November 30, 2016 Innovation and the C-Suite: Why Crowdsourcing Matters to Executives

This article is the second of a four-part series focused on how top enterprises are using crowdsourcing to drive continuous innovation and employee engagement. Learn more about crowdsourced innovation programs in the free ebook Innovating at Scale with Crowdsourcing: Five Steps to go from Ideas to Apps.
Crowdsourcing has gone mainstream and the enterprise focus is shifting from “should we look into crowdsourcing?” to a more mature phase of “how can we best use crowdsourcing?” Technology leaders like Deloitte and GE have created business units specifically to help their global clients and internal teams effectively use crowdsourcing at scale. Organizations like these have advanced the conversation and are focusing on how crowdsourcing can accelerate the pace of innovation and delivery.
In part I of this series, we highlighted Google’s Nine Principles of Innovation and showcased how crowdsourcing can help your organization live the principles and ignite innovation efforts. In this article we’ll examine how four leaders within your organization can each benefit from crowdsourced innovation:

  • Chief Information Officer (CIO)
  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
  • Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)
  • Chief Innovation Officer (CINO)

While the focus here is on these four executives, a crowdsourced innovation program can deliver many of the same benefits to the leaders who report to them —like the Head of Product, VP of Applications, and Chief Digital Officer —as well as to other executives with innovation goals.

Chief Information Officer (CIO)

CIOs are focused on building a culture and environment in which different business units can innovate in meaningful ways with the right technology stacks. The challenge in many organizations is that a real or perceived lack of IT capabilities often results in other parts of the business pursuing innovative initiatives outside of IT, making it difficult for the CIO to help drive innovation in a structured way.
How crowdsourced innovation programs help CIOs:
It’s probably not a lack of good business ideas getting in the way of innovation. The much more likely culprits are bandwidth and capacity, meaning the people and skills needed to help execute on top ideas are already tied up in other project work or don’t exist within the enterprise’s four walls. This bottleneck slows innovation efforts, which causes others in the organization to find alternate routes to digital experimentation that can deliver mixed results.
With a crowdsourced innovation program, CIOs can lead by providing business units with a structured way to source, vet, fund, and then build on innovative ideas. Top ideas are quickly transformed into UI/UX designs, application prototypes, and MVPs, solutions that can be tested and evaluated. CIOs can ensure the appropriate technologies (the stack) are understood and used throughout these innovation cycles, something that often alludes them when experimentation is happening ‘off the grid’.
Business units get a predictable, scalable way to rapidly move on top ideas, and CIOs deliver measurable innovation results without adding headcount.
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Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

CMOs have more than ever to get done. They’re responsible for delivering web, mobile, and wearable experiences that turn customers into advocates and boost the brand, and this work increasingly converges with traditional IT responsibilities.  Yet as the lines between marketing and IT blur, it’s often unclear how best to tackle new ideas and quickly deliver the innovative solutions customers demand.
How crowdsourced innovation programs help CMOs:
CMOs and Chief Digital Officers understand the speed at which the business needs to move in order to succeed. And with a greater percentage of budget landing on their desks, the opportunity to emerge as an innovation leader has never been greater.
Here at Topcoder we’re helping bold CMOs lead structured innovation efforts fueled by crowdsourcing that not only allow the brand to engage external innovators and advocates, but also spotlight the organization as an innovation leader.
With crowdsourcing, CMOs can structure innovation in meaningful stages that align with conferences, events, and campaigns. These stages often engage customers, advocates, and even the general public to submit and build upon innovative ideas, and live “demo day” events provide an opportunity to share innovation program results with employees, thought leaders, and media thirsty to cover inventive brands. We discuss different ways to structure these innovation events in our eBook.
A great example of one such program is Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Living Progress Challenge that used crowdsourcing at each stage of the innovation cycle, all wrapped in an impressive program that put the brand in a well-deserved glowing light. Watch the video below to learn more more about this expansive campaign to innovate for social good.

Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

CHROs play a crucial role in shaping corporate culture and providing growth opportunities for their most precious resource — their people. Many CHROs are working to build a culture where innovation is a shared endeavor and employees feel engaged, energized, and rewarded. The challenge is finding structured ways for employees to work on projects they truly care about — and that drive real results for the organization.
How crowdsourced innovation programs help CHROs:
Crowdsourced Innovation Programs provide a unique and powerful way for the CHRO to give employees opportunities to innovate. Employees can be involved in each of the five stages of a crowdsourced innovation program and work on projects that matter to them.
Team members have an opportunity to submit innovative ideas, help evaluate and select ideas for funding, and even take their own approved ideas through a series of crowdsourcing challenges to produce UI/UX designs, solution prototypes, and MVPs.
Crowdsourced innovation programs democratize the role of innovator and help the CHRO drive meaningful engagement for hundreds or even thousands of employees who otherwise might not get the opportunity to contribute.  And this ultimately helps the CHRO lower attrition, attract new talent, and drive more productivity at a lower cost to the enterprise.
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Chief Innovation Officer (CINO)

CINOs are focused on moving from innovation talk to action while delivering measurable, repeatable, and predictable results with a proven ROI. Innovation officers want to reshape the narrative around innovation, reduce risk, and lead focused innovation initiatives that deliver real solutions and benefits for the organization.
How crowdsourced innovation programs help CINOs:
Chief Innovation Officers don’t have an easy gig. CINOs are often asked to perform near miracles with limited funding, and many lead organizations that are separated from the rest of the business in a “skunk works” type of environment.
Crowdsourced innovation programs help CINOs break down these barriers by aligning different parts of the business around innovation goals and processes. CINOs can partner with other parts of the business to increase the volume of innovative ideas that are evaluated and built upon, while also dramatically reducing development timelines. More apps and solutions make it to market faster than ever.
Innovation programs fueled by crowdsourcing also enable CINOs to measure ROI on terms that are likely more appealing to the business. How many ideas were tried? How many prototypes and solution MVPs were created? How many releases did we have this quarter, and how did those products perform?
This shift from innovation being a fuzzy, unpredictable journey to a structured, measurable, and scalable process helps CINOs secure more funding for innovation and deliver a greater impact for the enterprise.


Every organization wants to be more innovative, so it’s important for executives and their direct reports to understand how crowdsourcing can help them meet their goals. No matter which executive leads the charge towards innovation in your organization, a crowdsourced innovation program can deliver meaningful results, shrink delivery timelines, and engage employees and other key audiences in the process. Learn more by downloading a copy of our free eBook, Innovating at Scale with Crowdsourcing: 5 Steps to Go From Ideas to Apps

VP, Marketing


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