Innovation Fear

Innovation FearOur CEO was recently interviewed by the San Francisco Business Times and the conversation pulled up short for a moment when the interviewer (after hearing us talk about the possibilities afforded by an innovation management system) asked us why people are sometimes afraid to launch a crowdsourced innovation program.  So we wanted to take a moment to talk about some common innovation fear that we see from first time innovators.

Fear of Mediocrity. What if the ideas aren’t any good? It’s true that a poorly managed ideation community probably won’t generate the quality ideas that you’re looking for to propel your business or agency forward. Fortunately, it is easy to manage this problem by posting a provocative challenge statement and offering some guidelines that define what sorts of ideas you’re looking for. The crowd will (most often) rise admirably to the challenge.

Fear of Negative Commentary. Public innovation communities face the same challenges as social media. The conversations are broadcast far and wide, but good brands can take a negative comment and turn it on its head. Also, once a well-moderated community is launched, the overall sentiments are overwhelmingly positive. People enjoy interaction and brands that will listen to them. With a good communications strategy, it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter innovation trolls.

Fear of Delivery. This is perhaps the most common fear. That if you receive ideas… then you’ll actually have to DO something about them. Well, this is absolutely true. Failure to respond to ideas and implement some of them will undoubtedly cause you trouble. However, you don’t have to implement every idea and ideas that don’t align to your capabilities, resources, and goals shouldn’t be implemented. Find the ideas that have legs and make sure that you launch them and learn from them. For the ideas that don’t make it to implementation, use this as an opportunity to talk about why they’re not a good fit (maybe you don’t have the technology yet, maybe regulations limit your ability to launch an idea, maybe there’s not budget this year). If people feel that they’e be

The fact of the matter is that with transparent systems like these, everyone risks accountability – from the people sharing ideas, to the people who are managing them to the people who are responsible for assigning resources to promising ideas, and beyond. But that accountability is exactly why these systems perform so well, too. If people can see who’s taking responsibility – and that responsibility means communicating around ideas – not necessarily implementing all of them, they will feel that a real effort is being made to create change. And all of those leaders suddenly have tons more resources to draw on – how about those 100 people who voted on that idea? Maybe they want to help build it, review it, test it.

Once you get past the fear, it’s wide open opportunity. How do you think about crowdsourced innovation?

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