Open innovating is exciting and when combined with the power of crowdsourcing has the ability to deliver projects that are quite astounding. Writing for The Guardian in 2013, Ben Ferrari and Mehmet Fidanboylu explain that:
“Tapping into the ideas offered by large numbers of people seems a smart way to solve some of our most pressing problems”.
What is Crowdsourcing ?
Crowdsourcing is when an organisation outsources an activity that people would have formerly performed within a business and opens up the task to a large network of individuals. This provides excellent opportunities for solving difficult challenges by bringing smart minds together to ponder the issue and to come up with amazingly innovative solutions. Clearly the internet has made this more possible than it would ever have been in the past, as accessing people is infinitely easier via online forums and networks. The diversity of thought processes that are possible to access by communicating with and sparking ideas in people all around the world leads to more exciting innovations than might ever have otherwise been conceived of.
The following video, posted by crowdsourcing.org, explains in a visual quick way what is crowdsourcing:
Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing
Initially open innovation and crowdsourcing was the realm of enterprising new start-up companies, eager to move quickly and innovate through the power of many minds. However, over time more established businesses have seen the tremendous benefits that this approach can bring and are also getting involved. Mainstream organisations that have implemented open innovation and crowdsourcing include Dell, Hewlett Packard, Starbucks and the BBC, among a great many others.
For example, Ben Ferrari and Mehmet Fidanboylu outline the approach of Starbucks which has been to ask its customers to suggest ideas for improvement. This is not necessarily a new idea, and we are all familiar with the commonplace suggestion box that is seen in restaurants around the world. However, Starbucks has taken this online, and according to Ben Ferrari and Mehmet Fidanboylu it already has 100,000 ideas posted on its website. These ideas cover every aspect of the Starbucks business from new types of drinks Starbucks could offer, to store layout, and even the music that is played in the coffee shops.
When considering that open innovation and crowdsourcing has the ability to pull together and leverage the effort of many great minds, it is possible to agree with the assertion made by Ben Ferrari and Mehmet Fidanboylu that open innovation and crowdsourcing “have the potential to solve the biggest issues facing society”. That’s because, as they put it, it allows difficult problems to be looked at in a fresh way by people that do not necessarily attach traditional ways of thinking to the problem. Crowdsourcing and open innovation possibilities can be seen already operating in many different kinds of industries, including those in which fundamental and important change can be made. For example, healthcare and the renewable energy industry are two important industries where continual innovation is needed and where new ideas are already being gleaned from the crowd for ground breaking solutions to difficult problems.
Writing for the Harvard Business review in 2013, Kevin Boudreau and Karim Lakhani argue that organisations that exclude crowdsourcing as an approach to developing innovative ideas is short sighted and means that opportunities may be lost. There are many different kinds of problems that can be solved using the power of the crowd, and Boudreau and Lakhani cite examples in genomics, engineering, predictive analytics, enterprise software development, mobile apps, marketing and video games. Indeed, Boudreau and Lakhani explain that organisations that do not use crowdsourcing do so at their own peril because their competitors are almost certainly taking advantage of open innovation and crowdsourcing to move forward and get ahead. It does not have to be expensive to do, and as Boudreau and Lakhani outline, the crowd’s motivations tend to be learning and building reputation, rather than traditional incentives such as big salaries and bonuses.
Open innovation and crowdsourcing is taking the world by storm. That’s perhaps why it is the subject of a new book by Paul Sloane, “A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowd Sourcing”, which offers contributions from a variety of open innovation and crowdsourcing experts worldwide. Some of the main points in the book cover the importance of starting with the end in mind and having agreed goals to build momentum. The book is available via Amazon.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.