InnovaSystems’ first iPad app, Inspire!, has enjoyed great success since its premier launch in early 2012, and is already undergoing a major version upgrade to 2.0. The new version, which is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2013, will feature an all-new companion Web version, data synchronization in the cloud, task/reminders integration, daily planning and a new navigation approach, among other top requested user enhancements.

Inspire! was originally designed as a planning app to help InnovaSystems employees plan their weeks according to top priorities—in their work and day-to-day life—and serve as a tool to help improve communications with supervisors in one-on-one meetings using the weekly reporting feature. Acting on an ‘Executive Challenge' from Ken Blanchard to graduates of the Master of Science in Executive Leadership (MSEL) program, we decided to incorporate the philosophy of Blanchard's Situational Leadership II along with the principles taught by Franklin Covey, Patrick Lencioni, Marshall Goldsmith and other leadership gurus into the development of Inspire!.

In the early design stages, it was decided to tie images to individual values, roles and goals to help remind users of their highest priorities before beginning the weekly planning process. As the design team considered ways to accomplish this, they came up with the compass metaphor and mode playlist concept. We quickly recognized that imagery can play a major role in helping users make an emotional connection with the app, and so it became the central theme of all functions.

During the initial beta-testing phase of Inspire!, Franklin Covey concurrently released their new 5 Choices for Extraordinary Productivity course, which was very consistent with the philosophy and approach of the Inspire! app. The 5 choices are:

1)     Act on the important, don't react to the urgent

2)     Go for the extraordinary, don't settle for ordinary

3)     Schedule the big rocks, don't sort gravel

4)     Rule your technology, don't let it rule you

5)     Fuel your fire, don't burn out

Rolling out Inspire! with 5 Choices proved to be a highly effective way to train employees on the app, and help improve success with the original goals of weekly planning. By requiring students to go through a five-week quick start with an accountability partner, and submitting a letter to the facilitators highlighting the program’s pros and cons, we were able to gauge the effectiveness of the app and training. About 100 employees participated in the app’s beta testing prior to its release on the App Store in March of 2012. That process, which generated many great ideas, resulted in a variety of exciting new features in the initial and subsequent releases. More importantly, we learned that Inspire! was truly making a difference in people's lives based on the stories they shared in their 5-week letters.

On March 23, 2012, Inspire! 1.0 was released and first available in the App Store. A celebratory launch party was held in a house on the mountain of Park City Resort with members of the development and marketing team as we watched the press release hit hundreds of news sites. Rave reviews came in from bloggers and users. A foot of fresh powder dumped on the mountain during the night before the launch, which made for a magical morning of skiing, snowboarding and celebrating for the team. Most of us imported the photos we took on that special day into the Inspire! app to remind us of the teamwork, passion and innovation that the prior 18 months had accomplished.

Shortly after the release, InnovaSystems employee Bob Maslach requested sponsorship in an event called the Million Dollar Challenge, which is a 620-mile bike ride from San Francisco to San Diego organized by the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). The CAF helps wounded warriors accomplish goals in sports by providing special prosthetics and coaching services. We provided iPads with Inspire! to several wounded warriors to help them set goals for the Million Dollar Challenge and other activities. They have all since provided encouraging results from using the app, and are currently working with us on a strategy to help prevent suicides within the DoD. We plan on presenting this strategy to the director of suicide prevention in the Office of the Secretary of Defense Personnel and Readiness branch next quarter.

Later in the spring, we paired up the Inspire! app with another program by Franklin Covey, called the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. We taught a 5-week course to 30 seventh graders at Joan MacQueen Middle School (JMMS) in Alpine, Calif. We provided iPad loaners with Inspire! and taught the tool along with the 7 Habits, enticing them with an opportunity to win an iPad if they applied the material and provided us feedback for improving the app. The program resulted in rave reviews by the kids, their parents and teachers, along with the award of four iPads and several iTunes gift cards to the kids who performed the best. In August, we taught the same class to 18 teenage children of some our Norfolk employees and achieved similar encouraging results. We plan to offer the teens class to our employees kids each year in San Diego and Norfolk. We are currently teaching another class of 8th grade students at JMMS and have plans to take Inspire! to larger school districts in 2013.

We have also been piloting the use of Inspire! on a business-to-business level, starting with Blanchard Companies, WD40 and Epsilon Systems. Our goal is to help businesses achieve similar gains in productivity and strategic goal execution, and use the results to market the app along with training and coaching to additional companies in the coming year.

And closer to home, more than 50 InnovaSystems employees used the app during the summer and fall to help achieve fitness goals via the Fitness Tools Working Group (FTWG). The majority of the FTWG members reached their goals for weight loss and improved health; some having lost over 30 pounds, and others doing more activities than ever. We plan to kick-off another FTWG at the beginning of 2013 to help employees with their New Year’s related health resolutions.

In December, we held an offsite Inspire! 2.0 planning meeting in Salt Lake City with the development team, and are making great progress with a strategic plan to launch the new Inspire! 2.0 version in Q1. Look for additional launch details in an upcoming CommHub article in early January. It’s been a great year for Inspire!, thanks to all of you who have helped evolve the app into what it is today, and for your continued dedication to using it to help us discover new growth opportunities in the coming months.