February 27, 2013
Today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom…
Yesterday I spoke at an event called Crowdopolis. The topic was crowdsourcing. This has become one of the hot buzzwords in business. Companies of all sizes are dipping their toes into crowdsourcing.
But what is it really? Well, crowdsourcing is a lot of different things and can’t easily by lumped into one small bucket.
Here are a few of the crowdsourcing variations (and this is not a complete list):
- Solution Finding: This is where you use a crowd to solve a complex problem. Are you looking to develop a glass for the next iPhone that won’t smudge? Ask a crowd to see if they have a solution. InnoCentive and BrightIdea are two platforms that help` companies solve these types of problems (the latter is the engine behind GE’s ecoimagination initiative).
- Opinion Seeking - Crowds can be used, of course, to provide input and suggestions on how to improve your product. SurveyMonkey is a low-end version of this in action. MyStarbucksIdea.com is a more sophisticated version that runs on SalesForce.com’s “ideas” platform.
- Content Creation – Want to create an advertisement for your company but don’t want to hire a single design agency? Why not hire the world? Companies like Doritos have done this for their Super Bowl commercials with great success. Platforms like Tongal help companies crowdsource the creation of videos. News broadcasters are also doing this to help collect videos from individuals who shoot newsworthy footage on their iPhone.
- Design Competitions – Need a new logo? You don’t need to hire just one person from an agency or eLance.com (which is also a form of crowdsourcing, even though you only get one person doing the work, you get multiple people to bid on the work), you can use 99designs.com or logotournament.com to get hundreds of designs for the price of one. You select the one logo you like and pay only that one designer.
- Data Collection - This is a growing area of crowdsourcing. Instead of sending your employees out to inspect buildings, shelves in super markets, or potentially even read meters, get anyone to do it. For example, when someone is in a supermarket, have them snap a picture of your product on the shelves. This gives you insights into stocking levels and product placement, and the GPS tracking will give you the location without the need for tagging. Think of this as more data for your big data.
- Manual Tasks - This is outsourcing on steroids. Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk is an example of this. Break up your work into bite-sized chunks and get people to do these activities for pennies. There are many platforms for doing this in all shapes and sizes. Although it is not technically a crowdsourcing platform, one of my favorites websites is fiverr.com; a site where people will do almost anything for $5.
- Testing – Do you have something you want to test? uTest is a great platform for this. They can beat the heck out of your website looking for bugs, usability issues, or anything else. You can get hundreds of people banging on your system to stress it and test it.
- Customer service – What if you could get your fans to be customer service employees? Platforms like CrowdEngineering.com allow your most knowledgable customers to provide help to your entire customer base. If your customers have a technical problem, instead of speaking to an employee, they can be routed to one of these knowledgable fans. Think of this is a virtual “geek squad” or “genius bar.”
- Programming – One of my favorite crowdsourcing platforms is TopCoder. This is truly amazing. They have nearly a half million programmers, designers, testers and program managers who compete to create wireframes, designs, code, and algorithms, and then test everything for customers. This is one of the best end-to-end solutions out there.
- Crowd funding – Need money for an initiative or cause? Crowdfunding may be the way. Platforms like kickstarter.com enable people to raise money for their projects. There are platforms for raising money for non-profits. And now there is the emerging version which can allow for micro-angel investing.
As you can tell, crowdsourcing can be leveraged in many ways.
It is important to note that crowdsourcing is not THE answer. It is only a tool. You need to make sure you understand what you want to achieve and then determine if this approach is appropriate. Too many organizations have tried crowdsourcing, thinking it was a silver bullet, only to be wildly disappointed. Having said that, when used properly, it can reduce costs, timeframes, and risk, while providing high quality solutions.
February 6, 2013
Here is today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom…
The question I get most often from my Fortune 500 clients: “How do we create a culture of innovation?”
Although there is no simple answer, here’s a blueprint I’ve found useful to get things started and build momentum.
- Ask employees for ideas – Most organizations start here with the corporate suggestion box. Let’s call it idea-driven innovation. This step is useful for getting people engaged. It also helps capture low hanging fruit and incremental innovations. However, after a period of time, the ideas become less practical and less valuable. The “noise” (low quality ideas) increases. And sadly, even the good ideas often have a difficult time finding a home (sponsor, owner, funding, resources), so they wither on the vine.
