Friday, January 09, 2009

Innovation for the common man

I had the opportunity yesterday to speak with Ami Kassar, who is the Chief Innovation Officer at Advanta. The purpose of our talk was to discuss the IdeaBlob (, an idea database and portal that Advanta has created. People who are interested can sign up to submit ideas and receive feedback on their ideas. Each month the ideas are voted on and one individual wins $10,000 to fund their idea.

At first this sounds similar to Dell's Ideastorm or Starbuck MyStarbucks Idea, but it is radically different in at least one respect. Ideastorm and MyStarbucks Idea were developed to collect and evaluate ideas that benefit Dell and Starbucks. Basically we the consuming public can submit our ideas about what we think Dell or Starbucks could create or do better. Advanta has a slightly different take, aligned to its mission. Advanta provides credit cards to entrepreneurs and small business owners, and wants to develop tools to help this segment succeed. Advanta set up the ideablob with the goal of helping entrepreneurs and small business owners. Advanta does not take ownership of the ideas, and in fact funds ideas that in most cases have no bearing on their business.

There's a couple of things at work here. First, Advanta is using an innovation tool to help small business owners exchange ideas and promote their ideas, giving them a platform and a voice. Second, the platform (ideablob) helps Advanta extend their core mission and provide a service to their core customers. Third, Advanta is also leveraging to some extend the concept of social networking, and even extending the social networking to live events.

All of this has driven over 100,000 registered users, the majority probably not Advanta customers originally according to Ami. Advanta is also benefiting from goodwill in the small business and entrepreneurial community and excellent word of mouth.

What you may also find interesting, and I found refreshing, is that Kassar had not clear objectives for ideablob. According to our discussion, he felt it would benefit Advanta and its community, and decided to give it a try. As he said, when you innovate, you've got to try things and be prepared to fail occasionally. Very refreshing, and rarely seen in larger firms.

Take a look at what Advanta is doing with Ideablob, keeping in mind their core focus is creating and offering credit cards to small business owners. Note also that they are just releasing a new site,, to help small business owners value their businesses or other businesses near them.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 4:46 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this great site. It rminded me of another idea database that I visit from time to time: The Global Ideas Bank. The Global Ideas Bank aims to promote and disseminate good creative ideas to improve society. It further aims to encourage the public to generate these ideas, to participate in the problem-solving process.

- These ideas we term social inventions: non-technological, non-product, non-gadget ideas for social change. These are a mix of existing projects, fledgling initiatives and new bright ideas.

In this way, the Global Ideas Bank is part-suggestions box, part-ideas network and part-democratic think-tank, giving the "ordinary" person a chance to have their creativity recognised, rewarded and even put into practice.
Check it out at

12:45 AM  

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