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Managing Expectations in Innovation Management: Part II

expectations in innovation managementOne of the most effective ways to engage the crowd is to demonstrate commitment to turning their ideas into real value and impact. However, this can present some challenges for innovation managers.

Some concerns we have heard from innovation managers:

“I do not want to overpromise what we’re going to do with people’s ideas.”

“What if the ideas are in a focus area we’re not even working in?”

“What if the ideas are for something we’re not currently resourcing or ever intend to resource?”

“What if my program feels threatened by outside ideas interfering with their portfolio?”

“What do we do if a bad idea is gaining support?”

We can address these concerns head-on by setting and managing expectations. Transparency has the added benefit of informing the crowd how best to contribute and helps the whole process stay on track for making an impact.

In these two blog posts, we will discuss five best practices for setting a course for idea implementation and managing expectations along the way.  Last week we focused on engaging stakeholders and experts early and often. This week, we focus on four additional best practices.

Set expectations for the crowd from the beginning.

Engage your stakeholders and experts to decide on the parts of your existing programs that are set in stone, and the areas that are open for fresh ideas.  The firm program priorities form the framework for your campaigns and evaluation criteria. The areas ripe for fresh ideas are eligible to become a campaign problem statement.

  • Be transparent from the beginning about what is firm and what is flexible. Setting expectations from the beginning helps your crowd generate ideas that are relevant to your mission and goal.
  • Define and communicate your criteria, evaluation, and selection process in advance.
  • State your focus area up front. Let the crowd know that you’re in the business of doing XYZ.  Ask them, “What ideas do you have for helping us do this?”
  • Define for your crowd what a feasible idea looks like within your firm constraints.

Recognize that ideas can go down different tracks. 

The ideas can have different tracks and different destinations.  Crowdsourcing can uncover ideas, questions, issues, and approaches you might not have thought of.  Be open to the possibilities of what could happen with a good idea, and take a phased approach.

  • Some ideas may be ready for immediate implementation within your existing programmatic goals, projects, and capabilities.
  • Some ideas may be ready to be piloted or prototyped in order to understand their benefits and the best way to implement them.
  • Some ideas might spark a new direction or approach, and be taken up for consideration for a longer conversation about where your team is going in the future. These might be reserved for discussions of your next strategic plan.
  • Some ideas might be funneled to partners. 

We get to define what implementation looks like.

People want to see something play out in the real world with their ideas. But, a commitment to implement ideas from the crowdsourcing process doesn’t mean that we’re abandoning our current process and replacing it with random suggestions.

Implementation could mean:

  • We’re going to pilot or prototype an idea.
  • The people with the top ideas synthesize the top ideas and present them to the board. Or the person with the top idea gets to present the idea to the Board.
  • Top ideas are featured in a conference or workshop. The submitter would get a prize at the workshop, and the idea gets used in the event exercise.  Or it could turn into recommendations for next year’s ideas.

Always look for a way to extract value from the crowd.

Turn bad ideas into good ideas.

  • Find the positive part(s) of an idea and ask the submitter to build on them with your expertise.
  • Ask them to tell you more to fill in the gaps.
  • Ask for examples, evidence, anecdotes, photos, articles, etc.

This article is a re-post of the co-authored article between Whitney Bernstein, PhD, IdeaScale, and Lynn M. Tveskov, United Way Worldwide.

What Kind of Company is a Good Fit for Crowdsourcing?

DICK’S Sporting Goods was founded in 1948 and continues to be a family run business today with over 600 stores nationwide. Nowadays, however, Dick’s Sporting Goods has 37,600 employees worldwide serving its founding brand and its subsidiaries and is one of the largest sporting goods retailers in the world.

After 69 years of growth, Dick’s is a great company ripe for crowdsourcing and they launched their first company-wide ideation platform last year. But how do we know that a company like Dick’s is a good fit for crowdsourcing? Well, here are a few qualities that make a company more likely to succeed in a crowdsourcing effort.

