An Army Of One: Innovation And Ideation When You’re Part of the Crowd

Filed Under Innovation

Why Innovate?

June 4, 2014

Crowdsourcing is the one of the latest brainstorming techniques being employed by major businesses. The practice takes like-minded people, fans, and experts and asks them to collaborate and exchange ideas, with the goal of building something sustainable and innovative.

While this sounds great in theory, we all know innovation programs are not always that easy to execute, especially given the resources and time required to implement them. However, brands can accomplish this more efficiently if they take the perspective of the crowd’s individuals into consideration.

Finding The Needle(s) In The Haystack

The next Big Idea could very well come from outside of your professional perimeter. Aside from your employees, many enthusiastic professionals and fans in your industry are waiting to be discovered online, and they can be, as long as you know how to reach out.

Announcing a contest on Facebook could work, but to understand what the issues are from a customer’s standpoint, you need to truly get in on the conversation, track the dialogues being exchanged, and use that information to discover trends. Potential crowdsource volunteers are typically active on social media, contributing to trending topics and bringing new ones to light. To cut through the noise, you need to track real-time data so you can sift through and find the right keywords, along with the people who are talking about these topics. Chances are, the people who you are interested in connecting with are already using them, so all you need to do is go out and discover them.

This approach can also be used in the workplace, which is typically a private conversation within the organization. The same rules apply — with, of course, the exception of keeping the conversation internal.

Fostering The Right Environment

Participants in any crowdsourcing experiment need to feel like they are really part of something, and it’s up to you to provide the right environment. This includes, but is not limited to, focusing on the following:

Control. There are times when contests and crowdsourcing initiatives, otherwise known as Challenges, can spiral out of control and get hijacked by pranksters or people who don’t take the experiment seriously. Unfortunately, this can turn away genuine innovators, since their voices are unlikely to be heard amongst the fluff. It’s important that, once you know what you need to work on, you identify the parameters of the Challenge up front, so that volunteers with the right kind of talent and enthusiasm show up. Having a framework or software that keeps data safe is just as important; it adds a sense of legitimacy for participants. In a nutshell? Create an environment where people can effectively and comfortably share their ideas.

Motivation. Motivation is an extremely important aspect of the innovation process. Remember, most of the “crowd” are not typically part of the decision-making process, so they need to know that what they’re working on will amount to something of value, even if their idea isn’t chosen. This could include letting them know that they are part of a mission to discover or create a new, cutting-edge product or service. Alert them to the fact that key stakeholders are giving them a chance to be a part of implementing winning ideas, and empowering them with a space where their voices will be heard no matter the outcome.

Rewards. This goes without saying: participants need to be rewarded and recognized for their efforts; that’s what brings them back, and keeps them willing to participate and innovate further. Plus, if you’re executing the crowdsourcing experiment publicly, these volunteers and participants can open the doors to new networks and communities. Innovators need to be looked upon as an investment rather than an expectation or byproduct. When the knowledge and effort of the participants are respected, brands can build collaborative relationships — and in turn, communities — for the long run.

Bringing it All Together

If you want to keep innovation and ideation alive in your organization, take these steps to implementing a crowdsourcing strategy that your employees and potential fans can support.

Mindjet’s SpigitEngage is a platform that offers innovators the right framework and tools to collaborate and exchange ideas freely. The user interface allows users to capture and refine data via feedback, interactions, and ratings. The pairwise voting system ensures that each idea is given equal consideration, and built-in game mechanics drive business value through social recognition and virtual currency, keeping everyone involved, uplifted, and motivated. To learn more, schedule a demo.