Companies that are looking to gain a competitive edge are also looking for the innovators among them. But what do innovators look like?

It turns out that there are a variety of skills that are valuable in an innovator and they go far beyond the creative, artistic types that we sometimes have in mind when we think of innovators. Some innovators are good setting the direction, some innovators are the ones that are adept at predicting what will matter in the future, some innovators are masters of creating a culture of sharing, failing, and succeeding.

Innovators can also be great mentors. Sometimes even if they haven’t come up with the initial germ of the idea, they are the ones that see the glimmer of its potential, the folks who find ways to catapult it to success. This is how Oak Ridge National Laboratory is positioning itself as an innovator.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is an American multi-program science and technology national laboratory. It is the largest science and energy national laboratory in the Department of Energy system and its programs focus on materials, neutron science, energy, high-performance computing, systems biology and national security.

In order to meet program objectives, ORNL launched JUMP. JUMP is an online crowdsourcing community launched in 2015. Its an online place where innovators, particularly small entrepreneurs, can present ideas for new technologies for energy-efficient buildings to private and public sector leaders in research and development.

But because the program emphasizes the need to reach out to and grow budding entrepreneurs, they’ve made mentorship a part of their process. After the best technological ideas have been identified and the winners announced, the idea author, Lab technical advisor, and industry partner collaborate to move the technology forward. This partnership is customized depending on the needs of the program and the technology, but it means that even inexperienced ideators can fulfill some of their dreams, because they acquire new skills as they participate in the innovation process.

For that reason, it’s important to find the mentors among you, those who help build and shape so that they can cultivate innovation that is magnified not just by the obviously great ideas, but the great ideas that may be.

To learn more about how JUMP is managing their crowdsourcing program, download the case study today.

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.

Featured image via Yayimages.