Most crowdsourcing efforts fall flat because companies don’t do enough to cultivate individual contributors.
Dell claims its IdeaStorm community website has fielded nearly 24,000 ideas since its 2007 launch, more than 550 of which were deemed good enough to act upon. Numbers like these would seem to indicate that there’s a world of innovative ideas out there for just about any company to tap into.
But a flood of ideas does not necessarily equate to greater innovation potential. That’s because companies tend to favour more easily actionable - i.e., less innovative - ideas as contributions pile up; and 90% will likely struggle to garner consistent feedback of any kind, let alone an overwhelming response.
When crowdsourcing does add value, it comes from real relationships formed with individual contributors. Cultivating these relationships takes serious time and effort. Organisations that decide to venture into open innovation should first make sure they have the necessary resources ready to devote to the process right from the outset. The early stages are the most decisive.
- Lack of communication: the further removed someone is from the executive suite, the more often they need to hear your message. Delivering the message in a variety of ways helps. Repetition ensures that newcomers hear it too and broadcasts that this perspective is here to stay.
- Different altitudes: some vision and strategy statements are at a high, 50,000-foot-view level. They might sound good but leave too much to the imagination of an employee operating lower to the ground.
- Low fidelity: use a decision-making framework spelling out criteria for the types of work that support the mission.
- Distaste: sometimes it’s easier for a team member to say they don’t know the vision rather than they dislike or disagree with it. Investigate the degree to which people are on board.
- Work avoidance: look for ways to incentivise adoption of the business program and positively reward (even small) wins in the right direction.
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