The Innovators Series

How These Aussie Innovators Are Teaching Richard Branson About Innovation

Enterprises stuck in the innovation slow-lane will soon have access to a dedicated ideas-sharing platform from two Australian start-up entrepreneurs that Virgin founder, Sir Richard Branson, says he “loves”.

Ideapod is a fast-growing online and increasingly mobile community of some 150,000 users where thinkers articulate and share their great ideas, big and small. The social-media start-up is the brainchild of Melbourne expatriates Justin Brown and Mark Bakacs who are now based in Los Angeles. Virgin Group founder Sir Richard and his executives have used the pair’s original, free and public ideas-sharing platform for a year and even invited the founders to his exclusive Caribbean resort, Necker Island, to share their vision with other innovators.

“Ideas, when expressed and shared through like-minded people, create change in society, business and government,” Brown says.

And while Brown says ideas have the power ultimately to “advance the evolution of the human species”, of immediate concern is finding a path to profitability for the start-up founded in 2014. So later this year, Ideapod will release an enterprise version to spur creativity in corporates and organisations. It aims to create a structured platform through which organisations share ideas internally and with partners to accelerate their innovation programmes.

Brown hopes Ideapod for enterprise “will help intrapreneurs and corporate innovators share their ideas and help the organisation foster a culture of idea sharing”.

“We’ll start with 10 pilot enterprise partners and based on their early feedback we’ll scale to many more organisations. We’re targeting creative teams looking to come up with game-changing ideas for products and services or missions and goals.”

Brown says anyone can be an innovator and the list of things Ideapod’s founders want to impact range from environmental degradation to halting nuclear proliferation and bringing peace to the Middle East.

“When we live in an unstable world, a lot of these threats become more real so building an idea-sharing platform where people at the grassroots can build and share ideas helps them feel more empowered,” Brown says. “That helps people to feel more human and accelerate the evolution of the human race to meet the problems we face.”

Melbourne expatriates Justin Brown and Mark Bakacs

Here at The Strategy Group, we believe organisations that want to see their ideas blossom into production should have a system to capture them. Gathering a diverse range of ideas from employees, partners, suppliers and customers is a key to organisational growth.

Forget trying to capture the ideas in Excel or Word. Open innovation—capturing ideas from all sources—works best when it is fun, when it is like social media, and when everyone can see the ideas posted, comment and vote on them. Even better is when you have a process to distil the best ideas so you know which ideas you should take to the market for customer validation.

Australian research shows that organisations that pursue structured innovation are three-times more likely to succeed than those that take a scattergun approach. Map out where you’re hunting for ideas and execute campaigns to tackle those areas systematically.

 

Sharing video “a-ha moments” in just a click

Also coming from Ideapod is a Periscope-style mobile-video app that shoots 40-second video bursts. Justin Brown says the app that will be released in April cuts the “friction” in capturing thinkers’ great ideas. Users record ideas to their own video journal or share it on the site, “to start a conversation”, he says. It complements the rapidly growing micro-blogging platform’s 1000-character posts and is the result of the start-up’s extensive user testing.

“It’s all about capturing moments of inspiration as efficiently as possible” Brown says. “These ideas hit you when you least expect it and you won’t be in your Facebook news feed when you’re inspired; you’ll be on a bushwalk or in the shower … and [without a quick record] you can lose the essence of the idea.”

Sir Richard was effusive in his praise of the original, desktop and web-based service: “I love Ideapod and I love reading about all the ideas you came up with and I’m writing an article for the New York Times based on that.”

And Brown says the tycoon was equally rapt in the new mobile app: “He said he would love to get the app into the hands of many of his team members. [Sir Richard] loves it when team members write down ideas in their notebooks because often the best ideas come from lower in the ranks of the organisation and people dealing with customers.”

“Living in a state of ‘Flow’ is not about being blissful, it is about having clear goals while being present in the moment and open to new ways of achieving goals. And you can cultivate habits of behaviour that are conducive to inducing this Flow state.”

From the enterprise to shamans: Building a mindful (and profitable) business

Brown says he and Bakacs hope to emulate Sir Richard’s entrepreneurial spirit in another way, by creating a “mindfulness” culture where people and ideas flourish. They meditate each day and, while some companies have a big blowout in Las Vegas or travel to the Gold Coast for a convention, they are taking staff to a shaman for workshops on spurring creative thinking.

“Meditating every day and having a commitment to a balanced lifestyle helps with the creativity in terms of coming up with good ideas on a consistent basis – ideas you can put into practice. I’ve been on that journey for a few years and it’s really helped.

“Living in a state of ‘Flow’ is not about being blissful, it is about having clear goals while being present in the moment and open to new ways of achieving goals. And you can cultivate habits of behaviour that are conducive to inducing this Flow state.”

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