IF11: The Secrets to Using Digital Tools to Spur Innovation

Collaboration is critical for sustainable innovation, and there's no shortage of digital tools to help people and their companies make the connection, FMYI President Justin Yuen told attendees at the GreenBiz Innovation Forum.

It's important to select a tool that helps your business achieve its goals. Cool tools are good, but it's essential to avoid getting mired in a tool's cool factor and losing sight of your objective.

"To me, it's always about the people, not certain technology," Yuen said. "The focus really starts on knowing the audience you want to reach, the information you want to share, but most importantly, the action you want to come out of it.

"Obviously there's many, many tools to communicate with folks. There's websites, email, discussion forums -- but my main interest is: How do you bring people together to create action?"

Yuen offered his insights as the founder of social collaboration software company FMYI (it stands for For My Information). His firm creates private social networks for firms and organizations that are interested in connecting people for work-related purposes and specific goals.

He started the company almost eight years ago in Oregon, following a career at Nike where he managed corporate sustainable development. His goal was to build a business with "minimum environmental impact and maximum societal value." Central to that aim, he said, are two key principles:

1. Collaboration is at the heart of sustainability. Collaboration must occur to fully realize sustainability.

2. Innovation requires implementation of ideas and taking action. Ideas are not worth anything unless they are put into action.

The company and Yuen have been wildly successful; FMYI is one of Oregon's fastest growing private firms and Yuen's accolades include being named to the list of 2011 Pivotal Leaders in cleantech. The company's clients have included Aflac, HBO, Hyatt, Sony, Target, Office Depot, Fox, Macy's, Disney and more than 10,000 others. Drawing from that experience, Yuen's advice included tips on:

Suitability

Sites that work well for teenagers aren't likely to be suitable for the working world. Usability is the key, Yuen said, and the only way to determine that is through vigorously testing the site or the tool.