A recent Harvard Business Review article shined a very important light on why employees fail to innovate. This linked article is a short, yet important piece every CEO, director, manager, and individual contributor ought to read. The article is so effective because it is rooted in common sense. For instance, consider this excerpt from the HBR post:
“The problem? Most employees believe that management does not inspire them to do great work — or give them the opportunity to do so. Fewer than half of those in the lower ranks who have the chance to think through an idea believe they have access to the necessary means to execute it: money, staff, and support.”
This is the real issue. As the article discusses, nearly every CEO is preaching that innovation is the responsibility of all. Yet, well under 50% of the individual contributors polled for the article feel they have access to what they need to take a quality idea, and execute on it.
This can be crippling to both productivity and morale. The solution offered in the HBR article is as such:
“How to halt the downward spiral? Leaders need to embrace innovative work as everyone’s responsibility — and mean it. They should also look for ways to encourage the best ideas coming from any employee.”
But, generally discussing what needs to happen is a far cry away from actually making it happen. For it to be acted on, for the HBR article’s purpose to matter, you must have a scaleable way to empower your individual employees to act and create as if they were a burgeoning entrepreneur. Or in other words, you need to create an environment where intrapreneurs can experiment, create, and flourish.
The ability for you to provide your employees with an opportunity to self-select into pieces of work and initiate projects that they are passionate about, will be a hugely motivating factor moving forward. Companies will continuously tinker with new fringe benefits that offer to say, pick up dry-cleaning or transport teams to and from work. As beneficial as those types of benefits might be, the impact will be dwarfed by organizations who instead focus on providing an experimental environment for their employees, where autonomous innovation is supported, fairly evaluated, and properly governed.
Using Crowdsourcing to Set Your Rockstars Free
So how do you actually do it? You must use crowdsourcing. To be more specific, you must pair employee ideation, passion, and domain knowledge with crowdsourcing of the execution of the early stage idea, through MVP status. You must provide individual contributors and very small teams the ability to take top ideas much further down the production life-cycle by designing, prototyping, and coding the ideas through the use of crowdsourcing.
Why is this the case? Because the problem is probably not a lack of worthy ideas. The problem is your organization has no scaleable way to bring a large enough volume of top ideas through the funnel fast enough in order to effectively innovate. This is your innovation chokepoint. The resources you do have access to are too scarce, too overly utilized, and too expensive. The consequences of not solving for this chokepoint, as the HBR article discusses, are severe and painful for both the individual contributors and the organization as a whole.
Crowdsourcing provides your organization the scaleable way to accelerate good ideas through prototyping and into MVP states. Your employees – and their ideas – can be amplified and brought to life much quicker without you ever needing to hire, train, and ramp the type of talent that would be required to execute on such a large volume of ideas.
Two shining examples of organizations that are setting innovation rockstars free via crowdsourcing come to us from IBM – whose ifundIT program is an internal Kickstarter that then uses crowdsourcing to execute on the funded ideas — and the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst program that uses crowdsourcing at every stage, from ideation through digital execution of MVP applications, at massive scale.
If innovation is an imperative and you believe intrapreneurship is one of the keys to driving disruptive innovation, then you must consider the role crowdsourcing can play in supercharging these efforts. By doing so you will:
- Greatly boost employee morale, engagement, and productivity
- Attract the next generation workforce who will seek out organizations that have embraced these types of practices
- Bring more, higher quality ideas much further down the funnel, faster
If you’re interested in discussing the use of crowdsourcing for your organization’s innovation efforts let’s talk.