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Crowdsourcing: How much does your ox weigh?
Pt. 3 – Using the “wisdom of crowds” and finding brilliant Ideas from within your company

Now that you know the basics of crowdsourcing we can look at how it can help you find effective solutions to difficult problems, create a more collaborative culture within your company, and help you be more successful in whatever market you are in. 

In Part 2 we briefly went over Crowd Wisdom or the “wisdom of crowds”.  We are going to focus on the part of Crowd Wisdom that involves tapping into your work force to find innovative and creative solutions to problems that might be stumping your “experts”.  This gives you another set of eyes focused on a problem where the solutions that have been reached haven’t performed to expectations.  Remember that if you create the right crowdsource then the crowd will almost always outperform any small number of upper management or consultants.  Sure your management team might have MBAs from Harvard or have been successful at a Fortune 100 company, but studies still show that smaller groups of highly intelligent people are consistently outperformed by crowds.

 

Laying the Groundwork for your Crowdsourcing Project

 

So how can you capitalize on internal crowdsourcing?  Well there are a variety of ways to do it.  A UK publishing company conducted a survey of all 100,000 of the company’s employees and asked “what percentage of your intellectual capital do you use?”  The result was jaw dropping.  70 percent of the employees, that is 70,000, thought they used only 15 – 20 percent of their intellectual capital! The majority of employees thought they were underutilized and could be doing more to contribute to the company.  How many other companies do you think would have similar results?  You could probably assume most, especially the larger companies and those are the ones with the most crowdsourcing potential and resources! 

Most likely you have employees that are similar to the example above and are willing to contribute more and be part of different projects, but you have to know how to cash in on the intellectual capital they are waiting to share.  So you have willing participants for an internal crowdsource, now you have to implement it.  There are four basic steps to creating and implement an internal crowdsource:

  1. Create clear goals - Employees are used to getting surveys that they reply to and assume they won’t see any change in the way things are being run or they are being utilized.  The first step is to differentiate the crowdsource from just another survey.  The crowdsourcing project needs to be seen as a viable way to solve a problem.  This is an opportunity to have employees help you solve problems and not just give an opinion.  For the employees to believe and see the difference between a common survey and asking for their input and problem solving skills upper management has to be committed and buy into the process.
  2. Create a structured and well organized framework for the project – Take enough time to research and decide what platform will best suit your company’s needs and organizational structure. Determine what pieces are needed, for instance user comments, rank and/or vote on submissions. Are teams able to utilize virtual work space to communicate?  Is there time set aside for groups/teams to brainstorm?  Ask yourself questions that you think will help clarify the goals and the means to achieve those goals.
  3. Start simple and grow from there - The first crowdsource you create should involve an easier problem to solve.   It should be relatively simple and clearly defined. It should engage your workforce from multiple areas (Marketing, IT, Human Resources).  You need to provide sufficient information for the employees and make sure to outline the submission guidelines and structure. You don’t want, or need any misunderstandings later in the process.  Also make sure to set a deadline for completion and clearly communicate that to your workforce.
  4. Communicate with your employees - There will be a variety of viewpoints from your employees when it comes to the crowdsource.  Some will be excited (probably the 70% who feel like they don’t use enough of their intellectual capital) and some will be skeptical and on guard.  Make sure to quickly address any concerns and communicate the steps and goals of the crowdsource.  One idea would be to create a crowdsource to set the outline and rules for future crowdsourcing projects. 

 

Managing Your Crowdsourcing Project

 

Laying the groundwork for the crowdsource is probably the most difficult part.  Now it is time to manage the project and make sure the employees know what a valuable piece of the project they are.  Employees who don’t feel like their input is valued will most likely not participate and if they do take part their input will be guarded and not as impactful.  Make sure to give positive feedback.  Let those that step up and get the project started know that they are welcome and that it is appreciated. 

