The Betterific Blog

Connecting consumers with brands to crowdsource and innovate on product ideas.

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Hacking Citizen Engagement – presented by Deloitte Pixel and Singularity University’s Global Summit

It’s not everyday that you get to collaborate with the preeminent source for exponential thinking on an innovation challenge.  We’re really excited to announce our newest innovation competition centered around hacking civic engagement.  We’re working with Deloitte’s crowdsourcing practice, Pixel, and Singularity University.

In a first for Betterific, we are also partnering with TopCoder to develop the best ideas that are submitted through the competition.  Pixel is bringing together all the parts – the ideation is happening on Betterific, the development is happening on TopCoder and the results will be presented at Singularity University’s Global Summit this weekend.  Lots of pieces being brought together.

SUGL Pixel Wide

So what ideas do you have to better connect citizens with their legislators?

Grand-prize: $400 Amazon Gift Card. 4 runners-up: $50 Amazon Gift Cards.

Bonus Prize: The top ideas will be mocked up in and developed in a competition at TopCoder.  All ideas will be streamed live at the event, meaning they will be heard by a crowd of global leaders and innovators.

The Full Challenge: Wouldn’t it be better if there was more citizen participation in government? Let’s involve more people with civic projects and the law-making process. Share your ideas for an app that enables users to engage directly with local, state, or federal governments to get things done, for example providing input on policy decisions or launching new projects.

SUGL Pixel SmallMore about Singularity: Singularity University is a Silicon Valley think tank that offers educational programs and a business incubator. It focuses on scientific progress and “exponential” technologies. It was founded in 2008 by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil. Ray Kurzweil is the famed futurist who believes that by 2035 robots and humans will blend into one in a Singularity event.  This is a good starting point to learning more about Kurzweil and his predictions (that always turn out true!)

This is your chance to rethink citizen engagement, earn a $400 gift card and get your civic app idea created!  Come join the innovation competition.

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Brainstorming with innovator Laurie Steiner

In this installment of brainstorming with an innovator, we invite Laurie Steiner, who won our wireless innovation competition.  I love doing these series, because we get to learn more about our members – what gets them going, why they do what they do, and how they come up with such creative ideas.  Laurie is not just a great ideator, but an amazing human being who gives so much of herself.  She has helped raise over 60 kids!  We need more Lauries in the world.

See below to learn more about Laurie’s fascinating good deeds and how ADDHD is the secret sauce to her brainstorming.  Maybe we should market Betterific to ADDHD communities!

IMG_0906MW: What do you do when you’re not brainstorming on Betterific? Laurie Steiner (LS): Now that I’m retired I have more time for hobbies and personal fun. I watch my grand kids a few days a week. I love to read, crochet, go camping, fishing and crabbing, I enjoy ghost hunting with a local group. Spending time with friends and family always makes me happy as well!

MW: Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from your resume. LS: I was a foster parent for many years and helped raise over 60 kids. My rewards are the ones who stayed in my life and I was even blessed with a few of their kids who call me “grandma”. 🙂

MW: Betterific members are ideas people!  What BIG idea are you thinking about/sitting on?  LS: We always said we should start a business…think telephone booths where you insert a dollar or two, put on goggles and get sprayed with sunscreen..These could be located at the beach or lake.

MW: When you get an invitation to join a Betterific innovation challenge, how do you approach the challenge?  Any good techniques you want to share? LS: First, I let all of the obvious ideas pass out of my brain! Then I think of the “problem” and imagine myself in the situation. What experiences have I had personally? I sometimes wonder if I have ADHD….ideas and thoughts come to me all of the time and my mind is always “on”.  While others may shake their head when I go from subject to subject..for me it is a gift because I do have a great imagination and original  ideas…I just have to get them in order sometimes!

MW: How do you get ‘in the zone’ so you can think about the problem deeply? LS: I don’t always tackle the issue all at once. I carry it around with me and think about it as I go about other things. Sometimes trying to come up with an instant answer will just give you ideas that already exist and you want to think of things that could make the product or idea stick out to the public as unique to the product itself.  That is what will sell it.

