & Marketing, we all find benefits from being connected to the centre of our business — ideas.

Part 3: Customer Services
Part 1 of this series was an interview with our CEO and Product Lead on how he and the Kindling Product Team use Kindling to shape the product roadmap, and Part 2 was an interview with our Strategic Account Executive on how our Sales Team uses Kindling to add a market perspective to product discussions. Part 3 is an interview with our Director of Customer Services, on how the Customer Services Team uses Kindling to better address our customers’ needs.

How A Startup Uses Innovation Technology (Part 2)

Kindling was born to address a need — a growing group of designers and technologists were finding it difficult to keep track of ideas and the discussions around these ideas. We were trying to address the problems that were emerging as we scaled the business. We didn’t have a way to centralize ideas, to manage the feedback from our customers, to communicate with our remote employees, or a non “gut” way of determining what development items should take priority over others. Email was failing us (click here to learn more about a free program designed exclusively for Startups).

Kindling owes its success not just to selling our software, but also to using it. This post is an introspective on how we at Kindling use our own product (or dogfooding, in context of software). From Product Management to Development to Sales & Marketing, we all find benefits from being connected to the center of our business — ideas.

How a Startup Uses Innovation Technology (Part 1)

Kindling was born to address a need — a growing group of designers and technologists were finding it difficult to keep track of ideas and the discussions around these ideas. We were trying to address the problems that were emerging as we scaled the business. We didn’t have a way to centralize ideas, to manage the feedback from our customers, to communicate with our remote employees, or a non “gut” way of determining what development items should take priority over others. Email was failing us (click here to learn more about a free program designed exclusively for Start-ups).

Kindling owes its success not just to selling our software, but also to using it. This post is an introspective on how we at Kindling use our own product (or dogfooding, in context of software). From Product Management to Development to Sales & Marketing, we all find benefits from being connected to the centre of our business — ideas.

Part 1 – Product
The first part of this series is an interview with CEO and Product Lead focused on how he and the Kindling Product Team use Kindling to engage with employees, partners and customers to help shape the product roadmap.