Crowdsourcing Ideas for Innovation Success

How to tap into your company’s greatest resource

Once in a lifetime, you might be hit with a bolt of divine inspiration: an insight so bold, so precise and so perfect that it needs no refining. The rest of the time, you should probably start crowdsourcing ideas.

Although the myth of individual genius – an all-knowing CEO, or evangelical consultant – persists in many businesses, most great leaders understand that effective problem solving is really a collaborative process, with four clear stages:

  1. Define the problem: to open the issue out for general consideration, you need to be able to clearly define its parameters.
  2. Survey the landscape: to make meaningful change, you first need to understand your starting position.
  3. Evaluate possible solutions: remaining creative and flexible allows you to think outside the box.
  4. Make a decision: with many options available, you are better able to determine – and justify – the best idea.

Crowdsourcing is the only problem-solving process that not only incorporates, but actually necessitates, all four of these stages, leading to targeted, robust solutions.

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing works on the assumption that spread is more important than depth in the early stages of problem solving. Rather than struggling to come up with a solution on your own, or by hiring a single expert, you can discover the answer – or even a series of answers – ‘by committee’.

By handing over ideation to your employees, you are tapping into an invaluable resource. After all, no one knows your business better than your team. They intimately understand the demands of their role, discuss issues with their colleagues, and may already be developing creative work-arounds to daily challenges.

Why is crowdsourcing ideas important for your businesses?

All innovation begins with an idea. That’s why innovation-focused companies strive to create an idea funnel, so that they’re constantly finding and filtering solutions to emerging challenges.

By framing a challenge as a prompt for ongoing conversation, and engaging with your team, you can find real solutions, to real problems, in record time.

Crowdsourcing ideas not only replenishes your supply of possible innovations; it also helps your team to develop a powerful culture of collaboration.

However while it is a powerful tool for gaining general feedback across your business, it can also be a solution to a specific problem in and of itself.

How Warby Parker harnessed the power of crowdsourcing ideas

Glasses brand Warby Parker created a crowdsourcing platform in order to specifically answer the question: how can we make better use of our computer programmers time?

In this case, any one of their 800 employees can suggest a project on their dedicated platform, which their colleagues then vote on. From this pool, programmers pick and choose what they would like to work on. Engineers are rewarded with points, incentivising the most popular projects, which adds a team-based game element, leading to prizes at the end of each year.

A significant side effect of incorporating crowdsourced ideas into your workflow is that you’re likely to see a growth in collaboration, both within and between teams. Sharing ideas is the easiest way to begin conversations, while developing ideas within the context of innovation gives unusual combinations a reason to work together outside of their daily tasks.

How to: crowdsourcing ideas

First and foremost, crowdsourcing requires the implementation of an idea management process. Without good management, you can become overwhelmed by suggestions, before they ultimately dry up due to lack of feedback and failure to implement. By investing time and money into establishing a clear process, you’ll give your crowdsourced ideas the best chance of success.

By far the most essential part of this process is identifying an idea management software that works for your team. If collaboration is a key focus, make sure that you are able to share, tag and comment on ideas directly in the platform.

Finally, remember that any new initiative requires planning, trial and iteration. As you start to test your new process, don’t be afraid to ask your team to crowdsource ideas for improving the system as you go.

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About the author

Owen Hunnam – a serial entrepreneur and a CEO at Idea Drop, Owen has an extensive experience and knowledge in digital technology; business development and relationship management; agile innovation management and embedding innovation culture within large organisations. Owen is working with global F500 companies and helps them to harness the collective intelligence of their employees.

Idea Drop is an idea management platform, designed for crowdsourcing and actioning ideas from your team. Head over to our website to learn more about impactful innovation, best practices and how Idea Drop can help.

Register for Idea Drop’s FREE Webinar Supercharging innovation with an idea management process on September 18th.