Every year, IdeaScale conducts an in-depth study of their customer trends in order to write an annual report, provide benchmarks to our clients (and ourselves), and better understand the marketplace. This data gathering and analysis takes up the better part of our first quarter and our report is generally published in March, but 2020 is a unique year for the crowdsourced innovation community (and indeed for everyone in the world).

We found that as we were preparing to release the original version of the report, that we were experiencing relevant and dramatic sea changes that would alter the nature of our recommendations for the rest of the year and potentially for many years to come. We decided to put another survey into the field, perform a meta-analysis of our communities and interview several innovators who were responding to the COVID-19 crisis in real-time and shared our final 2020 Crowdsourced Innovation report a month later.

Now, here at the beginning of 2021, we thought it might be interesting to share some of our early analysis of our early 2020 data so that we can learn from an unprecedented year and plan for this one. Here are three key takeaways from some IdeaScale data.

COVID Created an Opportunity for Innovation

The busiest month for new ideas was March – the average number of new ideas received each month is around 3,500. March blew that way out of the water, but one of the key reasons is because our predictable realities shifted so drastically on a global level in such a short amount of time. In fact, 35% of IdeaScale’s customers addressed challenges from the pandemic by asking the crowd for solutions. These campaigns looked for a variety of ideas: from healthcare innovation (like ventilators) to related pandemic issues (like remote work and more). We found that if the innovation team was not already involved in the COVID-adaptation strategy, that it was a missed opportunity. Innovation teams already have the skill set necessary to organize a large volume of ideas and deliver on those ideas in rapid fashion.

The Focus is Still on Ideation and Not on Later Stage Evaluation and Incubation Efforts

When looking at the stage templates used most often by IdeaScale customers, there is an enormous preference for three stages in particular: Ideate (gathering ideas), Refine (asking more specific questions about an idea) and Reserve (an end state for selected and unselected ideas). The stages used for evaluation, weighting different values, funding, and more are used far more rarely. We suspect that this is because organizations are still struggling with how to best experiment and scale good ideas, but also because after a certain amount of work and rigor, ideas end up following highly specific paths that don’t fit into the typical funnel.

People are Looking for Guidance on Finding the Perfect Process

The most popular resource downloaded in 2020 was our infographic on proven innovation workflows. We expect that people would prefer to reuse existing funnels or workflows rather than create a bespoke process all the time and, indeed, we see that many organizations do need assistance creating a meaningful process. According to Accenture, 72 percent of companies allow innovations to languish because there is no formalized process or organizational home for such initiatives. Ultimately, every process needs to be able to  help select ideas that are desirable, feasible, viable, and vettable. All of these processes have helped companies do this.

To download the full 2020 Innovation “By the Numbers” Infographic, visit IdeaScale’s site here.

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 Unsplash.