Crowd Science, Innovation, and Driving Outcomes

Filed Under Innovation

Lights of Numbers
Arwen Heredia

February 5, 2014

It would be great if innovation programs were as easy to execute as they are to talk about, wouldn’t it? Of course, that’s not the case — innovation management is a strategic process, and when it’s done right, a highly scientific one, too. This February, we’re diving into the realities behind crowd science and its symbiotic relationship to innovation, as well as how to drive real outcomes by combining the two.

So…What Exactly is Crowd Science?

Crowdsourcing can often seem like a shot in the dark; or more accurately, trying to find a really amazing needle in a very loud, boisterous haystack. But when we look at the exceptional value that crowdsourcing offers in ideation and shaping concepts, it makes sense that it would be even more beneficial if it were mechanized and scalable.

And so it is. Innovation management systems — like our own SpigitEngage — provide crowd-driven decision making backed by algorithms, allowing the best ideas to get surfaced every time. Guesswork is replaced by systematic idea graduation, workflows become more efficient, and even very large organizations are able to harness the power of the crowd and leverage it for executable innovation. Recently, Accenture released the results of an annual study they conduct on emerging IT trends, and found an uptick in engagement as well as ideas that actually made their way to the executive agenda — crowd science is what makes this possible. From the study:

“Enterprises are embracing technology in the way they do business and also as a catalyst to create something new — new markets, new products, and new areas of growth and revenues…The increasing pressure to rapidly deploy new technology is accentuating some of an enterprise’s biggest pain points: market insight, innovation, and a need for highly specialized skills. These are areas for which crowdsourcing solutions are well suited.

This year’s research effort began with the collection of over 3,000 ideas and comments on technology trends, disruptions, and hypotheses from the architects, engineers, and scientists across Accenture who see the impact of technology changes every day in their work with clients. Using Mindjet’s SpigitEngage, an enterprise innovation platform, the ideas and examples of the trends in action were gathered during a trends spotting contest. Over 850 participants actively engaged in contributing, voting and developing the vast collection of ideas.”

Plugging in the Lightbulb

Driving outcomes through crowd science and the resulting innovation opportunities is a socially collaborative process. It requires cultural shifts, active engagement, and a willingness to do applied research. Says Accenture’s Paul Dougherty, “Leading companies are starting to harness the crowd to create an expanded workforce that will drive market research and product development activities, as well as energizing innovation. With the right digital tools in place, they can predict better than ever how the market will react to their products and who will buy them. Companies that get it right will find themselves with better insight into their customers, more innovative products and services, and an increased agility to retool themselves with the skills necessary to respond to the changing technology landscape.”

While the advantages of innovation management systems are being embraced and the popularity of crowdsourcing platforms is rising, not all executives understand the incredible benefits of harnessing what Accenture calls a “truly liquid” workforce, or “pools of premier talent gathered in virtual communities and coalescing around specific business problems.” But listen up, leaders — consider the idea of being able to solve problems that are currently too huge for your organization to handle, too specific for the expertise you have on-hand, or too costly to not overturn your available resources.

As we delve into how businesses can effectively plug crowdsourcing into their innovation efforts, it’s likely that we’ll make some candid discoveries about existing ideation and engagement practices. In the end, our goal is to help enterprise companies uncover the most successful recipe for innovation that’s both repeatable and scalable, and most importantly, connects organizations with their true potential.