Innovation as a Science: Predicting the Value of Ideas

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.

The User's Voice Counts

Looks like there is no doubt about the fact, that integrating the crowd into research and development activities is one key for success, to deliver successful innovations to the market. But who is the crowd?

Well, during the last years working for SAP SE I experienced a lot of different flavors with regards to crowdsourcing.

First of all there are the customers – most important the end users - who are at the end, using SAP business solutions to accomplish their daily tasks. Ideally their voices are heard at a very early stage already and continuously integrated along the product lifecycle. But how do you set up a community successfully? What are the motivators and how do you keep it up and running? Today’s technology offer a boundless support respective crowdsourcing activities – whether it is the platform to build a community or the tools to evaluate the content and to motivate the members to continue their activities – there are no limits.

Secondly, there is the SAP ecosystem. Partner play a major role as multiplier and offer access to customers as their trusted advisor. It is therefore extremely important to invite them also to crowdsourcing activities to collect the customer voices. In addition, partner play a major role with regards to Co-Innovation activities – on one hand they contribute with their skills and experience, on the other hand they can receive early knowledge about new developments.

Thirdly, there are more than 70,000 smart and creative employees with very innovative ideas. This crowd is extremely valuable not only to improve internal processes to reduce complexity, which is the biggest enemy to bring innovations on the road. Furthermore they also have incredible ideas to develop new solutions, which they might not be able to propose properly during their daily workday. So, driving internal campaigns to leverage intrapreneur programs are anchored as inherent part of the company’s innovation strategy. The target is to find the best ideas and foster the development of new solutions to bring value to customers.

So let’s assume you have established an open innovation platform to collaborate with your customers, partners and employees to find new ideas – is this all you need to drive innovations successfully? Doesn’t this sound easy?

Well, yes it almost is as easy as it sounds – but looking closer at a number of companies there is a significant distinction between those, who claim that they drive open innovation and others who take it even more serious.

The latter ensure that the company’s DNA is ready for it – ready to consume the feedback and ideas in a professional way:

  • It all starts with an innovation strategy, influenced by multiple factors and supported by executive management, to allow open innovation to its full extend.
  • To ensure that innovation involves all employees, management should foster a culture that promotes values and norms that encourage innovation behavior across the organization.
  • Last but not least, new methodologies, such as Design Thinking and Business Model Development are extremely helpful to enable employees to think differently. Take into account how mature your company from a digitization perspective is and redesign your business model in iterations to make your customers – based on their ideas – happy customers!

Are you curious to hear more? I will talk about my experience in more detail at Crowdopolis XV.


As Crowdsourcing Knowledge Grows, So Does Crowdxiety

"Oh, this is just like … Freelancer … Kickstarter … Mechanical Turk." These statements have all been heard recently and it seems to be increasing in regularity.

With the pervasive use of 'crowdsourcing' in the media, it has quickly become familiar vocabulary to the general public. A recent Google news search produced 94,400 crowdsourcing stories, while far less than the 62mm+ on 'innovation' it shows the media interest in the changing economy. As a purveyor of a certain type of crowdsourcing, this has been a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that it makes it easier in social situations to explain what I do, but a curse in creating crowdsourcing anxiety for organizations; hence a new portmanteau crowdxiety to really mix things up.

In truth, crowdsourcing is an old concept given new life by instant communication via the internet and is driving business model innovation in many industries. For example, temporary staffing has become freelancing and word of mouth referrals has become an online rating. Businesses are always slow to change as organizational resistance is high due to the anxiety on what this means for me, but the walls of resistance get higher the more complexity you throw at us.

There are effective tactics that help, and it is our job as advocates and leaders to reduce that anxiety by providing clear definitions on the types of crowdsourcing, when to apply them and the organizational benefit to do so. I look forward to sharing my insights and specifically define 'Crowdsourcing competitions,' a form of crowdsourcing for new ideas and solutions and the organizational indicators of crowdxiety you might be hearing and ways to address them.

We're excited to be returning to Crowdopolis 2015. Come see us this year at Crowdopolis, I look forward to an amazing event and hearing your stories, methods and tips for integrating crowdsourcing strategies; the learning never stops.

