Imagine: crowdinnovation platform, and launchpad for entrepreneurs

This post is an extract from a support material for an interview on crowdinnovation platform Imagine with Orange performed with Nicholas Ind and Oriol Iglesias, Professors at ESADE Business School, Barcelona.

It shares a few learnings about the development of Imagine, and explains how Imagine combines a crowd-innovation platform with a launchpad for entrepreneurs.

What is Imagine with Orange?

Could you briefly describe for me the project you have undertaken? Do you refer to it as co-creation or something else?

Nicolas Bry: ‘Imagine with Orange’ is a crowdsourcing platform for innovation, and a launchpad for entrepreneurs:

Every quarter, Imagine suggests a topic: connected family, connected objects, smart city, mobile money… Consumers present their ideas in a few words on the platform. Then, ideas go all around the world. Hundreds of people will comment on them and enrich them. The community is shaping the innovation.

Orange rewards the people whose ideas were most appreciated: they can either choose between a connected device, or be invited to Paris to take part in an innovation workshop, with Orange, to dig in into the potential of their idea. Share your ideas, Orange is helping you to give them life!

Imagine campaigns 

The reason why?

What were the motivations to engage in co-creation?

NB: Orange is operating in over 30 countries, and handles international Labs in all continents, but most of the innovation teams are based in France : the reason why we set Imagine up was to collect ideas from various countries, to encompass innovation beyond Silicon Valley, and detect tremendous creative services like Mobile Money.

More than ideas, we also wanted to unfold trends and insights that reflect the local environment of our users, and their digital dreams, to inspire our innovation teams: letting the voice of the user enter our innovation process upstream.

Mobile Money

Did you or your organisation have previous experience of using co-creation?

Orange has a long story of  cocreation activities with its customers, Orange fixe and mobile subscribers. It is established mainly in France through Lab Orange: iIt focuses on developing and testing new concepts for Orange, and conducting experimentations with customers, both online and offline.

Dream Orange is a complementary entity which handles online conversations on digital usages with Orange French customers.

Orange has launched several open innovation initiatives, especially to foster entrepreneurship:

  • Orange Fab is to support start-ups with acceleration program, extending their business at fast pace; its network covers now the US, France, Poland, Asia, Ivory Coast, Israel, and Spain!
  • Orange Partner is to cooperate with partners by mean of APIs exposing Orange resources: a well-thpught use of APIs can boost start-ups product development;
  • Orange for Development partners with incubators in emerging countries;
  • Imagine with Orange is for innovation crowdsourcing and a launchpad for entrepreneurs, helping them to design their innovation;
  • Orange Digital Ventures is to fund early-stage start-ups in the digital industry.

Imagine launchpad

What expectations did you and your colleagues have before the project?

NB: The value proposition of Imagine was to be very international, open to any user, from start-up to innovation fans, students, Orange employees, Orange customers, and non Orange customers, and to focus on the ideation / creativity stage.

The challenges

What do you think the key success factors are for a co-creation project? And what are the main barriers?

The key success factor is the set-up and engagement of a community.

We wanted to work on trends and not funneling ideas, then Orange engagement was not about transforming ideas into direct implementations. Innovation projects at Orange might result from a combination of ideas, or from an idea coming out of Imagine, and giving an impulse to another internal idea.


Then we had to find another kind of reward., and we had to combine a ‘loose’ engagement on transformation with an attractive reward for the community participation.

Another challenge was the following: to foster ideation and nurture conversation, we wanted all ideas to be open to anyone who wanted to comment, enrich, and vote. We had to resist the natural trend to keep ideas confidential, like on solution-search open innovation platforms, handling closed contests.

How do you try to solve/overcome this?

Searching for relevant rewards for the community, we listened to the consumers: firstly they say “Orange brand is listening to me, Orange pays attention, that’s something I value”. That was a first reward.

Secondly, some participants said “If my idea collects a lot of votes, and is one of the most appreciated, and I want to follow-up on it, turning it into an innovation project, will Orange support me with expertise and marketing exposure?’ And we said “Yes”.

That’s’ where came the suggestion of organizing an innovation workshop in Paris, to dig in into the idea potential, and start a coaching on innovation design. We edited innovation guidelines that we share with the winning teams, and we wrap-up the analysis during the innovation workshop. We welcomed several teams from France, Poland and Romania, and it results to be quite helpful. That’s why we say Imagine is a launchpad for entrepreneurs.

Finally, the third reward was brought by the Imagine team and the community itself: every idea shared on Imagine gets immediate and substantial feedback from both, and that’s very gratifying for the idea owner who feels as being part of a community, and of a conversation.

How did you build awareness around Imagine ?

Orange has a strong brand recognition internationally. We leveraged this precious asset, by targeting digital influencers that could help us spread the news about campaign openings on Imagine.

Orange countries took on to extend promotion in their footprint, with social media, PR, and emailing: France, Poland, Romania,  Tunisia, Ivory Coast, and Jordan brought many contributors to the community.


Concurrently, Orange International Labs employees from Tunisia, Japan, India, Egypt, and the UK also signed in on Imagine, sharing multiple accurate ideas and comments, and enticing their local community to participate.

Collective adventure

Finally, we engaged in local events related to innovation, start-ups, and crowdsourcing in France, Poland and Romania. These were warm atmosphere, and a perfect way to have direct contact with innovation communities.


The achievements

From your experience, what are the key benefits from co-creation ?

The immediate benefit of each Imagine thematic campaign is to detect opportunities with a user point of view. Opportunities can result from quantitative analysis, combination of ideas, convergent ideas, or weak signals, that turn into trends: this the job of the Imagine team to unveil the magic formula out of a campaign sum-up. More than the solution described, it’s often the need expressed behind the idea that is deeply valuable.

After 4 challenges completed, the community has reached 6,000 members, covering 29 countries, and sharing +1000 ideas. We have now an innovation asset that we can interrogate, and follow like a Twitter feed for innovation.

An unexpected output of Imagine is to provide a start-ups screener on a specific topic: start-ups active in smart city area, start-ups for connected objects, etc

ideas sharing

Imagine simplifies the process of sharing idea: this is an opportunity that we are opening up to corporate partners, who want to leverage Imagine community to unfold innovation opportunituies. We will conduct a first campaign on behalf of a corporate partner from Middle-East in September.

We can see that more will follow, and we plan to make Imagine to be open to any project owner: it could be a start-up or a corporate innovator, launching a campaign on Imagine, to test his initiative, and collect support and ideas, to refine its project,  using Imagine as a Kickstarter for ideas.

More on co-creation platform.



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