Is Finding an Innovative Idea a Numbers Game?

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yet2 hosts a variety of open innovation (OI) portals for our clients. One primary reason companies launch OI portals is to create a single point of contact in order to protect the company from the risk of IP Contamination (but that is a story for another time).

Based on our experience in managing these portals, a second key purpose of OI portals is to provide a channel for really powerful innovative ideas to find their way into the companies. Just a small number of really good ideas can help a company launch new products, capture new trends and win mindshare and market share at an early stage. However, finding the best ideas coming through the pool of OI portal is not facile.

On average, yet2 specialists filter and forward about 4% of the submitted ideas to our clients’ SMEs (subject-matter experts). If many submitted ideas are not that interesting, how can companies increase their chances of finding big wins through their OI portals? From our 20+ years of OI operating experience, we found that the chances of a really big win increase far more significantly with larger numbers of submissions, rather than through efforts to increase submission quality. Thus, rather than spending significant effort trying to influence quality, companies should be focusing their effort on harnessing a variety of resources to promote the portal.

Submission quality reaches a ceiling

After initial yet2/client adjustments in the process of receiving ideas, we observe that submission quality usually hits a ceiling. Standard early adjustments that do help improve quality include:

  • Redirect irrelevant ideas to other channels
  • Add requirements / filtering criteria specific to the clients’ interest fields
  • Beef up portal content to educate submitters on how to best articulate their Comparative Value Propositions (CVPs) in their submissions
  • Add/enable portal functions, such as the ability for submitters to clarify key portions of their submissions, to collect further useful information. For example, on the yet2 portals, we find it valuable to:
    • Clarify up-front information required – it’s important to get key specific information for us to evaluate the submission, yet without overwhelming the submitter and discouraging them from submitting
    • Follow up clarification – We reach out to the submitters for clarification based on client-specific criteria, such as target revenue size, clinical trial, animal testing and sustainability. That way we can better evaluate a submission; and even if it is not ideal for a client, we can forward it with the relevant qualifying/concerning statements in order to simplify our clients’ next steps.

If submission quality flattens out earlier than would be ideal even after process adjustments such as above, then how else can we increase the chances of getting high quality ideas through the portals?

Why quantity stimulates the quality of the idea?

Across all yet2 portal clients: the number of submissions sent through to our clients’ SMEs (subject-matter experts) increases with the total submission number. The ideas we send to SMEs are those few that yet2 filtering experts approve based on client’s specific requests.

For example, from 2017 to 2019, the total submissions received by yet2 portal clients increased approximately 60%, from 4,708 to 7,567. At the same time, the ideas sent to SMEs increased 80%, from 171 to 307.

Idea quality is normally distributed and pivotal ideas fall at the tail of the curve. The increase in the quantity of the ideas increase the probability of capturing the tail of that. From a statistical standpoint, the probability of capturing one needle-moving idea within 307 submitted ideas is 80% more than from 171 ideas.

Is Finding an Innovative Idea a Numbers Game?

As a result, after the submission quality reaches a ceiling, the innovation idea is a numbers game. By increasing the exposure of the OI portal, more ideas will be attracted which more than linearly increases the possibility of the pivotal ideas.

How to increase the submission quantity?

With our public platform and marketing, our open innovation portals give you access to multiple audiences: the yet2 network, our client’s network, and multiple global innovation communities.

We’ve developed additional best practices, including:

  • Prominent link placement on the client’s corporate website, brand sites, and foreign language sites. For example, one client promoted the portal on its website and saw a 5x increase in submissions

Marketing efforts by clients

  • Press Releases and social media activity upon launch/ major changes to the portal. It is not enough to market the portal to existing innovation networks; the more people know about the portal through marketing activities the higher number of submissions. For example, a client issued a press release announcing their portal and requesting submissions. After the press release, the client saw an ~85% increase in submission. Another client, promoted their “innovation related” press release with a link to yet2 portal twice in Q3 2020 and we saw the submission increased by ~60% which also led to an increase in higher quality submissions forwarded to SME by ~80%.
  • Promotion at conferences and exhibitions
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – thinking from a submitter’s standpoint to find the portal. Focusing on keywords that a submitter will use to find the OI portal rather than those specific to a client’s brand.


yet2’s additional efforts to increase publicity:

    • Social media marketing. For example, yet2 promoted a client’s innovation related press release, we observed ~25% increase in submission.
    • Tech need
    • Monthly newsletter
    • Target relevant industry groups
    • Regional start-up hot spot promotion

To sum up, when idea quality reaches a plateau after initial tweaks, the key to capturing more needle-moving ideas is to stimulate submission quantity by expanding the audience such as prominent link placement on client’s corporate website, marketing efforts by clients and yet2. So finding innovative idea really is a numbers game.

If you would like to learn more about our open innovation portal service, email Lisa Welch at

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