At the beginning of the twentieth century, research and development was a highly guarded and elite practice. Imagine laboratories peopled by white-coated scientists who had passwords to protect the doors to their office. This kind of research and innovation was highly successful for a long time – it gave us electrocardiography, DNA fingerprinting, and many Apple products.
David Alan Grier wrote in Crowdsourcing for Dummies “the hardest part of crowdsourcing is raising the right crowd.” It is one of the realities of crowd ideation that continues to hold true – that if you can’t draw a crowd to help you generate innovative ideas, then you’re not evolving beyond the traditional closed approach to innovation.
Over the past couple of years, the services and solutions offered by innovation vendors have quietly shifted in new and interesting ways, with direct implications for corporate innovation leaders. Given that it is the middle of a long hot summer, I thought that it might be timely to outline some of the changes that I see taking place, and their impact on innovation leaders going forward.
Innovation is a word that’s been heard on the lips of more CEOs, read in more broadsheet papers, and detailed in more business magazines in the last ten months than ever before. It’s well regarded that those businesses that fail to innovate risk death; consider the sad fates of longstanding companies like Woolworths, Polaroid, Blockbuster, and Borders over the last ten years. But how, as an individual, can you incorporate innovation and creative thinking into your everyday working life, all while keeping up with the already manic pace of modern business?
The rise of crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, crowdtransporting, crowdletting, etc., has transformed our economy. It has also ushered in the era of the shared economy. Previously marginalized people can now contribute, no matter how small, to all walks of life. It seems to be a fantastic opportunity for the world to access the untapped skill of the crowd. But what about the people whose jobs this makes redundant? Whither the expert?
Innovation has become a bit of a business buzzword. Every CEO and CIO worth their salt wants to be seen to be on the forefront, bringing new products and services to a market. However, it doesn’t always go to plan, and rushing in to things head first without the proper due diligence can land a company in hot water.
As origens do ‘crowdsourcing’ vêm muito no mundo dos negócios. O termo é amplamente aceito como tendo sido cunhado pela revista Wired em 2006, em artigo analisando como as empresas estavam começando a terceirizar tarefas, normalmente entregues por um indivíduo a um maior número de pessoas, na expectativa de que obteria resultados mais rápidos por um preço menor. Desde então, o uso de técnicas de crowdsourcing em negócios está mais estabelecido. Crowdfunding, por exemplo, tornou-se uma maneira comum de levantar fundos, enquanto os clientes Spigit Engage fornecem um grande exemplo de como as empresas estão aplicando crowdsourcing para o processo de inovação.
The origins of ‘crowdsourcing’ lie very much in the business world. The term is widely accepted to have been coined by Wired magazine in 2006, in an article analysing how businesses were beginning to outsource tasks, usually handled by an individual to a larger number of people, in the expectation it would gain faster results for a cheaper price. Since then, business use of crowdsourcing techniques has become more established. Crowdfunding, for example, has become a common way of raising funds, while Spigit Engage customers provide a great example of how businesses are applying crowdsourcing to the innovation process.
One of the most critical professional challenges that employees face today is being able to successfully manage positive change within their organization. Innovation is has become a watch word, with so many divisions not being able to find enough valuable ideas and then successfully manage those ideas into a commercial offering that sometimes companies even respond to customer tickets and bugs and simply label those results as “innovation.”
Surfing the crowd has hit the mainstream…Young, agile firms have always been known for their disruptive ideas. Increasingly, enterprises are keen to foster a similar innovation culture so that great concepts can surface even in a company with thousands of employees. The challenge comes when there are many layers of management and frontline workers are struggling to navigate the corporate hierarchy so their ideas are heard by the leadership team. In a bid to transform its business, Microsoft recently announced it would cut thousands of middle management jobs to ease the flow of information and decision making, ‘no longer respecting tradition but only innovation’.
Innovation portals have taken an important place in the open innovation landscape. Expectations are great in portal performance but often, for purely budgetary reasons, these portals are launched and managed internally by corporates themselves, to discover that they generate a number of community management issues that they are not used to coping with. Prior to launching a corporate portal it is a good idea to ask a few specific questions on whether to do this internally or through experienced third party innovation providers. Using external resources can often avoid pitfalls and align the portal success rate to corporate expectations, objectives and ambitions. Here six questions are asked that can help you take the decision whether to launch a managed portal internally or externally.
For the companies which have embraced the crowdsourcing mindset in their business processes, the motive is more than just outsourcing. It’s about better collaboration, better innovation outcomes and ultimately superior value. But like many other new business models, some fail and some succeed in accomplishing this mission.
2014 leaves us with a number of mega-innovations that feel tantalizingly close to becoming part of—and improving—our daily lives. The driverless car. Commercial applications of graphene. Reliable, accessible renewable energy. Personalized medicine based on our genome. The reinvention of commercial air travel as a relaxing, invigorating experience. Okay—that last one may be a bit of a stretch. Perhaps the best expressions of innovation, as with charity, begin at home. With that thought, I leave you, the innovation practitioner, with a couple wishes for the new year.
Utilising crowd led approaches to create value is increasingly familiar in both the literature of business comment and reporting and through our own experience. Crowdassets, as we refer to them, represent a profound and enduring source of innovation and we must adapt and respond to this opportunity. In the fourth of a series of articles focused on Innovation Culture, we are going to provide a more holistic view of the concepts as well as the means to embrace the growing opportunities presented by the crowd empowered ecosystem.
How do innovation leaders access additional resources to enhance the scale and impact of their efforts across complex, global organizations?