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The cloud: Where bright ideas come to life
© Image: Eric Blattberg /

The cloud: Where bright ideas come to life

In these turbulent economic times, companies ought to capitalize on every good idea generated inside — or, increasingly often, outside — their office walls. With its cloud-based innovation software, Brightidea strives to make that happen. Brightidea’s flexibility distinguishes its offerings from other innovation tools and platforms: it works for private and public crowds alike. As a result, a wide range of companies, charities and government entities use the software provider’s wares to facilitate their innovation processes. We spoke with Janelle Noble, Brightidea’s marketing director, to learn more about the past, present and future of Brightidea's take on cloud-based innovation. Begin by briefly introducing us to Brightidea. What is the company all about?

Janelle Noble: Brightidea is the premier cloud-based innovation management software provider. Top global brands including GE, VF Corp, Kraft, Sony, Cisco and many more, use our software platform to drive and monitor the social process of innovation from concept to cash.

Packed with social software features such as dynamic user profiles, real-time activity feeds, micro-blogging, etc. as well as integrations with Sharepoint, Facebook, Twitter, among others, Brightidea software delivers enterprise-scale software that drives purposed collaboration among employees, customers, and/or the general public.

As pioneers of the innovation management software industry, Brightidea was the first to create an online innovation platform. Brightidea was featured in a Gartner report on Innovation Management as early as 2002. The company has brought many “firsts” to the innovation management market including the introduction of ideation “campaigns,” widget architecture, platform extensibility, and a mobile app.

How does Brightidea’s “innovation suite” differ from other collaborative work environments?

Noble: Brightidea has put over 10 years of expertise into its cloud-based innovation management software. In November 2010, Brightidea released its new Innovation Suite. Unlike other Innovation Management vendors, Brightidea’s software combines unseen flexibility and functions with intuitive, user-friendly interfaces – the perfect low-barrier way to engage with employees better, and connect with customers.

Of BrightIdea’s many clients, which have garnered the most innovative results using the platform?

A few leading ROI stories come out of GE, Cisco, & China Light & Power (CLP). GE and Cisco both launched the largest ever open innovation challenges, GE with its 200M Ecomagination Challenge and Cisco with its initial I-Prize Challenge. For Cisco, the 2008 I-Prize challenge generated an idea related to the “smart grid” that could potentially revolutionize how power is managed, and generate over $1 billion in revenues. For GE, the online Ecomagination Challenge represented a fundamental shift in the way the company connects and taps small businesses and independent inventors to partner on solving critical issues and has already deployed over 50M towards acquisitions and partnerships on top ideas collected.

CLP has achieved great results through the hundreds of ideas collected with their Brightidea-powered internal innovation system, innov8. The company has been named a winner of the IDC Enterprise Innovation Awards 2010 for innov8, and was a finalist for the MIS Asia 2010 IT Excellence Awards in Knowledge Management.

Though sharing information with and gathering feedback from crowds brings many benefits, it creates some risks as well — for governmental organizations, technology companies, financial services and so on. How does BrightIdea mitigate those risks?

There are many features in Brightidea that can be enabled to protect and address associated risks within certain industries. For example, while Brightidea is offered as a cloud-based solution, some, like the Department of State for example, use an on-premise version because of security requirements. In addition, features like pre-screening ideas, and terms and conditions settings can be adjusted so as ideas are submitted and reviewed, different classifications of disclosure can be addressed. Our security and hosting capabilities are audited under the strictest guidelines, proven by the many financial services companies including UBS, Swift, etc. that use Brightidea software.

In your experience, do BrightIdea’s innovation tools work better for a private crowd — strictly company employees, for example — or public communities? What are the benefits and drawbacks of the two different approaches, and which is the more popular solution among BrightIdea clients?

The most common application of Brightidea software is internal, i.e. collecting employee ideas on everything from new products and product enhancements, to process improvements and safety ideas. Even still, with the larger trend of companies engaging customers, partners, and the general public through social tools, we see an influx of companies willing to open up and engage the public using Brightidea software.

Adobe Labs, Bosch, and Hess are a few examples of on-going strategic engagements to open up the company to external ideas from customers. The real need being filled is why would these companies use a 3rd party platform (think 99designs, InnoCentive or CrowdFlower) to reach out to key stakeholders regarding their products and services? By using Brightidea software, companies can use turn-key tools to create public communities where they can own the branding and user-experience and, non-trivially, the community itself. Not to mention tightly integrate that community with their existing properties on the web. It is about purity of the brand message and seamless integration so ideas collected externally are routed to where they are needed most internally for quick review, decision-making and execution.

How can BrightIdea work for non-profit organizations?

Brightidea has partnered with non-profits in the past such as UK Cancer Research and most recently World Vision. UK Cancer Research used Brightidea to conduct challenges on important topics including fundraising, events, legacy programs, as well as identifying new income opportunities. Check out the recent World Vision campaign that seeks to identify breakthrough solutions to commonly found technical problems in the field.

You have an iPhone app that allows people to micro-blog, comment on ideas, “like” updates and so on. First, do you have an Android app in the works? But more generally, how important is mobile functionality to BrightIdea?

Mobile is the future. No longer can innovation or connecting with individuals be relegated to laptops and the confines of an office. We are a mobile society. Interconnectivity is central to the Brightidea vision and mobile application is central to that connectedness. Our software works on all mobile web browsers and in addition to our iphone app, other mobile applications are under development.

BrightIdea also has a Facebook application. What can it do, and how does it play into the overall BrightIdea product offering? Explain why social network integration is not a redundant distraction from the main platform but rather a valuable addition.

Reaching your target audience is a key part of any crowd or innovation challenge. Expanding Brightidea capabilities to where the audience is most, whether that is a company website or a social network, is an obvious and important extension to fuel and sustain engagement over time. Brightidea for Facebook is a fully integrated solution that takes the front-end of a crowd challenge, and embeds the key functionality of collecting, voting and increasingly important sharing of ideas and seamlessly routes those ideas to the backend for evaluator review and decision-making.

What else should we know about BrightIdea that you haven’t already told us? Perhaps about its “innovation leaders” and events?

Over the last decade, The Brightidea Innovation Grid has emerged as a carousel of independent innovation networks connected in and through Brightidea software. To fuel and fully support the development of The Brightidea Innovation Gird, Birds of a Feather was created as a network of innovation leaders dedicated to "accelerate innovation globally through the collective wisdom of innovation practitioners." Each year, meetings are held around the world hosted by the top global companies including Kraft, UBS, Chevron, CLP, Nielsen and many more. It is a low-barrier, high impact environment where practitioners can share experiences and exchange knowledge. Join the BOF community online to get exclusive access to presentations, videos, and upcoming events.

We’d like to thank Brightidea Marketing Director Janelle Noble for taking the time to answer our questions.

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