This would also be a good time to encourage those that might not have expertise, in the area that the crowdsource is focused on, to participate.  If groups or teams are involved it would be good to encourage the teams to be from different areas of the company.  One person from sales, one from IT, one from logistics, etc.  This won’t only help the brainstorm or ideas be more inclusive, but it will also help the participants feel comfortable knowing that everyone in the company is involved. 

Although you want to let your employees know that they are a valuable part of your crowdsource try to stay in the shadows as much as possible.  Don’t try to chime in or get involved until after the crowdsource is complete. Instead be there to facilitate and remove any blocks so that the discussion continues to move forward.

 

The final piece of employee involvement is recognition.  The best idea might be to create a plan to recognize all contributors in the planning stages or beginning of the crowdsource.  Make sure everyone who contributed is recognized, especially those who have contributed the most valuable ideas, which are being decided either by management, employee ranking or a combination of the two.  Since the participants will most likely have some input it is important to make them feel valued, along with those who have been determined to have contributed the best ideas, so that they are eager to participate in the next project.

 

So once all of the ideas are collected and the deadline for the crowdsourcing project has passed it is time to determine which ideas are the best.  There will most likely be many great ideas and some might even be used later but the selection has to be narrowed down.  The task of finding the right solution from possibly hundreds or thousands of submissions might seem a little daunting.  A strategy has to be implemented to sort through and recognize the right idea or solution. 

 

If the judging is done by experts, or a committee, some clear criteria will need to be used for evaluation. This means the committee can divide the submissions, follow the same judging criteria, and then combine the best for group review.  If crowd voting/ranking was involved this might make the process a little more difficult since the judges might not agree with the votes.  Again there has to be clear communication and if the top voted idea isn’t feasible or realistic then the crowd needs to understand why.  The problem of the crowd not believing that their opinions are valued could be brought up but clear communication can help reduce any problems. 

 

The one thing to remember with internal crowdsourcing, or crowdsourcing in general, is that while it is successful and can generate brilliant ideas from within your company quantity does not always equal quality.  There is the possibility that you will end up empty handed. Hopefully you have laid the groundwork and provided the incentive and information to bring in creative and innovative ideas but that doesn’t always result in a viable or realistic solution. Before throwing it all away though take another look at the process and the way that the submissions were judged.  You can mix and match the process by which the best submission is selected and sometimes come out with a better result. 

 

USING CLICKWRITE FOR INTERNAL CROWDSOURCING

 

There are a variety of different ways to manage a crowdsourcing project and even more ways to collect submissions.  The way people communicate changes each day with new apps, software, hardware, and the biggest influence, the evolving internet.  ClickWrite can help you simplify your crowdsource and eliminate the communications traffic jam that can occur. 

 

So how can ClickWrite microsites help you with your internal crowdsourcing project?  Managing a crowdsource can be difficult and time consuming.  Like we looked at earlier there are many steps to creating a productive crowdsource and to manage it along the way takes a lot of effort, especially if you want it to be successful.  ClickWrite can help you reduce the amount of time spent on managing your internal crowdsource by giving you adaptable options and bringing the data directly to you.

 

ClickWrite creates an ever expanding organic crowdsource by creating microsites for your; employees, franchisees, suppliers, distributors, or your Uncle Stewart. ClickWrite syndicates whatever content you decide is valuable from your site to the microsites.  You can also receive information from the microsites.  The flow of information goes in both directions and that means you can pull valuable information from employees who blog on their site, franchisees who are having success with a specific marketing tool, sales reps that record notes on a sales call, or distributors who want to let you know about a problem with the supply chain and who have an innovative solution. That means quick, easy, and proficient access to a variety of sources related directly to your business without having to make 100 phone calls or send out 1,000 emails.  It is a constant crowdsource with the information flowing directly to you and the ability to share your information with them, along with customers and clients if you choose.  Collaboration is the key to any crowdsource and ClickWrite makes it easy.

 

For more information on how ClickWrite can develop an organic crowdsource that is constantly working for you, please contact us @ ClickWrite or visit our website @ www.clickwrite.com


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