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Innovation Security in the Age of Hacking

In September 2016, Verizon was in talks with Yahoo! about their anticipated acquisition when Yahoo! was obliged to announce that it had been the victim of the biggest data breach in history (that we know of) in 2014. In the course of several announcements, they revealed that over three billion user accounts had been compromised including the real names, email addresses, dates of birth and telephone numbers of people around the world. In addition to the PR storm following that announcement and the cataclysmic impact on the individuals who have experienced identity theft as a result of it, it also had a financial impact on Yahoo!. The breaches knocked an estimated $350 million off Yahoo’s sale price when they eventually did close with Verizon.

Because of this story and other data breaches (Marriott, Equifax, Target), more and more companies are paying attention to security in their innovation management systems. Considering our history of closed research and development best practices, this might make sense. At the beginning of the twentieth century, research and development was a highly secretive and elite practice (think: white lab coats, password protected doors). And this worked. After all, it gave us electrocardiography, DNA fingerprinting, many Apple products, and more. So the expectation that innovation management software systems would be secure seems like a natural one.

Now, the general consensus is that innovators and great ideas can come from anywhere and companies are building programs that facilitate this as an ongoing practice. I know, because IdeaScale has built its business around this. Almost 30% of our customers are sharing ideas in a fully public format so that everyone (from their customers to competitors) can view ideas that are going to be the future of their business. So if that information is public, why do we require our software to meet such rigorous security certifications?

Because secure innovation management isn’t protecting what you might think.

It turns out that ideas are cheap. Innovation management security doesn’t (necessarily) exist for the ideas that individuals share. We’ve built IdeaScale to be a secure innovation management system, because we need to protect what those ideas become.

In a recent survey, we asked our clients why they purchased an innovation management system, expecting that they would tell us that they needed more ideas or better quality ideas. But neither of those were the top reasons our customers purchased an idea management system. They needed a system that created alignment around existing ideas, that reduced work redundancies on new test projects that built ideas into projects or minimum viable products. Ideas, it turned out, were easy to come by. But taking those ideas and turning them into fully-fledged projects, products, and concepts – that’s where these systems truly deliver value.

It’s very unlikely that an idea that’s submitted in the early stages of problem-solving ends up looking the same once it’s fully launched. Ideas change when they are combined with other similar ideas, as resources and constraints are assigned to the solution, and a value chain of suppliers, partners, and researchers build it into something new. It’s one of the reasons that we have the ability to link to an original idea from our success stories page in IdeaScale, because oftentimes you can see how far an idea has traveled to become a fully-launched concept.

The work that goes on after inspiration is actually what will define this next generation of innovation. Not who has the best ideas, but who can deliver and improve on those ideas… as quickly as possible. This private and company-defining ability is that part that requires security and that’s what innovation security in the age of hacking is going to protect: your process, insights, and the ability to act.

Rob Hoehn

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest idea management platform in the world with more than 35,000 communities and 4.5 million users. IdeaScale empowers organizations to crowdsource ideas from their employees or customers who then collaborate, evaluate, and further develop those ideas into products, processes, and new initiatives. IdeaScale’s client roster includes industry leaders, such as Citrix, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, NASA, the New York City Police Department, Princess Cruises and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was VP of Client Services at QuestionPro, an insight technology company, where he helped launch the company in its early stages. He also speaks regularly about climate change and lives with his wife, two kids, and husky in Berkeley, CA. He holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Vermont.

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