Polaris Industries Driving Breakthrough Innovation Through Crowdsourcing
Polaris Industries is an American manufacturer of motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, and neighborhood electric vehicles based in Minnesota. Polaris is a strong believer that the key to success is in the ethics and values of its employees, and that making great products is not just a job – it’s a way of life.
The Polaris Visioneering innovation program relied solely on manual processes, resulting in limited idea exposure and slow execution. Lack of predictability made it hard to secure executive sponsorship and budget allocation. Without transparency, market opportunities were missed, and ideas were not connected with the appropriate business units. Bringing old ideas into the future was challenging without a tool to assess their relevance under new business conditions.
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. 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. Because it’s 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.
“We’re proud to have an innovative culture. Planview IdeaPlace lets us give employees an opportunity to create the next big thing.”
- Joe Laurin, Visioneering Manager, Polaris Industries
Polaris Industries launched the Ideate innovation program in 2004 to encourage employees from all departments to present ideas and create new products. The program led to the creation of the award-winning Polaris Slingshot, a three-wheel motorcycle that attracted a new buyer segment. The company's manual innovation process was fragmented and siloed, so they turned to Planview® IdeaPlace's innovation management software to streamline the process and drive implementation. The software helped Polaris access greater idea diversity, knock down bureaucracies, and manage innovation more effectively.
The team at Polaris Industries uses the Ideate innovation program to surface and develop ideas and turn them into award-winning products. When the program started 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. In 2006, 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.
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 Planview® IdeaPlace’s innovation management software came in.
By crowdsourcing innovation with Planview IdeaPlace, 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. Planview IdeaPlace 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. Polaris chose Planview IdeaPlace because of its robust crowdsourcing capabilities, deep analytics, and visibility at all idea stages.
The implementation of Polaris’ IdeaPlace-backed innovation program helped them gather more feedback and reimagine the vehicle for today’s market. 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. “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 this [approach] for a long time, are excited to see the participation and the results of all the efforts," says Rachel Anderson, an Innovation Project leader at Polaris.
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.