Distributed Workforce. With more than 37,000 employees (and a good percentage of those employees in customer-facing positions), Dick’s is sitting on a wealth of network intelligence. Sometimes these types of programs are referred to as internal market research where employees share customer insights company-wide and build on one another’s knowledge.

Brand Passion: One of Dick’s guiding principles is that they wish “to make a lasting impact in their communities through sport.” Dick’s customers have a great deal of personal interaction with the brand and their employees do, too. With customers and employees who feel this powerfully, they already see the intrinsic value of serving the brand as it moves forward.

Commitment to Change. There are a few Dick’s employees with the word “Innovation” in their title and even more employees that participated in this product innovation campaign. This shows that people see the value in creating an organized mechanism for change. The concepts that started in the ideation program are now being reviewed by the product development team for potential implementation. This type of commitment not just to hearing from employees, but implementing ideas means that these crowdsourcing programs will last a long time.

To learn more about Dick’s Sporting Goods and how they launched their crowdsourcing employee engagement community for product development, download their case study here.

How Crowdsourcing Innovation Helps Your Team

Why is crowdsourcing right for you?

Many people tend to view crowdsourcing, internal or external, and internal teamwork as either/or propositions; one tends to be the backup for the other. But, in truth, they’re symbiotic, each building on each other. Why?

The More Diverse, The Better

We’ve all heard the stories of overseas marketing disasters, like the Chevy Nova going to Mexico only for the automaker to learn “no va” means “no go” in Spanish. But while they’re funny, they also prove that the broader the perspective on your team, the better your work is.

The reality, though, is that there’s only so many viewpoints that can be in a corporate team, even in the most diverse company. Crowdsourcing allows you to include more perspectives and ideas, to everyone’s benefit. It also means that you’ll be able to tap into more types and styles of creativity, instead of just one approach to the world. Great innovations may be made in labs and meeting rooms, but they’re often inspired in a multitude of different ways.

Everyone’s On Board

Especially with internal crowdsourcing, you can deal with an issue that can crop up; namely, that what seems like a good idea for a small team might be a problem for the wider company. This does need to be balanced with the understanding that “the way we’ve always done things” isn’t a good reason to be against innovation. Companies need to be flexible, and care needs to be taken that tradition doesn’t undermine forward thinking. But if there are practical concerns, they can be found and addressed before they become real-world problems.

Innovation can strike anywhere, so why limit it to the office?

Ownership

Another useful effect of crowdsourcing is that it offers everyone a sense of ownership, and brings in more commitment to an idea. It’s a lot easier for people to write off even the best idea if they don’t have any skin in the game, but if they’ve offered feedback and ideas, and seen them incorporated, they’re more invested. That sense of ownership can extend well beyond just company loyalty or customer satisfaction, it can form deep emotional roots and spur others to offer more ideas. It’s not just a job or a product; it’s yours, theirs, everyone’s.

Speed

The pace of business is only speeding up. Communications tech and ideas like rapid prototyping are quickly becoming industry standard, meaning that a company needs to move more and more quickly when developing new ideas. That’s hard to do in a classical structure, where an idea moves supervisor by supervisor, committee by committee, up the chain. Crowdsourcing makes it easier to both generate more ideas and look at them through many lenses much faster; while the buck needs to stop with somebody, that person will have a better informed set of ideas to pick from.

Crowdsourcing isn’t one size fits all. You’ll need to determine if you want to go internal or external, and how to drive your campaign. But you’ll often find that when solving a thorny problem, or innovating to new concepts, the wisdom of crowds is often a great place to start. To learn more, contact us.

Managing Expectations in Innovation Management

managing expectationsOne of the most effective ways to engage your crowd is to demonstrate commitment to turning their ideas into real value and impact. However, this can present some challenges for innovation managers.

Some concerns we have heard from innovation managers:

“I do not want to overpromise what we’re going to do with people’s ideas.”

“What if the ideas are in a focus area we’re not even working in?”

“What if the ideas are for something we’re not currently resourcing or ever intend to resource?”

“What if my program feels threatened by outside ideas interfering with their portfolio?”

“What do we do if a bad idea is gaining support?”

