Last week, I published an article by Jeffrey Phillips, entitled Why social networking is not innovation. In it, he points out the limitations of online tools like Dell’s IdeaStorm and BMW’s Virtual Innovation Agency that enable visitors to an organization’s website to submit ideas. Not surprisingly, his views have generated a significant amount of discussion, both in comments posted to the article and a blog post by another author.
Some comments supported Jeffrey’s assertion that such social networking/innovation tools encourage the submission of large quantities of unfocused, low-value ideas. Others pointed out an intangible benefit: The value that can be gained in terms of customer loyalty by virtue of the fact that you’re actually listening to customer ideas, and are inviting them to potentially “co-create” new products with you.
Laughlan MacKinnon, in his Idea Management Systems Blog, concurs:
“The possibility exists that regardless of the success of social networking or crowdsourcing tools for generating commercial value as a front end for innovation, such tools may generate commercial value in themselves through enhancing the relationship with key stakeholder groups such as employees or customers.”
He also points out that companies like Dell most likely have internal idea management tools and processes that are expected to be the primary funnel for new ideas, and that such customer-facing tools are designed to support those efforts. In other words, at this stage of the game, they’re just an experiment, which may or may not pay off in new product ideas. At the very least, they represent another way for Dell to keep its finger on the pulse of changing customer needs and desires.
Got an opinion on this issue? Why not share it in the comments section below Jeffrey’s article!