What Do Innovators Look Like?

Crowdsourced innovation is a tactic used more and more often by government organizations as well as enterprise corporations. This means that innovation teams need to add a new skill set to their resumé: communications.

Any crowdsourcing initiative includes the marketing task of building and maintaining the interest of the crowd. And although there are numerous tips and tricks that go along with innovation communications strategies, one of the key questions that these specialists have when their launching a communication initiative is: who is our target audience? Who are the innovators?

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation endeavored to answer that question this past year with their “Demographics of Innovation in the United States.” The report that was released in February contains surprising findings including where innovators are from, what level of education they have, their average age, and more. They make some interesting recommendations on the basis of their findings, including that given the number of foreign-born innovators, the US should work hard to keep its doors open in order to build an innovation pipeline.

Another recommendation is that given what a small number of female innovators responded to the survey, the foundation recommended increasing funding to women (and minorities) pursuing STEM (or related) degrees.

Much of the demographic information presented in this study corresponds to questions that marketers ask when building a target audience persona:

Given the number of foreign-born innovators, the US should work hard to keep its doors open in order to build an innovation pipeline.

  • Where do these people work?
  • What is their age? Their gender?
  • What is their income level?
  • What level of education do they have?
  • Where do they live? What language do they speak?
  • And beyond….

What this means for innovation communicators is that it is that much easier to build a communications strategy. Depending on the goals of your initiative, think about what messages will resonate best with these innovators who have been found to be highly diverse and well-educated. Think about what motivates them and how to reach them since they are highly distributed across the US (from Silicon Valley to the most highly respected research institutions in New England). How often should you communicate with them? What sorts of messages are they likely to encounter – do they watch videos? Do they read articles? Are they influenced by folks on social media. Your answers to these questions will build a marketing communications plan that will help you  meet your innovation goals.

IdeaScale summarized some interesting findings from the ITIF report in this complimentary infographic which you can download here.

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.

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