What is Forest?
Forest is an easy-to-use digital innovation management tool that empowers managers and leaders to get innovation done at scale. It is designed to help people engage with their innovation program and streamline workflows by embedding repeatable processes. Forest enables a flow of innovation where ideas advance through their organization to achieve outcomes that drive them forward.
Why did we build Forest?
Large companies need a systemized way to reach a distributed workforce, generate metrics that demonstrate progress, and justify innovation function. If a company’s innovation program includes less than 25 people, then Forest is not the tool for them. Small teams can continue to be effective using email, Excel, and PowerPoint. But when their organization needs to engage with 25, 50, 100, 1,000, 10,000 or more people in their innovation program, using the old tools simply won’t work effectively. Forest is intended for individuals in small teams at large and complex companies who are tasked with constructing a culture of innovation that creates meaningful and measurable outcomes.
What problems does Forest solve?
Forest solves many problems in corporate innovation by providing a means to effectively communicate an organization’s strategy and methodology. It allows users to submit, organize, and manage ideas with minimal friction. Gone are the days of slow and biased decision making with no clearly defined processes. With Forest, users can show results, gain visibility, and create buy-in by using tools that keep leaders and managers informed, show metrics that demonstrate impact, and reduce the time of getting approvals.
What’s in Forest?
Diagnostics is a set of interactive, online assessments in Forest that measure the health of an organization’s innovation program. A company might have great aspirations for innovation, but lack an understanding of the key elements that are needed to drive performance. These online assessments help organizations get an ongoing objective read on their company’s fitness to innovate, and helps them define what specific things they can do to improve.
Big companies have large organizational structures. Sometimes, a single company will have smaller companies under its umbrella. Often, these smaller companies (or business units) have completely different approaches to innovation. Innovation programs often get stuck because they weren’t designed with complexity in mind. A “one size fits all” approach to innovation does not work.
In Forest, workspaces are designed to give smaller business units within large companies the independence they need. With workspaces, each unique group can move the needle on their innovation program by measuring success in their own ways. This in-app customization gives each business unit the ability to take a unique approach in accomplishing their innovation initiatives, while also allowing for cross-collaboration within the larger organization.
In large and complex companies, it can be difficult to communicate your innovation initiatives, methodology, or focus areas. People in these large organizations often rely on email or Power Point to get the job done. By using a digital tool like Forest, users can build custom pages that allow for clear and effective communication about their company’s innovation initiatives. In these pages, users can attach images, videos, or files - they can even display ideas, campaigns, and portfolios from other parts of the tool. Custom pages allow users to communicate across their entire company with minimal friction.
Simple Idea Submission
Since creating and submitting new ideas isn’t part of an average employee’s primary job responsibility, it can be challenging to get people to submit ideas to their organization’s innovation program. Forest is designed to be a frictionless idea submission tool that allows users to submit ideas anywhere and at any time with ease.
By simply entering a title, subtitle, and description, Forest allows users to submit ideas at the most basic level. With this step, users can get started on their innovation journey - even if they don’t have all the information they need at that moment. They can always complete their idea at a later time. Some users may have everything they need to complete their idea in one sitting, and they can certainly do that as well. Whatever they choose, idea creators can expect to see many of their ideas come to life as they welcome others to participate in helping their ideas grow.
Portfolio & Campaign Organization
Organizing ideas offline can be a cumbersome task. With Forest, shuffling through meeting notes and sifting through large spreadsheets is a thing of the past. This tool is designed to help organize ideas in the right folders from the start.
First, idea contributors are encouraged to submit ideas to an active campaign. Campaigns are made to collect ideas that focus on solving specific problems or seize opportunities. Once a campaign ends, the campaign team can run a quick evaluation on all the ideas they collected to determine which ones have the most potential and can advance to a portfolio.
In portfolios, administrators can create teams, run more rigorous evaluations, generate reports, and continue to progress ideas forward. Not only are portfolios an organizing function, but they also allow administrators to share ideas and create more engagement to anyone in their organization.
