The role of crowdsourcing software in open innovation

A headshot of Steve Denning

by Steve Denning

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Technology plays a starring role in any conversation about open innovation. We’ve published several blog articles cautioning you against making the mistake of confusing pieces of technology for open innovation, but this doesn’t mean that technology isn’t a useful tool during the process. In fact, it’s almost impossible to conduct large scale open innovation projects without technology.

The point of open innovation is to bring in ideas from outside of your organization. In other words, it’s next to impossible to round up your community of participants all in one place on a regular basis. Large multinational corporations enjoy the luxury of developing a network of labs or innovation hubs. Even very successful medium sized businesses don’t have the resources to do this effectively.

But if you go back and re-read some of the innovation projects we’ve highlighted in previous posts, you’ll notice something interesting. Many of these open innovation projects were mediated through platforms or online communities. Any digital platform you choose will need to come equipped with the tools to do two key things:

  • Manage the flows of information and ideas efficiently
  • Retain the interest and engagement of participants even when there isn’t a particular open innovation project they’re interested in

What do we mean by that last point?

Well, let’s suppose you put together an open innovation project for new product development. You go through the steps outlined in this article while keeping the tips of how to manage a successful Innovation Challenge in mind.

To you and your executive team’s delight, the project is a hit and you wind up with excellent sales and ROI from your new product.

Read Next: The benefits and limitations of crowdsourcing

A large part of that success would undoubtedly be due to the invaluable contributions of the participants in your open innovation project. These participants would have included industry experts, lead product users and brand super fans, as well as everyday consumers.

These are the people you want to keep in your organization’s orbit. So how can you build a digital platform that keeps your participants engaged indefinitely?

Variety is the spice of innovation

Your digital open innovation platform must include a variety of activities. Think of it like a neighbourhood jungle gym. There’s something for everyone to do. A couple children may play on the swings while others go down the slide. Some may choose to just relax in the sandbox. A couple others may go home for the day altogether.

But because there’s both a sense of community and play, everyone comes back eventually. They may return in a few days or a few weeks, but they’ll never permanently “quit” the jungle gym.

This is analogous to the kind of open innovation platform you’d like to create. Imagine brand fans and stakeholders hanging out in a community café when there isn’t a particular project that piques their interest. Open innovation projects become one of several activities a community of creators participates in together.

Check out our Innovation & Crowdsourcing page for more.
This is at the crux of what our company, Chaordix, offers. We design digital ecosystems where a brand community of customers, experts, and even employees can congregate and collaborate for co-creation and open innovation projects. Once this foundational platform is in place, CINOs can incorporate digital trends to facilitate the innovation project, including:

  • Adding social media plugins to facilitate social sharing of the discussions taking place within the open innovation community
  • Making the open innovation platform mobile-first to encourage regular participation from any device and screen size
  • Including digital hangouts within the open innovation community so participants can see each other and feel like they are physically in the same place
  • Gamification to add a competitive element with non-monetary incentives like badges or levels
  • Adding functionalities like direct messaging, alerts/notifications, quick uploads of photos and videos, and the ability to “favourite” topics, ideas, or participants in order to add a social media element to the platform

Open innovation’s burst in popularity is in large part driven by technology. The kind of information sharing happening today is only possible thanks to the internet, mobile devices, and online communities.

We’ve accomplished the mission of democratizing information. The new mission is how to facilitate crossovers and collisions of ideas and insights from a wide range of industries in order to solve today’s problems.

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