MW: What have you enjoyed most about the Betterific platform? And what do you like most about the community? LS: I love ideas. I love reading OTHER people’s ideas. It is a fun place to be, no negativity there! I obviously love winning prizes as well, but what in interesting way to try to do so.

MW: If you were CEO for a day, what would you improve about the platform? LS: Well, I would love more feedback on where these ideas go…if you ever try to pitch them to sellers and what the responses are.  I also think you should ask participants to share your site. Most would be happy to since it’s not all about winning,  it’s about sharing thoughts and impressions! My advice would be: while it’s great to keep growing and improving,  don’t be too anxious to change a good thing!

To participate in our crowdsourced idea generation competitions, please sign up for our site!  If you’re a brand and want to run an innovation challenge, please check out our enterprise site.

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Brainstorming with Innovator Thomas Williams

In today’s installment of “Brainstorming with Innovator” we invite one of our most prolific and active members, Thomas Williams.  Tom has been a member of the site for at least a year and since joining he has been a phenomenal source of innovation and a deep well of ideas. He has made a name for himself on the platform and is part of a unique and dynamic duo – his wife, Kelly Williams is just as creative and innovative.  As a member of Betterific myself, it’s fun to see how they bounce ideas off each other and build upon each other’s ideas.  Tom recently won the grand prize for the ibeer challenge.

Read on below to learn more about how Tom comes up with his ideas, the process he uses to brainstorm on Betterific, and why he continues to participate in our innovation and idea generation competitions.  Interestingly, Tom suggests that we run a Betterific challenge on Betterific, which is a great idea.  Well, Tom, you’ve got it.  When we launch our new site, we’ll kick it off with a meta-Betterific challenge!

Grill pictureMW: What do you when you’re not brainstorming on Betterific? Thomas Williams (TW): I work in the communications industry, I design networks and sell the components that make up the networks. I make computers talk to each other. I have always been a bit of a nerd and enjoy the tec
hnical aspects of computers and networking.

MW: Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from your resume. TW:  I am a navy veteran who likes to eat.  I am married to a fantastic cook who makes the best hamburgers (my favorite food), I like to bake cakes, and used to love to Disco Dance .

MW: Betterific members are ideas people!  If you’re open to it, what BIG idea are you thinking about/sitting on?  TW: I am constantly thinking of new ideas for computer networking, how to solve everyday problems people might have with their own networks at home or in the office.

MW: When you get an invitation to join a Betterific innovation challenge, how do you approach the challenge? TW: I try to brainstorm everything I can think of that could possibly be a match for what they are looking for. I check my ideas against ideas that have been posted, then I use a simple Google search to make sure it is original.  Then I talk to my wife Kelly, and bounce the idea off of her for confirmation that image1the idea is not totally pathetic. I have also spent the time to draw out a really good idea and present the drawing with the idea as backup .

 MW: Where do your “good ideas come from?” TW: My best ideas come as sparks.  They come from personal experiences and needs, and just smack me upside the head, a ohh wow moment.

 MW: What have you enjoyed most about the Betterific platform? And what do you like most about the community?  TW: It is fun coming up with and sharing the ideas on a social platform where you get feedback on your ideas. Helping others to possibly fine tune their betterif. The interaction with other members is a great part of Betterific. Also seeing some really great ideas from others and then actually seeing some of those ideas come to market like the ones from the Target Back to School Challenge.

MW: If you were CEO of Betterific for a day, what would you improve about the platform? TW: The first thing I would do is start a new challenge! A Betterific challenge for Betterific, getting all the members input as to how to improve it. Second I would allow more characters to be included to describe a betterif. Possibly allow the attachment of a file or .dwg to better convey your idea. Finally I would implement a marketing program to get better branding and visibility for Betterific. More people need to know about the platform and get involved!

To participate in our crowdsourced idea generation challenges, please sign up for our site!  If you’re a brand and want to run an innovation challenge, please check out our enterprise site.

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The winners of the Lipstick Idea Generation Competition Revealed

Let’s get down to business.  Our Lipstick innovation and idea generation competition wrapped up a couple weeks ago and we want to give a quick recap.