In large companies, scheduling in-person meetings to make decisions on ideas can be difficult. By using a digital tool like Forest, assigned team members can evaluate ideas from anywhere and at any time. Teams can run these evaluations with anyone across the entire organization. This process allows for faster and more effective decision-making. Allowing idea creators to see their idea’s progress in real time helps build trust between evaluators and creators, and it encourages them to further contribute to their innovation program. Ultimately, the decision-making process promotes user engagement and the production of meaningful ideas to fuel their innovation efforts.
In Forest, evaluations come in two flavors: Yes/No/Maybe (YNM) evaluations and Criteria-based evaluations.
- Yes/No/Maybe evaluations are used as a quick and easy way to make decisions on a long list of ideas. This allows evaluators to get a pulse on which ideas are worth considering and which ideas need to be deferred for now.
- Criteria-based evaluations take a more rigorous approach. This evaluation type is especially helpful when ideas are ready to receive a resource investment. Evaluators can rate each idea based on attractiveness and ability to execute.
How does an idea progress through Forest?
Once a user understands their organization’s innovation methodology and initiatives, they can start looking for any active campaigns in their organization’s custom pages. Active campaigns are designed to pursue opportunities or solve specific problems by collecting ideas. Some companies feature specific campaigns on the tool’s dashboard, but active campaigns can also be featured in their organization’s custom pages.
Creating new ideas should always start from campaigns, and the best place to find all active campaigns is in the campaign feed on the left navigation menu. In campaigns, users are encouraged to contribute ideas to solve specific problems or seize different opportunities in their organization.
When a new idea is submitted to a campaign, it comes in at a stage called “concept.” A concept is an idea where the contributor or team members are in the process of building the idea. Simply put, a concept is an idea that you’re thinking about.
Once an idea is submitted, campaign administrators will review the idea to determine whether or not to progress it forward. During the idea review process, administrators can assign specific milestone tasks to encourage idea contributors to continue building on their idea.
Once all the ideas in a campaign have been reviewed by administrators, those ideas can then be added to portfolios. By design, portfolios are where more rigorous evaluations and advanced idea management take place.
Because many ideas tend to reach a higher level of maturity in a portfolio, administrators often choose to convert concepts into a more mature stage. Many ideas in portfolios and may have been awarded resources to continue their advancement. Once an idea advances to a higher stage, the idea can continue to mature in the tool through the idea management cycle of requesting updates, evaluations, and assigning milestones.
As ideas grow in Forest, both contributors and administrators receive notifications in real time about each step as their ideas, campaigns, and portfolios progress along the way.
Who is using Forest, and what motivates them?
There are four distinct user types that use Forest: Innovation Executives, Innovation Administrators, Innovation Leaders, and Innovation Contributors.
Innovation executives are responsible for creating strategy and ensuring the success of their innovation program. It’s essential that they make sure that their program is creating value. Not only do they need to see high level reports that reflect meaningful outcomes, but they also need to show data that confirms their program is creating growth and accomplishing real efficiency. Executives don’t just use this information to show value - they also use it to show that the program is moving and growing. With this strategy, they are able to direct and communicate with members of the company by pulling everyone into a common theme and creating adoption across their organization.
Innovation administrators are responsible for creating processes and promoting employee engagement for their innovation program. They receive specific mandates from the executive group, and they are asked to accomplish goals and hit certain metrics in the tool. Additionally, they need to make sure that everyone who is using Forest is well-equipped, so they’re often soliciting and receiving feedback on how to contribute to the growth and development of the tool. Administrators are also suppliers of data for the executive group. They need to make sure they have a good pulse on all activity in the tool so that all data provided to executives is clear and precise. Innovation administrators are hands-on, outspoken, and have a Project manager mindset.
Innovation leaders care about generating ideas that solve problems, and they look for opportunities to collaborate and engage with their colleagues. They are passionate, curious, creative, and more entrepreneurial. Leaders see specific problems within their company, and they want to take part in finding solutions. Because of this, administrators often give innovation leaders the ability to create campaigns or portfolios. Leaders are motivated by the desire to make a social impact - they want to create a better working environment for themselves, and those around them. Innovation leaders are most effective when they are given the freedom and flexibility to be creative at their job.
