Crowdsourcing: are you doing it right?

The growing popularity and success of open innovation means it’s becoming much more relevant to look outside an organization for ideas, says Paul Sloane, an expert who runs workshops, speeches, and training on innovation and leadership.

For large organizations, open innovation is often seen as the key to unlock potential for new products and services. Sloane says ideas from outside the company are usually more creative and radical than something produced from within, and many companies set quantifiable open innovation goals for themselves. For example, Proctor and Gamble strives for at least 50% of its ideas to come from external innovation partners.

When it comes to open innovation, big and small companies face entirely opposite problems. Big companies usually have a great deal of resources but are much less flexible and agile. Small companies typically have shoestring budgets but adapt easier, and they may serve as the innovation partner that provides ideas to larger companies.

Regardless of size or industry, the basic requirements of innovation still need to be met, like an accepting company climate and strong leadership. Sloane says, “a change of attitude to a more open, trusting partnership is a big step.”

Also, leaders must be groomed for open-innovation efforts. “The skills needed to run an efficient operation, which maximizes profit and eliminates waste, are different from the skills needed for innovation,” explains Sloane. An innovation leader, he says, needs the confidence and courage to fail, which many results-oriented business leaders lack.

Sloane, editor of the book “Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing”, believes that crowdsourcing is the natural extension of open innovation. Using the Internet to propose challenges to crowds of people is gaining popularity, as seen through the growing number of crowdsourcing apps. He says it will soon be seen across industries like education and politics.

Sometimes the more you know your company and the closer you are to its problems, the harder it is to find the solution. One of our clients, Goodyear, for example, uses external sources to gain valuable insight into its operations. By providing suppliers with an up-close look at the organization’s inner workings, Goodyear harnessed these suppliers’ ideas to create new products and processes.

The people who haven’t seen your future plans and budgets may visualize the next breakthrough that your company needs to be an industry leader.

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