Crowdsourcing: Open Innovation at its Finest

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There are approximately 7 billion+ people wandering around this planet at any given time, about 3/4 of which are considered adults and, if we’re being generous, have the potential to come up with great ideas once in awhile. And, if those roughly 5.2 billion adults have even just one brilliant idea a month, that’s over 60 billion opportunities for innovation per year that enter the collective human mind. Even if you cut these numbers in half, to account for things like unvoiced inspiration or infinite circumstantial variables, it’s boggling to consider what kinds of genius we’re missing out on — and why we aren’t missing out on stuff that’s not so genius.

With the vast majority of businesses worldwide citing innovation as a top priority, the rising adoption of crowdsourcing is incredibly important. Now, we just have to figure out a way to go from encouraging mass ideation to actually harnessing and translating those ideas into progressive, global solutions.

A Tangible Platform

Before I dive in here, I do want to clarify that crowdsourcing and open innovation are not interchangeable terms. They’re closely linked when it comes to process and mutual benefit, but crowdsourcing is really more of a platform for generating the ideas that can lead to open innovation. It’s a way of engaging people to provide resources outside of standard organizational means — i.e., your team or go-to subject matter experts. It becomes a type of open innovation when the act of crowdsourcing helps people to come up with a new approach to a problem or need (or, you know — to innovate).

That said, crowdsourcing is an example of exactly how magical open innovation can be, especially when it creates and expands value beyond just solving a problem, or streamlining a pre-existing process. And as with most tools that we adopt to help us innovate, crowdsourcing isn’t something that works well when it’s done haphazardly. There has to be a well thought-out foundation of strategy, and moreover, there needs to be a protocol for taking a eureka-moment and turning it into something functional. I could absolutely send out an all-call to our customers, asking for ideas on improving Mindjet’s newest features. But without a way to track responses, vet them, and translate them into potential actions for our development team, I’d be doing little more than wasting people’s time and intelligence.

Sometimes it’s not just about searching out ideas. To take advantage of crowdsourcing in a pragmatic way, do like Google did when they sent GPS kits to India to facilitate the creation of user-generated maps. By trading schwag for data on lesser-known areas, granting access to proprietary tools, and laying down a clear, repeatable process, they were able to capitalize on crowdsourcing for the betterment of their own mapping database and the community they involved — a definitive example of open innovation at work.

Creativity and Community

Some people believe that ideation and innovation are uniquely human, but I disagree; I’m forever impressed by the rest of the animal world’s unexpected capacity for developing solutions to different problems, using tools, and forming communities. What is uniquely human, though, is our ability to find creative approaches to unforeseen needs; to recognize and analyze both historical and emerging patterns, and make accurate predictions based on repetition. It’s because of that singularity that crowdsourcing for innovation is such a potent way of leveraging ideation for global progress.

This type of open innovation is the apex of our aggregate tools, ingenuity, and brilliance. It doesn’t hurt, either, that crowdsourcing typically reduces overall costs, increases company exposure, and capitalizes on one of humanity’s most powerful objectives — to stay connected. By empowering atypical groups or people to think together, and by tapping into an essentially endless pool of knowledge, crowdsourcing for innovation opens the door to unlimited potential for your business.

Want to learn more about ideation management and innovation? Check out our latest infographic, Business Innovation Done Right.

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