We can address these concerns head-on by setting and managing expectations. Transparency has the added benefit of informing the crowd how best to contribute and helps keep the whole process on track for making an impact.

In these two blog posts, we will discuss five best practices for setting a course for idea implementation and managing expectations along the way:

  1. Engage experts and stakeholders in the process from start to finish.
  2. Set expectations for the crowd from the beginning.
  3. Recognize that ideas can go down different tracks.
  4. We get to define what implementation looks like.
  5. Always look for a way to extract value from the crowd.

This week we focus on engaging stakeholders and experts early and often. Next week, we will focus on everything else.

Engage stakeholders and experts in the process from start to finish.

The involvement of stakeholders and experts in the open innovation process is central to the success of crowdsourced open innovation.  These key players are needed for:

  • Shaping the problem statement to ensure that a campaign is relevant and ripe for impact.
  • Developing evaluation criteria to ensure that ideas progressing toward implementation are consistent with the organization mission, expectations, and quality of work.
  • Facilitating discussion on the platform to transform early ideas into implementation-ready concepts.

 Crowdsourcing presents stakeholders and experts with a tremendous opportunity and value:

  • Access to an “expanded workforce” to do a lot of research on an issue.
  • Access to input and ideas from intelligent and passionate people with diverse experience.
  • Exposure to unexpected ideas or novel connections that can only arise by engaging people from diverse walks of life and in tangential fields.
  • The opportunity for experts to educate their donor base on the social issue at hand.
  • The opportunity for experts and development team to learn about donor interests or target population needs.

Here are some ways to engage your stakeholders and experts:

  • Loop in the experts from the beginning. Make your objectives clear to them and ask them to help you shape the framework, criteria, and measures for good ideas.  Ask the expert to clarify their mission and process and help build data into the crowdsourcing campaign criteria.
  • Invite stakeholders and experts to serve as moderators. Moderators foster and steer conversations in the right direction. Remind moderators that what typically comes in initially are idea fragments. Moderators help nurture a fully fleshed out concept aligned with our process and approach. Moderators guide the thinking on the platform by asking specific questions, asking for more information to fill in gaps, challenging misguided assumptions, and adding to the ideas in the platform.
  • Stakeholders and experts get the most out the opportunity by approaching the ideas with a sense of curiosity and a readiness to know more. The diversity of the crowd creates ideal conditions for tapping fresh perspectives. It’s fun to see the new insights to come from the crowd.
  • The crowd can serve as an expanded workforce to do a lot of research on an issue. This can be mutually beneficial. The crowd sees they have a direct line to the person who owns the process.  The expert can also loop in colleagues to answer questions or ask the crowd for an idea or solution.

This article is a re-post of the co-authored article between Whitney Bernstein, PhD, IdeaScale, and Lynn M. Tveskov, United Way Worldwide.

Crowdsourcing vs. Open Innovation: What’s the Difference?

Open innovation vs. crowdsourcing can be a tough call.

What’s the difference between crowdsourcing and open innovation? It can feel like a simple question, but it’s a bit more complex than you might expect. Here’s a deeper look at how these two concepts differ.

Crowdsourcing Vs. Open Innovation

The key difference between the two is the audience. With open innovation, you might reach out to your entire company, and sometimes friendly rivals in the same industry, to share ideas and get perspective on something. Crowdsourcing is when you open it up to the public, usually starting with your customer base, to get ideas or to perform tasks. Both can be incredibly powerful, but which is right for which situation?

Who Are The Stakeholders?

It’s always worth starting with who’s got skin in the game. For example, some ideas, like internal process changes, need to be a matter of open innovation, because they can touch many different departments. If, for example, you’re changing how you manufacture something, it’s not just the design team who should weigh in, but the departments handling the nitty-gritty of making things, shipping them, and finding parts.

If you’re consumer-facing, and one of the key stakeholders is your consumers, then crowdsourcing is in the mix. You’re likely getting ideas and comments from your customers anyway, so why not put them to use? By asking for their input, your customers know you’re listening, and that’s crucial to your company’s success.

