For all the collective rush to figure out what innovation is and what doing it means for your business, it really boils down to this: we want to come up with great ideas, be able to predict their value, and figure out what systems need to be in place for us to do so.
Innovation is both an art and a science, but it's the science that brings about tangible returns. It's the science that allows a leader to turn to their crowd of employees -- and partners, and customers -- and present a business challenge that needs solving, with the clear goal of soliciting the crowd's expertise and using their experiences to generate ideas with the potential to succeed. When it comes to figuring out what an individual idea could be worth, it's not enough to say it's new. It's not even enough to say it's popular. What you must be able to do is say it has value. You must also be able to say it's a worthwhile investment, and that it creates opportunities for growth and any necessary evolution alongside your market.
This is where you must ask yourself: What are the systems that need to be put in place to make my organization's innovation approach successful? What data do I need? What tools do I require to accurately predict whether or not something will work, and whether the impact is short-term or long term? The answer is very much the same across the board: the crowd. Your crowd. The people who are already invested in your business, who know it more intimately than anyone else, and who have a vested interest in its continuing success.
The best thing about turning to your crowd for solutions is the automatic diversification of perspectives you will end up with, and the surprising accuracy of crowd-derived predictable data. Ideas do not have to be disruptive to be effective, nor do they require an unheard-of foundation to be considered innovative. Often, the best ideas come from entirely unexpected corners of the business -- from the very people whom you normally wouldn't think to ask. By applying the logic of collaborative innovation to your innovation program, you will be far more likely to discover a successful idea, as well as an get accurate prediction of how much that idea will cost to implement, and how long it will take to deliver.
For enterprise companies, innovation is a very serious business. But as with any noble undertaking that involves inviting input from a large group, you must take into consideration how you deal with that input at scale -- and any company committed to innovation and customer satisfaction should be thinking about scalability. That brings me to the notion of the innovation hero.
Sometimes referred to as intrapreneurs, the innovation hero is the internal crowd's answer to a loyal customer advocate. These are the people who champion innovation initiatives and help drive engagement in innovation programs, encouraging participation and collaboration within the crowd. They not only have a lot of wonderful ideas to share, but the capacity to envision valuable ideas in practice. This is why they're so important: they not only have a knack for finding opportunities, but they also know very well how to create them.
Ultimately, the ability to catalyze innovation within your organization is critical, and doing so without dramatically increasing expenditures is a must. Crowdsourcing solutions from your employees gives you the greatest chance of coming up with the ideas and processes that will keep your company relevant and competitive -- now, and in the future.