Innovation contributors are responsible for engaging with existing ideas in the tool and contributing to open campaigns. They aren’t creating campaigns or portfolios, nor do they think of innovation as being part of their daily responsibilities. However, contributors are key members of their company’s innovation culture because they often have some of the best ideas. Since contributors will benefit most from their company’s innovation program, it is important that space is created for them to submit their ideas with minimal friction. idea contributors should be able to submit their ideas without letting the process get in the way of their daily tasks.
Where does innovation happen in Forest?
Different user types will begin their innovation journey from different places in Forest.
Executives are responsible for establishing and defining their organization’s strategic frame for innovation. They use Forest to identify trends and technologies to focus on. Executives work closely with their senior leadership to demonstrate the value and effectiveness of their innovation program. They do this by using Forest’s reporting tools to show ideas in their pipeline, provide an overview of engagement, and share how their innovation capabilities have grown. Forest allows executives to clearly and effectively communicate their company’s innovation strategy and initiatives across their entire organization.
If there’s a group of people that should know how to use the tool better than anyone else, it would be the innovation administrators. Besides being pros at the tool, they also need to have the answers necessary to equip all leaders and contributors to succeed in their innovation journey. Innovation administrators need to master the tool - even if it means getting help from others.
Administrators are responsible for knowing how to navigate around every part of the tool. They’re in charge of managing different content and user types with the correct permissions. Accessing data to report to leadership is also critical to their role. Innovation executives may ask administrators to pull certain metrics or analytics at a moment’s notice. This data is important because these reports equip their leadership with the information they need to show the value of their innovation program.
Innovation leaders should get started by connecting with innovation administrators. Once they know who’s managing the innovation process, they can take part in producing campaigns and portfolios. By allowing Innovation Leaders to produce these content types, they are given the freedom they need to push innovation forward on behalf of their teams across the organization.
Contributors may find themselves wondering where to start with innovation using Forest. Perhaps they’d like to submit a great idea, but they haven’t got a clue where to begin. For innovation contributors, the best place for them to start is by going to “Explore.” Explore is dedicated to “Forces,” which are specific topics or themes where their company has decided to channel their innovation efforts.
Once a user navigates to Explore, they can view a specific force and learn more about it. They can also see all published content (ideas, campaigns, or portfolios) that are related to that force. After they find a force that peaks their interest, the user may find a related campaign that they can contribute to. Explore is where innovation contributors can find campaigns to submit ideas that result in meaningful outcomes.
A story of when it all comes together
Erin and Ian work at a large energy company, and they have been put in charge of their power plant’s Innovation Program. Currently, they’re looking for opportunities to improve overall safety for their employees. They start by using Forest to create a campaign in their workspace to collect ideas that can improve working conditions in their power plants.
A week later, John shows up to work and comes up with an idea that could improve the process of cleaning the plant’s cooling ponds. He recently heard from a colleague that there is an open campaign in Forest about improving employee safety. He logs into Forest, goes to the power plant’s custom page, and adds his idea to the campaign. A few minutes later, Erin and Ian receive a notification saying that a new idea has been added. They see John’s idea about a safer way to clean the power plant’s cooling ponds.
After the campaign ends and all submitted ideas have been evaluated and reviewed, Erin and Ian can immediately tell that John’s idea has a lot of potential, but they’d also like to know what his co-workers think. They ask John to get feedback from his colleagues and add their input by the end of the week. After John completes this milestone task, he lets Erin and Ian know that his idea is ready to be reviewed. Later, his idea gets progressed to a portfolio where a team of experts can evaluate and manage it further.
In the portfolio, a team of evaluators decide that John’s idea not only eliminates safety concerns, but it also has the potential of saving the company thousands in materials and labor. Soon, they assign another milestone task for John to complete. After allocating the required resources, they ask him to make a prototype to test how his idea will perform in the field. As John’s idea continues to mature and progress in the tool, his company’s leadership take notice and decide to turn his idea into reality.