At IdeaScale, we define prolific innovators as organizations that have moved more than half of their ideas to the final stage. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every suggested idea became a value-generating, implemented reality. This means that the completed ideas had each been investigated, responded to, and a decision was made to move forward or not. But of course, at least a portion of those completed ideas generate measurable constructive outcomes.

Western Australia Police is an organization that meets this criteria. Their community has demonstrated ongoing activity over the course of their program and more than half of those ideas have been launched or archived. Some of those ideas have proven to have considerable value including more than 50,000 productivity hours saved annually, numerous efficiencies, and at least $2 Million saved. You can read more about their story here.

But Western Australia Police is not unique in its success (certainly there are numerous organizations from both the public and private sector that administer successful innovation programs), but what IdeaScale found is that it’s also not unique in its process.

In an analysis of the top 15% of IdeaScale communities, we identified seven discrete stages of the innovation process that our customers use to refine raw ideas into shovel-ready projects. We also found that the crowd could be invited to participate in each of those stages or that a defined small group of subject matter experts could complete those activities, as well.

Some ideas qualified as “just do it” ideas that were implemented rapidly with very little planning.

The seven stages that IdeaScale identified were:

  1. Ideation: the gathering of promising ideas at various stages of readiness
  2. Build Team: assembling members who will help research and build the idea and potentially implement it, as well
  3. Refine: additional investigation and information is conducted to augment the idea into a more finished proposal
  4. Estimate: potential costs and values of the proposal are assigned
  5. Review: the idea is rated across pre-defined criteria against business objectives and prioritized against other ideas
  6. Fund: the most valuable ideas seek a budget for implementation
  7. Deliver: the leading ideas are launched and the results are tracked

The stages didn’t always occur in this order (although this was the most common orientation) and they didn’t always include every stage (although almost all of them had at least five stages).

And not every idea needed to go through every stage. Some ideas qualified as “just do it” ideas that were implemented rapidly with very little planning (moving a company to paperless billing, for example). But some ideas required multiple rounds of evaluation and investigation. But in every case, the top-performing companies were able to find some ideas that delivered measurable results.

If you’d like to learn more about the seven stages of innovation and why each one is important, you can download our infographic on the subject.

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

Photo: Processing System Concept from