Closed innovation is a thing of the past. Scalable, open innovation as a business practice has yielded the most dramatic and successful results – and communication and connection with your audience is essential to success. By engaging through at least four of eight channels (website, email, social, public relations, partners, events, offline, and beyond), a robust communications process and schedule can yield valuable insights to help you innovate better.

Innovation teams require a variety of skills in order to be successful: creative thinking, analytical talent, stewardship, and deal-making. There’s an entire series of blog posts dedicated to the roles associated with innovation.

However, there’s also a new emerging skill within innovation teams: communications.

Communications is becoming a critical skill set, because closed innovation is a thing of the past and now scalable open innovation is the business practice yielding the most dramatic and successful results. However, engaging the crowd to give and refine and build on new ideas is not something that happens organically. People don’t just start sharing great ideas and those ideas don’t arrive fully-formed. Oftentimes you have to transform, revise, and gain additional input from even more people before the idea begins to show value.

Developing a communications means two main things: you need to have channels for communication and connection with your audience as well as meaningful messages that will resonate with that audience. IdeaScale starts by recommending that innovation use at least four of eight channels (website, email, social, public relations, partners, events, offline, and beyond), but after that it’s very much about trying to meet your own goals and share your own ideas.

The United States Department of Labor is a cabinet-level department of the U.S. federal government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, re- employment services, and more. One of the policy agencies within DOL is the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), which aims to develop and influence policies and practices that increase the number and quality of employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Hosted in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Youth Team and the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth), the YouthACT online dialogue provided a four-day period, from May 19 through May 22, 2016, for youth and young adults with disabilities to discuss an important topic: what they need in order to become successful adults. During the dialogue young adults with disabilities shared supports and strategies they find useful in their lives. Conversation topics included actions that people have taken that helped them achieve success and what things they think could further support them as they become successful adults. These insights and perspectives will help policymakers and people who work with youth to better understand what supports youth need to become successful adults.

But to make sure that they included a meaningful slate of participants who generated valuable ideas, the Department of Labor developed a comprehensive communications plan that outlined their entire continuous series of communications through multiple channels. You can read the full story here.

Hosted over a short, four-day period, 452 participants contributed 74 ideas, 347 comments, and 609 votes. Additionally, the YouthACT program reported 760 unique visitors of which 95% completed registration and 27% of which were active registrants (submitted ideas, votes or comments). Visitors looked at more than 8 pages per visit and spent upwards of ten minutes on the site and almost 50% of all visitors returned to the site. That’s a great level of engagement on such a short, highly-specific campaign, but it speaks to the value of a robust communications process and schedule.

How are you developing communications skills on your innovation team?

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.