The Positive Impact of Collaborative Office Spaces

Today it's quite obvious the business place is making a massive shift toward innovation. The problem is corporate America is still trapped by a mundane acceptance of what work should be. Let's get one thing straight: a crowd can solve a problem that a cubicle can't.

The concept of coworking isn't anything new and the term creative space isn't a buzzword. These are all simply the direction of where modern workspace is going and unfortunately many are going to miss the boat. It's 2015 and if you're wondering why your employees are complaining, check their cubicle because it probably looks and smells like the dungeon it is.

I recently toured a facility that I thought would be cutting edge. Boy was I wrong. This 40,000sqft office space looked more like a mortuary than an office. I am not trying to make cynical comparisons to make you laugh; I am stating a fact that corporate America is simply lost. It's a fact that employees are more efficient in the workplace when they are happy. Trust me, when the lights are dim and your cubicle is quiet, you're thinking of an escape, not the next solar powered smart phone. That said, noise isn't for everyone, but the fact is creativity is bred by collaboration.

From crowdsourcing to crowdfunding to coworking to collaboration, it's all real and it's changing the way we live and work. To be creative, we surround ourselves with creative people.  To be innovative we find a crowd that embraces and answers those same challenges. As collaborative workspaces continue to flourish, so does the concept of working together to solve a problem.

Many of those that work the corporate, ritualistic lifestyle have never heard of top collaborative spaces that are launching in a warehouse near you, simply because they don't have the time to research or learn. Waking up at 7am, feeding the kids, taking them to school and then heading to a cubicle for 8 hours is the monotony of the American life, but it doesn't have to be.

Some employers need a wake up call, a message, a news article that says, "your company has no culture and your employees' morale is low for a reason." Sure there's risk involved in trying to make your employees happy because truth is, no matter what you do for some people, they'll never be happy. But creating an environment that embraces the creative and collaborative mentality is about as risk averse as a morning shower.

We will start seeing a major impact to many companies that don't evolve in the next few years, but I believe we're at a turning point globally on how each and every one of us works. From social media to social gatherings, the fact is crowds are just better.  If you're going to get stuck make sure it's outside the cubicle...

Launch of Crowd Powered Innovation Summit

We're finally making it simple for everyone to learn from the world's greatest pioneers of crowdsourced based innovation. November 4 - 6, 2014, Daily Crowdsource is running our first all-online crowdsourcing conference (we're calling these Summits).

It's our goal to help the world learn how to use crowdsourcing, and the best way we know how is by asking the brightest minds to share their knowledge with you... all at a reasonable price.

2014 will be our first Summit so I've hand selected the 6 best open innovation speakers to present.

We'll teach you:

  1. The basic fundamentals of crowdsourcing
  2. How the Internet of Things will be essential to crowdsourcing
  3. What crowdsourcing can do for you
  4. How the 9th largest company in the US coaches their innovation teams for success
  5. How to commercialize your co-creation projects
  6. What legal challenges to be aware of

These 6 topics will give you a well rounded set of skills to get you started implementing a crowdsourcing project by the end of 2014.

Speakers Include:

  1. Paul Brody (IBM)
  2. Stephen Paljieg (Kimberly-Clark)
  3. Dyan Finkhousen (GE)
  4. David Bratvold (Daily Crowdsource)
  5. Christian Salaman (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP)
  6. David Alan Grier (IEEE Computer Society)

4 Ways to Get Involved

Attend the Summit
You can watch all 6 presentations for as little as $97. Want the $97 rate - Join our interest list today & we'll send you a 50% off voucher on Oct 13. Without a 50% off voucher, early-bird tickets to the public will go on sale Oct 14 (for $194), & full price tickets go on sale Oct 21 (for $394).

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Speak at a Summit
Want to speak at a future Summit? Join our interest list then send us an email & we'll add you to our speaking interest list. All our events' are by invitation only (for speaking), but it helps to let us know you're interested.

Attend the Summit for FREE
Want to watch without paying? Join our interest list & we'll give 1 lucky person on the list a free voucher... Because... why shouldn't we?

We get a ton of requests for access to our events online, so let me know what you think about this concept. Click here to learn more about the Crowd Powered Innovation Summit.

