An idea platform is a software-based collection tool for ideas. In the age of open innovation, this platform is a vital tool for helping companies to collect, manage, and track ideas or problem-solving strategies.
Types of Idea Platforms
There are two general categories of idea platforms: task-specific and open-ended idea platforms. In task-specific idea platforms, a company may invite their current consumers to submit suggestions or crowd vote on a product or company solution. A well-known example of this is Lay’s potato chips Do Us A Flavor campaign. Consumers are first tasked with the challenge of coming up with radical new flavors for the Frito Lay brand. Those submissions are narrowed down to a select few, and the public is tasked to vote again on which flavor will become a finalist.
An open-ended idea platform is less task-oriented and opens the door to innovation across multiple departments within the same company. The open-ended approach to this style of crowdsourcing allows a company to receive feedback in areas that based on customer needs as opposed to their own. In 1998, IBM took this leap into open innovation by abandoning their internal development department and joined forces with Apache, an online community of webmasters and technologists. The Apache community “was made up of customers who knew the software’s deficits and who had the skills to fix them.”
Within each of these categories are a multitude of nuances which make the possibilities for crowdsourcing an endless source of innovative ideas.
A Safe Place for Crowdsourcing
A strong idea platform offers transparency – a highly valued trait in today’s marketing model. By providing transparency, companies provide a glimpse into the idea generation process that both internal and external participants can view. When idea platform participants can see the life cycle of ideas, companies become more accountable for their innovation processes. The internet-based idea platform also provides a safe place for innovators and crowdsourcing. While this may sound odd, “the internet provides a particularly good venue for crowdsourcing since individuals tend to be more open in web-based projects where they are not being physically judged or scrutinized and thus can feel more comfortable sharing.” Idea platforms create a certain level of anonymity for all parties, while at the same time allowing transparency to be the guiding force for this collaborative idea platform.