“Looking beyond the breakthrough idea” by Randy Courke

While adopting crowdsourcing for innovation certainly can lead to breakthrough ideas, solutions and crowd efforts, I believe there is too much focus on the breakthrough and not enough value assigned to the many other benefits of engaging your stakeholders using crowdsoucing methods. In fact, even if a breakthrough is unlikely, there are still ample reasons to begin crowdsourcing. Here are a few:

Seed concepts: If you are looking for that next great idea or solution, crowdsourcing will help you get there even if the crowd itself doesn’t come up with it directly. The crowd will definitely spur your thinking, get you out of your rut, and perhaps plant the seed of a new idea or concept that will blossom into the breakthrough idea you are seeking.

Market validation: All companies have hunches – but often don’t have the proof of whether their hunches are right or not. At a bare minimum, crowdsourcing will confirm some of the hunches you have, and even better, help you refine your hunches into market proven data points. Or it will warn you that your hunch is wrong and prevent a potentially costly mistake.

Organizational learning: Edward Boches of Mullen put it best when he said “The consumer has already decided. They are creating content. Any brand or marketer that doesn’t take advantage of that in a way that will work for them is crazy.“ Consumers are wanting to have a say in the brands and services they consume and that trend is only increasing. Recent episodes like The Gap’s logo re-do fiasco show that companies need to hone their ability to engage their crowds and benefit from the input they WANT to give you. If you don’t get good at it, your competitor will for sure. So start early and start now. Begin figuring out how your organization can tap its crowds, perhaps starting with your internal crowd, for competitive advantage. As with many things, with crowdsourcing improvement comes with experience, so jump in, and maybe seek the council of someone who has experience to make your first effort successful.

And there are other benefits such as gaining a much deeper understanding of your crowd – how emotionally connect to you brand are they? Building goodwill with the marketplace for seeking input and acting on it is another benefit. Establishing a connection that you could potentially re-use over and over again for different innovation and research purposes.

Certainly don’t stop seeking the breakthrough or game-changing ideas, but also don’t fully measure your innovation efforts based on whether it delivers that breakthrough. Look beyond to the other benefits, communicate them widely, and you’ll see how your open innovation efforts are propelling your organization forward.



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