How to Build Sustainable Idea Sourcing From Your Customers

When I think of sustainable crowdsourcing, two prominent examples come to my mind: Dell's Idea Storm and My Starbucks Idea. Both used's Idea platform. Idea Storm was launched in February 2007, while Startbucks was launched in March, 2008. Both celebrated their 5th Anniversary milestone, which is quite amazing.

It's interesting to compare results of a technology company and a restaurant company:

  Ideas Submitted Ideas Implemented % of Implementation
Dell 19,102 537+ 2.8%
Starbucks 150,000 277 0.18%
  • Most of the ideas contributed to Dell are more technical in nature. Product design teams evaluate these ideas and make changes to their products. They may need to source new vendors or retool their manufacturing processes. Dell's business model focuses on selling directly on-line and relies on its channel and retail partners to sell off-line. Dell itself is not directly responsible for storefront experiences or engagement.

  • Ideas to Starbucks are more consumer-oriented in nature. In addition to their core products, customers can provide feedback on store design, store experience, food, payment and anything related to stores, on-line, advertising etc. Therefore, substantially more ideas are submitted by Starbucks customers. Implementing a simple idea such as "Splash Sticks" requires the design of the stick (something that has not existed before), raw material selection, vendor selection, distribution to thousand of stores worldwide, barista training, as well as details of the display and placement. The considerations and complexities of scaling to stores worldwide may be one of the reasons that Starbucks has implemented fewer ideas.

Once you set up a community or a website to solicit customer feedback, you need a back-end process to ensure the ideas are evaluated and implemented.

1. Classify ideas

Although it's easy to build categories on your website, it's important to think through how you'd like to categorize your customers' ideas. Should you categorize by your products, organization structure, topics, etc.? The way you categorize will determine the subsequent steps for reviewing and implementing. To make it easier to engage with internal stakeholders from different organizations, it may make sense to classify your ideas by products and organization structures.

Key consideration: How do you make it easy for a customer to classify his idea and also easy for internal stakeholders to sort through the ideas for further follow-up?

2. Review and prioritize ideas

This needs to be a frequent, regularly scheduled process, especially if the volume of submissions is high. A team from multiple organizations needs to be formed and a workflow process needs to be established for the initial screening, parsing and prioritization based on categories.

No organization has unlimited budget and resources. To select the right ideas to implement, a second or third round of review and prioritization may be necessary. Depending on the scope of the ideas, upper management may need to approve them. It's highly recommended to have senior managers involved in the selection of ideas in the 2nd or 3rd round of reviews. Since management cares about the bottom-line, quantify how the idea will impact revenue, cost, or customer experience and satisfaction. Identify key success metrics.

Key consideration: Resource properly from internal organizations to review, screen, and prioritize ideas. Establish an automatic workflow process to make it easy for internal partners to review and prioritize ideas. It's a plus to get senior managers involved.

3. Implement ideas

Some ideas may be low-hanging fruit; but it still requires time and resources to implement. It's important to take care of two things before implementation: budget and resources. Clearly identify who should take the ownership of implementation and how much it will cost to do it. Sometimes, it makes sense to incorporate implementation of these ideas into the existing product launch or revision processes. Setting up regular review meetings to track progress is essential.

Key consideration: Settle budget and resources first. Identify clear project owners and allocate the right budget to support implementation.

4. Report the results

A process to track and report on the success or failure of idea implementation is essential. Starbucks was able to create a 5-year celebration infographic, due to their discipline in tracking idea implementations. Track actual results against the key success metrics you designed in step 2.

Key consideration: Have a process for tracking the results and share the results with the community and customers.

It takes time, process, budget and people to implement ideas from your customers. Once an idea is piloted successfully, it also takes time and effort to "scale" to different stores, different manufacturing facilities or different countries. Customers should not see the effort behind the scenes, but they should know you're listening to them and working on ideas and issues they care about.

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Students Drive Social Innovation Through Dell’s Challenge

At the University of Texas in Austin, a conventional business plan competition platform has evolved into a venue for students everywhere to improve the world. Based on crowdsourcing principles, the competition platform allows university students from around the world to take their ideas beyond conception & winning competitions to improving lives.

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[Crowd Leader: Shelley Kuipers] Citizen Crowds Can Make a Big Impact on Elections

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