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.

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