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IT: Use Crowd Sourcing to Pick Innovation Projects

As employees are ever more globally dispersed, anything that helps mass decision making becomes ever more useful. If it's used correctly

Innovation Dictionary DefinitionIT teams are often called upon to make decisions about which new technologies to purchase and deploy. The problem is that picking the right ones is hard.

Many innovative ideas that aim to deliver productivity benefits fail to do so. Employee needs vary by level and role, value is hard to measure, and adoption rates are usually low.

So it doesn’t make much sense for IT to make these decisions in isolation. Some IT functions run “innovation campaigns” where employees in IT and elsewhere in the business suggest ideas that are then prioritized by an IT innovation team or committee. The winning ideas are given seed funding or developed by an innovation group. The problem is that IT usually lacks the business context to pick winners.

A slightly more advanced version of this model is to convene a panel of business leaders to pick the best ideas. But this still concentrates decision-making responsibility at the more senior levels. With the highly varied demography found in modern enterprises, the most valuable innovation ideas for the whole company will come from the opinions of all employees via crowdsourcing (see chart 1).

Crowdsourcing Graph

Chart 1: The benefits of crowd sourcing for choosing innovation projects

CIOs and Crowd Sourcing

Recent conversations with CIOs show that more and more firms now use crowdsourcing, and have highlighted instances where simple and small applications chosen through crowdsourcing have had significant adoption and business impact. There can also be a happy medium where the crowd validates and develops ideas before business leaders make the final decision.

The best way to manage and nurture crowd sourcing will be unique for each company, but CIOs are in prime position to encourage the use of it. Crowd sourcing acts as a validation mechanism and highlights which ideas to pursue. It also gives employees a vested interest in the ideas that they vote for.

Dos and Don’ts of Crowd Sourcing

Some of the highlights from our members for using the wisdom of the crowd for innovation include:

  • Do implement a voting mechanism, e.g., virtual currency or “likes” for participants to pick the innovation ideas they want IT to pursue.

  • Do form sub-groups within the crowd-sourcing community around specific categories of idea for easy navigation, highlight synergies, and remove duplications.

  • Do recognize and encourage feedback, input, and advice from participants to develop and refine the submitted ideas. Crowd sourcing can not only be used to pick the best ideas, it can be used to make all of the ideas better.

  • Don’t focus on power users within the company. The make-up of the participants involved should be representative of the overall company.

  • Don’t ignore unsuccessful submissions. One CIO we talked to uses an “inactive” portfolio where ideas are moved if they are not taken forward. This reduces the negative impact on employees and projects are revisited if there is a change in market conditions, i.e., new technology becomes available.

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