An idea can come from anywhere.

What’s The Challenge?

Another factor to consider is the challenge you’re trying to overcome. Crowdsourcing takes work when the challenge is abstract or hard to explain outside your industry, so open innovation might make more sense to develop creative solutions. For example, it’s difficult to make international shipping problems or ergonomics fascinating to the wider public, as a rule, although the right explanation can go a long way.

But if it’s a challenge with a hook, or one where your customers will have to regularly deal with the answer you come up with, it’s worth involving outside parties to see what they think. It can be as simple as asking “So, what would you like to see with the next release?” or asking your customers how they use your products. Sometimes you find surprising answers that you hadn’t considered or ancillary markets you want to bring forward.

How Will The Solution Be Used?

Another point is to look at where your ultimate implementation will wind up. That both guides you to other stakeholders in the process and also helps determine from whom you most need the input. Just like you’d never take a product to market without at least a little testing, you need to consider how you’re going to use the end result. If it’s got an impact on others, it’s worth getting their perspective.

Finally, remember that this isn’t an either/or proposition. Some ideas start out with open innovation, and over time it becomes clear that crowdsourcing needs to be used to develop at least one aspect of them. And sometimes crowdsourcing is great for creating the raw idea, but then it needs to be shaped and refined by open innovation. As long as you keep the lines of communication, and identify who the stakeholders are, you’ll be able to deliver great ideas. To get started, join an IdeaScale community.

Expert Interview Series: Michel van Hove of Strategos About Creating Innovation Within a Company’s Culture

Michel van Hove is the co-owner and partner of Strategos, a strategy and innovation consultancy that helps companies grow. We recently spoke with Michel to hear his thoughts on how to successfully foster a culture of innovation within a company.

Tell us a bit about your background. What drew you to Strategos?

My career began with a small company in the entertainment industry that developed the first large screen stadium video displays for U2 and other leading music acts. Those were exciting times where we experimented with different technologies to bring new experiences to international audiences. Later, I worked for multinational companies in fast-moving consumer goods and specialty chemicals on strategic innovation initiatives. Strategos offers clients a robust and creative approach to strategy and innovation that appealed to me. I was educated as an engineer and have always believed that finding new ways to solve problems required creativity as well as systemic thinking and collaborating with people that have diverse backgrounds.

Since you have worked on innovation “from the inside,” what lessons have you learned from that process and how have they helped you assist other companies in their innovation efforts?

Working on innovation in industry roles can be very demanding. Often you are the initiator and the evangelist as well as the project manager and team leader. There are many roles to play when you are trying to get innovation off the ground in large companies. You learn that having a big-picture view of what you want to achieve plus executive buy-in and sponsorship is critical. You need a clear step-by-step plan with tangible outcomes to convince middle managers and team members that investing their time and resources produces results.

Could you explain what it means to “work from the future back” as a key strategy of innovation? Why is this important?

Traditional methods are more deterministic in that they extrapolate from the past to the present into the future – more like a planning exercise where we believe in certainties. It presents a future that is acceptable; but in our opinion, it doesn’t lead to significant innovation. Therefore, in our present situation of rapid change, traditional methods fall short. Working from the future back is much more exploratory of what the future may hold and the role that companies can play. It stretches our thinking and helps us to create a more ambitious strategy that drives much higher innovation performance.

What industries or regions are lagging behind right now when it comes to embracing innovation?

There’s good and bad in every industry or company, but generally speaking the companies that stick to their beliefs the longest about what it takes to win without examining those beliefs with the intent to challenge them will be in trouble. On the positive side, innovation is now high on everyone’s agenda, and there are plenty of successful examples.  However, we see many companies still lack the purpose, direction, and capabilities to act and often revert to whichever innovation solution is in fashion. This seems to be particularly true in retail and finance.

When you examine a client company, what do you often find that prevents them from innovating to the best of their abilities?

