The biggest thing in the innovation process is to realize the problem. It’s never the solution that matters. As the most difficult thing is to realize the problem or even to admit that it’s a problem. For example – I am a moderately flying professional working in a multi-national company. I would definitely have a trip in a week for business. I had never felt the need of being able to charge my computer on board until one day my laptop dried up all the juice. Once we find out the problem, the solution is the next big thing.
The thing about solution is a bit complex. We will not for the argument sake take problem to be our focus point. We would stick to the trends of solution. A technological or a business innovation is often driven by individual brilliance or stupidity. All inventions are made out of accidents and each of them often led a corporate to achieve extraordinary financial gains through commodization of the result.
As we move ahead in the competitive world, the consumer is becoming demanding, restless and non-loyal to any technological product or model and to business solution that cant constantly upgrade and better themselves in a agile way. So a scenario like this enforces the ability of the organization to tap in to the brain of the common people – People who are ordinary, people who are not connected to the product or the problem, People who can think and opine. While reaching out to people for ideas of betterment is not new concept, and we have seen it in form of Surveys, Focus Groups, interventions etc, what is a cheap and readily available source is crowd sourcing.
What is Crowd Sourcing for an Enterprise: To be able to bounce an problem statement asking for ideas to solve the current problem or to better a product or model or strategy from common man prospective can be called crowd sourcing. There are several agents of this crowd sourcing – Facebook (is fore runner) , twitter, brainyard.com etc are definitely laudable. But, a enterprise runs a huge risk of opening of Facebook to enterprise for idea sourcing because of the following problem
1. Third Party dominance
2. Target Audience/ demography unknown
3. Possibility of losing competitive advantage on idea to competitors.
4. Lack of control of Security (mother of all)
5. Lack of control to run it as a program.
That leaves the organization to target a relatively tighter community of its associates working for the company. There are companies like 3M who are forerunners in innovation driven by the internal employee base. The advantages of the internal ideation process are many folds
1. Can serve as a medium of social recognition for associates
2. Can capture a lot of ideas without a lot of spending
3. Can tap into a very focused group’s brain
4. Can run like a program.
While this offers a lot of benefits to capture the internal brains of a company as the crowd knows about the product and company the most, there are basic logistical requirements that an organization faces for ideation process.
1. Platform: A platform to capture all ideas suggested or generated theme or non-theme based across the organization. It can be as naïve as an excel sheet and as complex as a Web 2.0 idea management portal. The basic needs of the platform are
a. Should be driven by workflow
b. Should have idea hierarchy
c. Should have mechanism to have themes
d. Should be non-hierarchical
e. De-dup facility
2. Moderation: It’s the ability of the organization to restrict the idea platform not to be a facebook for enterprise chatting, wastage of infrastructure and time. Its very easy for associates majority of whom are gen-y in social networking to get swayed away by the availability of the platform and start discussion which are not relevant or counter-productive.
3. Idea Filtration: This is the biggest challenge of crowd sourcing as such. Everyone likes to give idea. Most of them are repetitive (all of us almost think alike), some of them are not irrelevant and some are destructive and few are really GEM. So the most difficult task for an organization is to filter the idea based on some criteria which are pre-determined. Its also important for a corporation to park ideas which are irrelevant to the themes but can be useful some other time.
4. Program: Theme based ideation and a program driven approach to implementation is very essential for corporate to counter the risk of going off the topic. While idea generation is the easiest part, managing those ideas through a program is the most difficult one as it’s a completely voluntary process.
5. Encouragement/Culture: Why should I suggest, what is in it for me? Who cares? – These are some of the common question to deter the person from contribution to ideation process. What can be a major motivation is the social status of the contributor or a gift program based on the outcome of the implementation of the idea. It’s a give and take world. So Corporate should open up the channel to recognize and reward associate for ideating.
Crowd sourcing effectiveness is a study by in itself by a lot of consumer research, sociology and organizational behavior research process. But what is important in all these aspects is that the timing to avail crowd sourcing. The time is NOW.