Let me start by saying something we all already know: in the current digital world, innovation is critical. Disruption from new agile competitors becomes a continuous threat for many businesses.
As we all expect, innovation needs fresh thinking, open minds, experiments and new approaches. In the last years many new technologies were launched. However, in many cases it is hard to unlock the full innovation potential of these technologies – such as data analytics, mobile and digital. To unlock this potential, I claim that within big firms innovation leaders need to lead this innovation and use dynamic new approaches to co-creation and collaboration.
A great example of such a dynamic new approach is crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a dynamic approach to the generation of ideas, without being bounded to traditional (firm) boundaries. Crowdsourcing gives the possibility to include input from the entire business ecosystem, which includes the input from employees, partners, suppliers and customers.
An excellent illustration of such corporate crowdsourcing is the SAP HANA Innovation Challenge. HANA is SAP’s in-memory database technology. Yearly, also this year, they organize a crowdsourcing contest. The SAP HANA Innovation Awards were designed to showcase and honor customers innovating with SAP HANA. Because current year’s contest is still active, I will illustrate this example based on the 2014 contest.
The contest was organized the following. Customers using SAP HANA in production were invidted to enter their innovation story in a certain category. 22 finalists were selected by public voting. The social buzz for the conteste hashtag #HANAStory generated over 6 million impressions on Twitter, 6.7 thousand votes and 76.1 thousand website visits. SAP User groups were invited to nominate judges and 11 judges reviewed and scored each of the 22 finalists using a score card to select the final winners. This lead to a massive attention to SAP HANA innovation and mulitiple ideas were executed and implemented on a larger scale.
The crowdsourcing contest at SAP is every year a great success, as illustrated with the 2014 example. For the innovation leaders willing to lead the innovation in this collaborative way, there are some important considerations:
1. Open up innovation processes to third parties
CIOs can open up their innovation process by partnering with third parties who share their aims and are prepared to collaborate. To identify potential allies, innovation leaders must study their partners’ portfolios to find common areas of interest.
2. Accede collective brainpower
If a small group starts to define innovation opportunities, it can result in a very narrow approach being taken. Opening up for a wider group can give you a greater diversity of input. It also can give you insight in the end-user experience.
3. Decide how to evaluate ideas
The end goal of idea crowdsourcing is to implement innovative ideas. To reach this goal, it is important to have a clear appraoch towards prioritizing and selecting the best ideas. In most cases such an approach consists of two stages: structuring and selecting.
What can innovation leaders learn from this blog?
Very straightforward, that the people at their organization, and the people around their organization, are full of innovative ideas. It is key to find new ways to unlock the potential innovative value of these ideas and exploit it.
Innovation leaders should start experimenting now: where can crowdsourcing be used to move product/service/technology from a deployment to a genuine innovation?