We usually find pockets of innovation success in every organization. The sense of urgency is there, but there’s also an uneven distribution of innovation capabilities. People understand that culture is an important driver of innovation, but often see it as a problem of motivating employees to act differently. They focus on skill building without having a “landing place” for employees to exercise those skills. We believe organizations need to build individual capability and surround that with organizational capacity to make innovation happen and make it stick.

If a company brainstorms numerous innovative ideas or approaches, how should they go about prioritizing their development or execution and keeping track of their progress?

We provide our clients with a step between brainstorming ideas and picking out the most promising ones called “domaining.” Individual ideas are rarely big enough on their own. We group or synthesize ideas into bigger growth platforms, or domains. These contain ideas that we can work on immediately, but also ideas that need much more refinement and often require additional capabilities that don’t exist today. Domains stretch out over time and provide both the big-picture view as well as a map to track progress. They are flexible and adaptable because along the way, you learn more about the growth platform you are pursuing.

Name one relatively simple step that a company can take to encourage innovative thinking and idea generation from its personnel.

Start by applying a few simple behavioral principles:

  1. Diverge before you converge. Explore a broad set of options before selecting the ones you choose (a straight line from A to B might be the quickest but may prevent you from seeing more interesting alternatives)
  2. Challenge your beliefs about what it takes to be successful, and think about what new opportunities might emerge if that no longer is the norm
  3. Don’t just ask the customer what they want, but invest in understanding what they are trying to achieve.

These behaviors may seem easy, but they require practice before they will lead to really interesting ideas.

If everyone agrees that innovation is important to a company’s survival, which companies will actually succeed and flourish in the future?

The companies that will succeed are those that understand that innovation is not just a series of isolated interventions in the hope that it will lead to a culture of innovation. Those that address innovation “systemically” tend to be the more successful companies who understand that strategy, opportunity, and capability need to be linked together.

How are today’s companies embracing a more innovative culture? For some ideas, join the IdeaScale community today!

Using Design Principles At IdeaScale

Having design principles is like having a set of constraints or guidelines to work with. In her post  “Taming Blue Sky Ideation: Collecting Ideas that are Both Novel and Valuable,” Whitney describes how presenting a strong problem statement with clear constraints in an innovation challenge “breeds creativity.” This notion can be applied to many different problems and types of work. Aside from having a set of constraints that help make design decisions, I want to create an ecosystem at IdeaScale so that design can thrive as a system with artifacts to support its process. So, after a few months of some seriously brain-teasing custom development projects, I got together with my manager to think about what our ideal design principles could be.

Our goal in creating a set of design principles is to lay out an approach to creating and building a product that will work within the innovation management market and for our customers. These principles are a foundation for what it means to design things at IdeaScale, and can be debated in any scenario. For example, another company’s product could assume that having greater flexibility and a greater spectrum of options is more important than only showing people information they need to be successful. Ultimately, having a set of principles will help create a product that is opinionated, has distinct character, and highlights areas of strength. When the rubber meets the road, these principles will help us understand possible tradeoffs when tough decisions must be made about what to build and implement.

  1. Design for easy starts

Prioritize quick starting points over comprehensive forms. Focus on making initial decisions as easy to digest as possible.

  1. Systems are more important than pages

Be suspicious of new components that don’t simplify or can’t be reused. Pages must never be designed in isolation: consider what it means for the rest of the product when a new page or component is introduced. Value the life-cycle of the experience: what does it look like six months, a year or two years from now? What happens if someone ignores it? What happens when empty or inactive?

  1. Simplicity should be more apparent than flexibility

Have confidence in our knowledge as designers and the decisions we make. Encouraging good decisions for IdeaScale members within the application is more important than illustrating a range of options.

  1. Release one good feature over two moderate

At the heart of this principle is an emphasis to take time to understand the problems at hand. As designers, we must also plan for thoughtful details; don’t skip over small interactions that add to the user’s experience. Fix the small bugs. Don’t compromise experience for consistency across screen sizes. View mobile as a separate challenge. Sacrifice functionality before experience.

