Napkin Labs is an innovation management tool aimed at turning an organization’s social networkNapkin Labs is an innovation management tool aimed at turning an organization’s social network followers into active collaborators. Their new release is an online “lab space” that an organization can brand and then use to engage with their followers around product ideas, feature requests, or other forms of feedback and conversation. From their press release:

  • Activities and apps. Within each company’s lab, apps guide customers through activities that range from answering a simple question (What do you think of minimalist shoes?) to soliciting feedback (How can we improve this shoe’s design?) to doing an all-out video fact-finding mission (Interview runners on why they use minimalist shoes). Companies can customize what a project will look like by adding apps to change a customer’s experience. Napkin Labs is consistently adding new apps to give companies a range of activities to help them understand their customers in different ways.
  • Game dynamics. Every company’s project is a game, where customers are encouraged to contribute ideas and insights. Contributors to a company’s lab get rewarded with ‘influence’ points for every suggestion they make for a project, ranking them on a leaderboard of everyone in the game. When a project wraps, every contributor gets a slice of a reward a company chooses to offer (things like money, merchandise, or recognition and glory).
  • Intuitive design. Napkin Labs is a simple, web-based platform that lets companies customize the experience customers get: from the welcome message; to the background, logos and colors of a lab; to the activities they’ll complete. Unlike confusing collaboration platforms, it’s easy to set up and guide customers through activities to get a specific outcome, such as refining an existing advertising campaign.

I asked Riley Gibson, Co-Founder and CEO of Napkin Labs how they came to such a clean design:

When we first started it was just thinking about what we would want to use -- the founders all hated using anything that resembled business software. Our insight was that you could have the most powerful collaboration tool, but if you don't have the people, it's meaningless.  We wanted to pull you into the experience and make feel it like time on a social network, but you're also engaging and providing value to the companies.

Their approach seems to be plugged-in to the focal users needs. This isn’t heavy-duty R&D collaboration (though I bet the R&D team will be deeply in the mix). This is perkier “let’s work together” collaboration of the type you see on sites like Kickstarter. Followers can give freely of their ideas in return for the experience, having their ideas heard, and seeing their influence grow. The technology stays in the background, keeping the dynamic more like the social networks Napkin Labs is helping their clients leverage. Take a video tour of Napkin Labs hereOriginally posted to Technorati here.