One 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.