  1. IdeaScale Voice & Tone

Our voice is human. In thinking about this, how do we want our readers to feel after they’ve read our content? Any communication should feel simple and make the path to success short. We should make IdeaScale members  feel like part of a larger whole: help them be confident and excited in the power of good ideas, the people in their community, and the ability to produce positive outcomes.

Is It Possible for Companies to Over-Innovate?

Remember when this was the height of innovation?

Is it really possible to “over-innovate?” It seems baffling, on the face of it. What’s wrong with “too much” creativity and thinking ahead. The answer is that there’s a question of balance. Innovation drives a company, but no company can live on innovation alone. Innovation has to be done with perspective, or else you’ll find yourself building a brilliant product that nobody actually wants.

How To Over-Innovate

The masters of over-innovation are undeniably the Japanese. In Japan, they have an entire category of over-innovations called chindōgu, or “unusual tool,” products that seem to solve a problem, but create another, insurmountable problem. For example, hay fever sufferers can guarantee they have tissue on them at all times with what amounts to a hat with a roll of bath tissue on it. While the West may lack chindōgu, it’s easy to find its spirit if you know where to look.

A good example of this is the recent struggles of Keurig. Keurig rarely gets credit for solving a problem people didn’t know annoyed them; instead of brewing a giant pot of coffee that rapidly went stale, they could make a cup, as needed. Within a few years, they’d sold millions of machines.

That left Keurig with the problem of where to go next. So they went with the Keurig Kold, which, technologically speaking, is a fairly impressive machine. It applied Keurig’s coffee pod, single serving mentality to soda.

The problem is that Keuring created a machine any economist could tell them nobody wanted. Americans have been cutting down on soda consumption for over a decade, and in fact, it’s been an increasing decline. Furthermore, how we consume coffee, a morning ritual, and how we consume soda, the occasional sweet treat, was and is very different. The Kold was off the shelves in less than a year. So, how do you avoid the specter of the chindōgu?

Innovation needs to be thoughtful and balanced.

Innovating The Right Way

In the early stages of innovating, you and your team should always ask “What problem does this solve?” That’s good to remember in the first place, but don’t forget to ask your ultimate audience about this problem. Is it their biggest concern? Do they have others you hear about more often?

Secondly, always consider the future. Motorola’s RAZR and RIM’s BlackBerry were cutting-edge until 2007 when the iPhone arrived and made both of them utterly irrelevant in the time it took to explain what an “iPhone” even was. Look at what’s being talked about in your industry and be ready for disruptive shifts. At the same time, though, don’t let uncertainty paralyze you; after all, Motorola and RIM had no reason to suspect Apple, a company best known for an MP3 player at the time, was about to get into phones.

Finally, space out your innovation into short-term ideas, medium term, say one or two years out, and towards the broader horizon. In other words, don’t wait for the next iPhone; start asking yourself what the next iPhone of your industry would be, and work towards developing that. Sports quotes are a dime a dozen in business writing, but Wayne Gretzky was right when he said you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. It’s better to swing, for your business, than to never take the shot. To get a balanced, smart innovation strategy, request a demo.

Open Innovation: A critical success factor when you build your innovation journey

We are currently experiencing one of the most significant transformations of our history. In 2030, 75% of the global employees will be “digital natives,” who grew up surrounded by mobile devices, mobile communication and the Internet. “The Internet of Things” has become a reality and more than 1 billion users are online in social networks everyday, influencing products and brands. Their interactive behavioral patterns are constantly shifting and a pre-digital world is now inconceivable.

The process of Digital Transformation is not a new phenomenon – it started many years ago and we understand it as a phenomenon with two major dimensions:

  • Technological change (and digital data processing as one part of it).
  • A large scale transformational process that is comprised of strategic, organizational and socio-cultural changes as the second part.

The combination of these processes has a major impact on the way we work and the way we lead. Digital transformation challenges established new business models and management approaches. Therefore, when we talk about digital transformation, we refer to all the changes that are driven by the rapid development of digital technology.

Most of the companies we talk to have to ask themselves two key questions: What do we need to be successful in the digital age? and How can we change the way we work and the way we interact with our customers, to ensure that we know their needs at all times to respond in an agile and fast way?

