UScellular dramatically advances innovation with Balloon

UScellular, one of the nation’s largest wireless communications networks, services over five million customers. The company employs over 5,600 workers across the United States. At the company’s Chicago headquarters, there is a team responsible for seeking solutions to pressing issues employees face. As innovation catalysts, they act as a powerful resource and consulting arm for internal UScellular teams.

"We realized the tools we’ve been using weren’t effective anymore. We needed something better at intersecting the feedback dynamic that we were starting to embark on with the whole surveying aspect of it. The Innovation team is always testing new things, but we hadn't seen anything like Balloon."

— Austin Brown, Innovation manager at UScellular

UScellular's Innovation team had a problem. Balloon had a solution.

When UScellular’s Marketing team approached the Innovation team to facilitate a workshop to generate ideas for their 2020 strategies, Balloon’s Insight Mobility platform was suggested. In previous sessions, the team used "dot exercises," an inefficient, non-digitized process that is loaded with anchoring bias, relationship biases, groupthink, and bandwagon effect. With dot exercises, the entire group was able to see which ideas were getting the most support, which heavily biased the results and outcome. 

The desired goal of the workshop was to collaborate effectively, ideate in small groups freely, and determine the highest priorities for next steps. 

UScellular's innovation team started a flight on Balloon’s Insight Mobility platform. One simple question was asked to the group of participants:

  • What ideas did your small group come up with?

The flight had 100% participation, and the 12 balloons launched during the flight received 205 pumps, or votes. The Insight Mobility platform enabled a faster, more focused discussion and broader team buy-in, which allowed the leadership team to quickly prioritize the unlocked insights.

“As an organization that has to always be thinking about the next thing we need to respond to, being able to gather really authentic feedback and make decisions is probably the best outcome we can face as a company,” said Austin Brown, the Innovation Manager at UScellular.

The leadership team also used this data to inform next steps and to assign a project lead.

"Balloon has helped us reach our goals by allowing us to have more empathy into our conversations and enable open, honest dialogue between the groups," said Brown. "By bridging the gap between teams and gathering authentic feedback, we’re able to close the empathy gap between those functions and make better decisions. At the end of the day we’re in a complex organization environment, so the more effective we can make decisions the better."

By using Balloon, the innovation team was able to provide the marketing team with a process that provided collective input and collaboration into their workshop. Eliminating barriers to feedback and groupthink helped the leadership team more effectively prioritize the strategies for 2020.

Listen to Brown explain how Balloon helped the Innovation team become even more innovative: