IdeaFactory – Does crowdsourcing ideas work? Take a look at TSA’s program – Part 2

We've probably all seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The movie showcases imagination, creativity and the freedom to try new things and experiment. That's the same idea as the TSA's IdeaFactory. The 5-year-old program was one of the first true government 2.0 technologies. Megan Kenny is the Acting Program Manager for the Office of Training and Workforce at the TSA. She was part of an ODEP hosted webcast, Policy Development Think Tank Webcast: New Strategies for Successful Collaboration. DorobekINSIDER host Chris Dorobek moderated the conversation. Megan told Chris how the IdeaFactory came about. "We wanted to make sure as an agency that we had access to all the best ideas. Our Administrator at the time really believed those answers were hidden somewhere within the agency's 60,000 employees. But our agency is spread out all over the country at 450 airports. So we took the simple and unsuccessful idea of an employee suggestion box and threw it online and added a social crowdsourcing element," said Kenny.

How it Works

"Every TSA employee has the ability to post their ideas publicly so everyone can see it, rate it and comment on it. My team manages those ideas. We have a data base of unfiltered opinions and experiences. It's opened up 2-way communication between our field employees and headquarters," said Kenny, "once those ideas are posted we send them up the chain of command to see if they are feasible. So far we have implemented 120 ideas." "When someone's idea is implemented either through open innovation or a challenge that person is recognized very publicly. You get a certificate and a TSA Challenge coin. If possible we also try to let the person work on implementing their own ideas," said Kenny.


"You need a brave and dynamic leader to make it work. Our administrator back in 2007 said, 'I want this program and I want it now," we had the program up and running in six weeks.


"IdeaFactory management is a full-time job for 4 employees at TSA. We also tap networks within TSA to filter ideas and explore whether ideas are actually feasible," said Kenny.


"We wanted to start targeting specific problems. So we go to senior leaders and ask them for a very specific suggestion. Then we send it out to the community as a challenge. This way we are targeting a specific need. So far we have launched 12 challenges this year," said Kenny.

Measure Success

"TSA has 60,000 employees. IdeaFactory gets about 10,000 unique users a month.  We are also able to mine the data to field reports to senior leaders about specific challenges and solutions," said Kenny. Part 1: Check out ODEP's other panel featuring ideas on collaboration.    
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