66 Ideas.  A whopping 38%  of them  were deemed innovative and actionable by the sponsoring brand.  Great job Betterific community!

Grand Prize winner ($400): Kathy Russell

Runners Up ($25): Luc Michaud, Lizabeth BarclayLaura BelinfanteKathryn Savvides.

They are actively researching a number of the ideas submitted and have already committed to a second crowdsourced innovation competition! Stay tuned.

In the meantime, our Sterilite Mobility Challenge is live.  It ends on Tuesday.  Get in there and submit your ideas to make storage more mobile.

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Sterilite is back for another Idea Generation Campaign!

Betterific-Hero-71516Sterilite ran their first idea generation campaign around storage bins. They generated a whopping 146 unique ideas, and 18% of those ideas were considered “actionable and innovative” by the Sterilite team.

They are now back for seconds!  Our Sterilite Mobility Challenge was launched yesterday to great fanfare.  Sterilite is interested in making storage more mobile. What ideas do you have for Sterilite to make their products (storage, waste baskets, laundry bins) easier to transport? Think about both how to make this category more mobile and which specific products might benefit from updates.

Betterific-Right-71516Grand Prize Winner: $350

4 Runner Up: $50

For some extra credit, check out the interview with Rich Ahern (VP of Marketing and Product Development) about his role and why he turns to Betterific for crowdsourcing innovation and idea generation.

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Brainstorming with an expert, Matt Nelson

In this installment of “Brainstorming with an [innovation] expert” we invite Matt Nelson from Hyundai.  Matt has quite the resume and an amazing story.  He just finished up his role as the Innovation and Technology Planner at Hyundai and is now returning to the University of Michigan to get his masters in Design Science.  He’s also extremely involved in the community – focusing his efforts on paving a path for Black Engineers as the National Chairperson for the National Society of Black Engineers.  Working with Matt it feels like he has 30 hours in his day.

nsbe-newswallIn the interview below, you’ll get a tremendous window into the world of innovation and product development.  In Matt’s explanation of “how an idea becomes a product” you’ll notice that idea generation is the fourth stage of the process.  And then he breaks down the ultimate questions that must be answered before developing the product: Do customers want the product, can we make it, should we make, and how do we make it.  Because Betterific and our members focus exclusively on the idea generation and concept validation phase, it’s great to get some context and understand the greater picture.  Matt’s perspective is bolstered by his work in innovation, his work with IDEO, and his life experiences – we’re thankful he shared his insights.

MW: Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from your resume. Matt Nelson (MN): I dropped out of college in 2005 and spent several years driving trucks across the country. In 2010 my wife and I moved to England, where I coached American Football for Southampton Solent University and DJ’ed across Western Europe. (See more about Matt’s story: “No Fear, No Regrets“)Matt-Nelson-300x232

MW: Where do you look for inspiration MN: As a technology scout, I am always looking for the latest advances in technology. I read a ton of whitepapers from research institutions (Michigan, Stanford, MIT, etc.). I also read biographies to gain insight into the decision-making approach around new products and methods.

MW: Where do you think good ideas come from? MN: Good ideas come from people motivated to change the conditions (good or bad) of themselves or others.

MW: Do you believe in/use a specific product development/innovation process? MN: I believe that any methodology has to be designed to fit the culture and capability of the company. For example, HATCI uses a version of DesignThinker similar to IDEO, but because we don’t have a large pool of extreme and analogous users to pull from, our process shrinks from three months to a few days. Every company I’ve seen use DesignThinker creates their own “special sauce”, from the naming of the process phases to the helper terms that aid in brainstorming.

MW: Walk us through “how an idea becomes a product.”   MN: It truly depends on the
company (size, culture, structure, etc.), but in general the following steps occur, not in any particular order

  • Problem/Opportunity Identification
  • Information Gathering/Observations
  • Problem Restatement
  • Idea Generation
  • Prototyping
  • Consumer Validation (Do customers want it)
  • Feasibility Study (Can we make it)
  • Business Case (Should we make it)
  • Process Development (How do we make it)

From there, Marketing works its magic on developing advertising campaigns, pricing and distribution channels. Manufacturing will decide on tooling (if needed) and machinery. Purchasing will source suppliers for parts, suppliers and anything else required in support of the project.  Betterific Idea Generation provides an additional voice in the room when developing ideas which will ultimately need to be refined into final concepts.

