Collective Intelligence panel lunch

Jon Bidwell, Rowan Gibson and Jeff Pierce

Innovation expert and author Rowan Gibson, Chubb Chief Innovation Officer Jon Bidwell, and Jeff Pierce, senior principal engineer at Pitney Bowes, talked about innovation programs and how the power of Collective Intelligence can bolster continued long-term growth.

ROWAN: We’re all creative. How do we tap into that creativity?

-       Creativity is out there. If we can tap into that creativity and add it to our own that will be a good thing. The combinational chemistry itself can add to creativity as well.

JON: The ability to transfer and mitigate risk has a strong role in the overall global community.

-       I have a technique and tool we’ve adapted in many ways to solve problems, and what we’ve found is the chain-of-command problem solving is not as effective as tapping into a broader spectrum of minds.

-       If you’re contemplating installing a large-scale problem-solving system, you have to be highly iterative and find the people who have the answers.

-       80% of our people want to help; you have to give them a point of purchase in order to empower them to help.

JEFF: His is a 90-year-old company, where the innovation program tries to engage employees.

–      It has its own challenges; the “people on the street” are wonderful sources.

–      Getting a dialogue going is key.

ROWAN: What happens when you open things up to everyone: You get ideas from groups you might not have thought to reach.

–      e.g. Subway opened an event to everyone; someone suggested $5 foot-long sandwiches – yielded $4 billion in 2009

JON: It becomes easy to fall into a pattern of asking everyone; his group considers the audience before launching an ideation event – “Every event has been very different from the others.”

If you’re trying to get success, you need to find ways to make it personal.

“Crowdsourcing is scary” – there’s an implied loss of control when you do this. Do I put out a “drift net,” and if so, how do we get people to participate? Give them a reason to want to participate.

ROWAN: Best Buy reached out to women for what they would want in a consumer electronics store – consumer engagement is a huge benefit when it leads to a better customer experience.

JON: Good decisions we made early on: For anything cutting across multiple business units, we will put together ad hoc teams with a member or two from each of those units to oversee buildout of ideas that come out of an event.

-       We try to move very quickly because we have off-cycle funding to seed an idea or get it out the door if it’s ready.

-       This is a big inhibitor in many companies – not having seed money is the “bullet in the pony” for the enthusiasm for the idea.

JEFF: Executive sponsorship is critical.

-       Senior executives have the answers, and aren’t used to getting people to help.

-       Once you get past that barrier you’re well on your way.

-       Don’t make it a special project – make it a new way to do the same old work.

-      People want the organization to succeed; if you challenge them to think about “How can we succeed?” they will pitch in and help.

ROWAN: The innovation ecosystem of P&G has many networks built around it: Customers, partners, ex-employees, governments.

-       It requires structures, teams and mechanisms to make it all possible.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How do you incentivize people (e.g. in a highly unionized environment)?

JON: First, start small with something you know you can fulfill.

-       The carrot is “We can do things that can alleviate pain points you experience regularly.”

-       At Chubb, participation and submission rates are biased lower rather than higher.

-       When you go out you have to think about the back end of innovation – the narrow funnels you use to screen and winnow the ideas.

-       It’s easy to do the front-end activities; harder to answer “What are we going to do now?”

ROWAN: You can offer people cash – it sounds crazy but it works.

-       Some companies offer points for their ideas, and people can redeem those points for items.

-       At Shell, they can give you $25,000 and a month to build a prototype of your idea, if it looks like it’s going to work they can further fund the progress of the idea.

-       Incentives depend on your culture.

JEFF: Getting people to know and understand that their ideas are heard are most important.

-       It’s not about the tool, it’s about the program and closing the loop to engage employees.

-       Cautions against cash because it sends the wrong message – motivating people is important, but understanding the intrinsic motivation is paramount.

Some of Our Clients

A Foundation of Experience Spanning over 20 Years