The One Skill that Innovators Forget

Most innovators cultivate traits like creative risk taking, positive reinforcement and strategic planning. However, there is another branch of innovation in which innovators still require a great deal of training.

Innovators (whether they’re inside a company or working independently) need a lot of skills to continuously find new improvements. Recently, IdeScale produced an infographic on the top ten qualities that define innovators, but we’ve discovered another branch of innovation in which innovators still require a great deal of training: communications.

The reason communications is so crucial is because no innovation program can exist without ideas. However, ideas don’t arrive on the scene fully-formed and more often than not, you need a lot of ideas to germinate, combine, and transform before you get a truly significant new idea that can serve your business or consumers (a concept explored by Steven Johnson in Where Great Ideas Come From). But to create that network of connections between idea fragments, you need to involve lots of people in the ideation process. That’s where crowdsourcing comes in: you bring in the crowd who can share and validate and connect with one another’s ideas.

But the crowd doesn’t just arrive on the innovation scene. They need to be invited, excited, and incentivized and to be truly successful, you need a pretty big crowd in order to enjoy all the benefits of crowd wisdom. Which means that innovators who have been cultivating other traits (like creative risk taking, positive reinforcement, etc) need to also learn how become creative communications specialists capable of broadcasting worthwhile messages to large audiences.

This sort of savvy doesn’t happen overnight, however, and IdeaScale recommends starting with at least four main channels of communication to get the crowd involved.

Web Presence

We know that for the most part, no matter who your audience is, they are online, which means that your first communications initiative is finding their key web destinations and placing invitations to your innovation community there(either in widget or link form). Be sure that your messaging speaks to the reasons that they are already in that web environment as well as the value of the innovation community.


No matter what your end goal is, email is still one of the highest converting mechanisms for getting a response. So become copy gurus, test your emails and reach out to your crowd to share your message.

Social Media

28% of our time online is spent on social media, so it’s a great place to share your message with innovators who are looking for things to englighten, entertain, and engage them.

Public Relations

Writers and bloggers are some of your best influencers. Find out whose voice resonates with the crowd that you are trying to reach and then build a relationship with that influencer to have them help spread the word.

To learn the other key channels and potential key messages to share with the crowd in an innovation campaign, download IdeaScale’s infographic that describes your innovation communications plan.

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.