NEB_Matthew_NelsonMW: What impressed you most about the Betterific member base of creatives? MN: The responsiveness of members when asked probing questions about their initial Betterifs.

MW: In 5 years, what will be radically different about the auto industry and what might remain the same? MN: Low fuel prices have driven recent truck demand. A greater adoption of turbochargers have made today’s trucks as fuel efficient as some cars, so I don’t expect a heavy shift back to cars when oil prices increase. At the same time, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) increases are around the corner, so I see automakers providing drastic incentives on smaller cars to increase CAFE numbers. This will allow them to continue selling highly profitable trucks, but those trucks will increasingly have four and six cylinder engines.

The foray of tech companies into the auto industry will have significant implications for OEMS. Running a company like Ford or GM requires a significant level of capital expenditure, expertise and labor costs that tech companies traditionally attempt to avoid. I foresee more partnerships than new ventures from companies like Apple.

Want to join the Betterific community and participate in innovation challenges? Head on over to to join.  If you’re interested in running an innovation competition, check out

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Brainstorming with an expert, Richard Ahern

Welcome to the second  part of our new “Brainstorming with…” series, where we interview two sets of people – the innovation challenge winners and the product developers and innovation experts that sponsor the challenges.  From the winners, we learn brainstorming tips, how they arrived at their winning ideas, and the inspiration they use.  From the brands we get insights into how Betterific fits into the greater innovation process, what they look for in ideas, and what happens next.  If you like generating new ideas, flexing your idea muscle, and learning what makes a great idea, this brainstorming blog series is for you.  You can check out our first Brainstorming with a winner edition, where we interviewed Dan Pick

We invited Rich Ahern, a VP of Marketing at Sterilite with a heavy focus on product development and innovation, to be our first interview.  I got to meet Richard a year back and we’ve built a great relationship – I’ve learned a tremendous about a whole bunch of topics, including what a spiralizer is.  And most importantly I’ve learned about the end-to-end cycle of product development.  Sterilite owns their manufacturing plants, so they are responsible for everything from idea thru delivery.  Because of that they must think on a  grander scale – if the product can’t make a dent, they can’t produce it.  Read on below to learn more about why Richard and his team continue to tap into the Betterific community and how having an open mind is the most important aspect of brainstorming.  P.S. Him and his team are running a new Innovation Challenge next week… Stay tuned!

MW: Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from your resume.  Richard Ahern (RA): I was standing at the finish line with my family waiting for my wife to finish the Boston Marathon when the bombs exploded. I am not a runner but I was inspired to run it with my wife the following year. I have to confess that I have not run since then.

richard ahernMW: What are you working on that really excites you? RA: I am a product junkie so working with new products everyday as part of my job is exciting.

MW: How do you ensure that internal brainstorms lead to positive outcomes? RA: Good ideas can come from anywhere or anybody but you have to be open to them and unbiased.

IMG_20151126_221305 (1)MW: Walk us through “how an idea becomes a product.”  RA: Betterific helps us at Sterilite by generating new thoughts on plastic Storage and Household items that we would not arrive at by ourselves.  We take those thoughts and translate them into new product ideas that are vetted with a group of Sterilite consumers along with our own experiences.

MW: What impressed you most about the Betterific member base of creatives? RA: Anyone can tell you why a product is bad.  But we come to Betterific to discover how to make better products.  There is a positive energy that is contagious every time we do a project with Betterific. The members really love helping companies create new and innovative ideas.

MW: In 5 years, what will be radically different about the storage industry and what might remain the same? RA: The Plastic Storage and Household category is very much a commodity business where items like a shoe box need to sell for $1.00 at retail. However, incremental innovations can make a big difference in new product growth. For example if a more durable yet still cost effective clear polypropylene is developed it would help to create new product categories and increase the potential end uses for plastic Storage and Household items.