As a consequence there is not a “one size fits all” solution – each company needs a unique plan to drive innovation and change successfully. However, there are some proven measures with high impact on revenue growth, cost and time savings and improved effects on customer satisfaction – one of them Open Innovation (also known as crowdsourcing). Recently in the Gartner 2016 CIO Survey, they discovered that crowdsourcing is one of the most effective, leased used digital innovation practices, which correlates with the highest digital return.

I encourage each company (regardless of size and industry) to discover the power that can be generated by working with a crowd to develop and improve solutions and service offerings. That crowd can be comprised of your employees, your clients or your ecosystem. However, successful innovation management goes beyond the research and development department. On the contrary, it aims to involve each individual – a major step towards cultural change in the digital age!

Don’t leave innovation to chance. Digital technology has changed the possibilities open to clients – and they utilize those possibilities by changing the rules. They now expect simple, seamless and personalized user experiences – anytime, anywhere and on any device. A company’s success therefore depends on maintaining a dialogue with the outside world. This goal can only be achieved by working closely together in a sustainable way – crowdsourcing allows you to do just that.

Embedded in your overall corporate strategy, Open Innovation is one key success criteria of your innovation journey and your chance for instant change. Want to learn more? Check this out: Silicon Valley meets Europe – Innovation Tour.

 This blog is a re-post of an original that appeared on Linkedin Pulse

Five Tips for Selling Your Executive Team on Crowdsourcing’s Value

Get everyone on board with crowdsourcing.

Why do companies resist crowdsourcing? It’s a tough question, and if you’re looking to boost crowdsourcing as a solution, it can seem a tough obstacle to overcome. The trick, however, is knowing why there’s resistance and having a good explanation for it. Here are five common objections to crowdsourcing from the executive suite, and how to respond to them and get your crowdsourcing started.

Lay Out A Clear, Sensible Path

By far the biggest obstacle crowdsourcing faces is that for many companies, it’s unexplored turf. The best way to push back is to point out bold moves that worked internally before and to present similar success stories from your industry. If your competitors are working on crowdsourcing, point that out as well; a thoughtful approach is better than ignoring something, after all.

Know Your Crowd

Another objection is that many companies are simply so narrowly focused that crowdsourcing is pointless. In this case, it’s worth counteracting that you’ll largely find an audience among people already interested in your industry, such as your customers, and they’ll already know your products and industry inside and out. Besides, crowdsourcing is built on the idea that we can easily see the trees — so what about the forest? Outside opinions can help refine even the most specialized industries, and a small, focused crowd is more manageable. If anything, being specialized is a benefit.

Start Internally

A common objection is that outsiders shouldn’t be looking at sensitive company data, so start with internal crowdsourcing. Even small companies should regularly be asking employees for ideas: After all, they’re in the industry, and nobody understands your company better than the people who work there. Crowdsourcing doesn’t have to be external at first, and trying it internally will help you refine your process and address any objections the executive suite might have.

Crowdsourcing pays big dividends if everyone signs off.

Know The Law

To be fair, it’s reasonable to ask what the legal repercussions are of having outsiders refine your product, and there are risks. However, those risks are easy to compensate for if you know they’re on the table, and you can respond by offering to keep it relatively small, with just a few hundred participants and a narrow focus. That will limit legal liability and offer a good internal test case, and you can build from there.

Have A Benefit For The Crowd

What’s in it for the crowd? This is another question worth asking, and that you’ll need an answer for. Crowdsourcing campaigns only work when there’s benefit for both the company doing the crowdsourcing and the crowd itself. LEGO, for example, crowdsources ideas for new designs from its fans, but for fans, the benefit is that they get to tell the company exactly what they want out of the product they love. When you’re asked what the benefit would be for the crowd, have an answer ready, and be ready to talk about it.

The key with internal resistance is to have a clear response to objections and realize this will be a marathon, not a sprint. Crowdsourcing can be a difficult concept to wrap your mind around, but the rewards are worth it. If you’d like more ways to make your case, get the Innovation Starter Kit.