Crowdsourcing Case Study: Polaris Industries

By Leyna O'Quinn | Crowdsourcing
April 11, 2019

Polaris Industries’ crowdsourcing case study is inspiring people both internally and externally—and their story is still relevant today. As a strong believer that the key to success is in the ethics and values of its employees, Polaris has made the creation of great products not just a job, but a way of life.

“We’re proud to have an innovative culture. Planview Spigit lets us give employees an opportunity to create the next big thing.” – Joe Laurin, Visioneering Manager, Polaris Industries 

How do they accomplish this? Through their Ideate Innovation program, which the team uses to surface and develop ideas and turn them into award-winning products. When the program started back in 2004, the goal was to bring employees from all over the company together to present game-changing ideas, solve business challenges, and introduce exciting new offerings to market.

A few years later, an industrial designer and vehicle dynamics engineer conceptualized the Polaris Slingshot, a new form of three-wheel motorcycle that would shatter preconceptions about hybrid or trike-style bikes and attract an entirely new buyer segment. Since its release, the Slingshot has been compared to the Batmobile, a Star Wars pod racer, and something a Marvel Superhero would drive. Today, it’s a runaway bestseller in its vehicle class.

Tapping the Crowd

It was always obvious to leaders at Polaris that there were untapped opportunities to crowdsource groundbreaking ideas from employees across the company. But the company’s existing “innovation” process was entirely manual, making progress fragmented, expensive, time-consuming, and siloed. They needed a way to access greater idea diversity, streamline the innovation management process, drive implementation, and knock down bureaucracies.

That’s where Spigit’s innovation management software came in.

Why Polaris Needed a New Approach to Innovation—Challenges & Roadblocks

Manual Transmissions

The Polaris Visioneering pilot innovation program was 100% manual. Great ideas had limited exposure—and, even when surfaced, moved very slowly towards execution. Without predictability of risk, value, or viability for an idea, executive sponsorship and budget allocation was extremely difficult.

Low Visibility, Missed Connections

With a fully manual system, it was challenging to provide feedback on all ideas or implement new processes. Without greater transparency, Polaris might miss key market opportunities repeat concepts, failure to connect ideas with appropriate business units, and hamper their ability to keep up with competitors.

Reimagining Older Models

Because it wasn’t always clear how or why to explore new concepts, Polaris manually tracked potential inventions, process revisions, and other ideas. But bringing old ideas into the future was difficult without a tool to help understand when an idea would be applicable under new business conditions.

“Spigit closely mirrored our existing innovation efforts but allowed us to scale. We get to tap our employees’ expertise, bringing state-of-the-art vehicles to our global market quickly and repeatedly.” Craig A. Scanlon, Vice President—Slingshot 

Making the Case for Spigit—Crowdsourcing breakthrough innovation at Polaris

An Automated System

Spigit allowed the Polaris team to fully automate their Ideate Innovation program, making the process of ideation to execution 80% faster. Today, implementing new processes and getting started on new products is easier than ever.

Transparent crowdsourcing

Polaris chose Spigit because of its robust crowdsourcing capabilities, deep analytics, and visibility at all idea stages. The implementation of Polaris’ Spigit-backed innovation program helped them gather more feedback and reimagine the vehicle for today’s market.

The Ideate Innovation Program

Since its inception, four of Polaris’ best-selling vehicles have come out of the hugely successful, rebranded Ideate Innovation program. The most recent challenge resulted in 175 unique new ideas and millions of dollars in incremental revenue.

Results, Returns, & Repetition—Innovating to Compete

By crowdsourcing innovation with Spigit, Polaris achieved an 80% reduction in time needed to analyze, graduate, and implement new ideas and inventions, changing their R&D process and time to market dramatically, a distinct competitive advantage in a crowded vehicle market.

As of today, the Ideate Innovation program has resulted in 4 cutting-edge vehicles that are all bestsellers and award-winners in the ATV market. In addition to the Slingshot, these include the single-motor EV Ranger, the lightweight, low-inertia Axys, and a growing segment of Sportsman Ace vehicles. In August of 2015, Polaris beat global mammoth Harley to the market with the Empulse TT, the first electric motorcycle in a new class of two-wheeled vehicles.

“It was a treat to get company executives to go in and look at ideas, post comments and engage with what the crowd was thinking… Those of us on the innovation side, who have been champions of the [approach] for a long time, are excited to see the participation and the results of all their efforts.” – Rachel Anderson, Polaris, Innovation Project Leader

Your next eureka moment is waiting.

Like Polaris, you too can engage the crown and discover actionable ideas from everyone in your organization — and crowdsourcing software can help. To learn more about how to get you innovation program started, Visit the Planview Spigit website for more information, and register for a free demo today to see the solution in action.

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