- Ask top execs for their most pressing challenges – We now move from idea-driven innovation to a more useful approach: challenge-driven innovation. Find the people with money, power and resources in your organization, and ask them for the most important challenges that they need solved. Don’t call it innovation. Think of it as problem solving. This step gets the executives engaged as they start seeing direct value.
- Ask employees to solve these challenges – Once you’ve identified the top executive challenges, it is now time to get the employees working on finding solutions. This is done via internal crowdsourcing. Instead of asking everyone for their suggestions, ask them for solutions. This keeps them engaged, reduces the noise, and provides a much higher ROI.
- Ask employees to identify challenges - This step is designed to get everyone to realize that the mantra, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions,” is wrong. Teach employees that if you bring bigger and better problems, there are many ways to find better solutions. Ask employees to submit good challenges. This steps requires proper education/guidance to avoid being inundated by poorly defined challenges.
- Go externally for solutions to challenges – Use alliances, outsourcing, and external crowdsourcing/open innovation as a means for discovering solutions to exceptionally pressing solutions. Or use “tech scouting” in order to find off-the-shelf solutions to meet needs of less strategic challenges. Some organizations do this earlier in the process, starting here before asking employees for solutions.
- Go externally for identifying challenges – Most organizations struggle to identify the right challenges. They are too close to the business and therefore have reduced peripheral vision. Therefore, it is useful to partner with trend monitoring organizations, universities, think tanks, and experts to help identify the challenges that might be in the organizational blind spot.
This process is not sequential. Some steps are done in parallel at times. And sometimes they are done in a different order.
If your objective is to accelerate the way you innovate, this model is extremely useful. You will find that less time is spent on innovation with better results.
June 22, 2012
On July 19th, I will be keynoting the inaugural Crowdopolis event in Los Angeles. Want to know what I will discuss? Check out this 2 minute video. And if you want to attend, use this link to register and save $100.
August 27, 2011
We often hear the expression “Wisdom of crowds.” And if you have read my articles, it will be apparent that I am an ardent fan of crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing makes the argument that the aggregation of information produced by groups, result in decisions that are often better than those that are made by a single individual. However, to get better results, it is critical to use the right crowds in the right way.
I decided to use crowdsourcing to help develop the title for my book that is being released next month. To better enable the group conversation, I first developed a large number of potential titles that I felt may be appropriate.
To provide some context, the book contains 40 counterintuitive and controversial strategies for making innovation a repeatable process in any organization.
One of the tips is titled “Hire People You Don’t Like.” Due to its seemingly counterintuitive perspective, the publisher thought this might make a good title. To test out their theory, they mocked up a cover design that was as provocative as the title itself (see the graphic). In large letters, they showcased the obvious viewpoint of “Fire People You Don’t Like,” but then crossed out the term “fire” and replaced it with the more surprising word-twist “hire.”
It was time to get input from the “crowd.” In this case, I turned to my 1,000 Facebook followers to solicit their opinions. I posted the above-mentioned cover along with my list containing a number of other potential titles and requested the feedback of my friends.
Despite the many options submitted for consideration, 95 percent of the people immediately gravitated toward “Hire People You Don’t Like,” quickly dismissing the rest.
In that moment, the title was determined. Or was it?
Upon further review, I noticed that the responding crowd was composed of long-time friends, fellow speakers, a few innovation experts and a broad range of other people.
Although the vast majority selected the “fire/hire” name, it was determined that a title containing those specific words would appeal to human resources professionals who focus on recruiting. The few responding innovation experts duly noted that most companies looking to innovate would likely pass on this title. It would not appeal to my target audience: innovation experts. While provocative, it doesn’t speak to their needs.
Had I asked a more specific and targeted crowd—innovation experts, book industry experts, book marketing experts—I might have gotten a very different answer. And perhaps a more useful one. However, at this point, that was not an option.
So we eliminated “Hire People You Don’t Like” from the list and went back to the crowd. Again, we asked them to vote for the titles that they liked best, but sadly there was little convergence. No one could agree on which title would work.
But based on comments, we started to see an interesting pattern: there was convergence on which titles did NOT work. Therefore, instead of using the crowd to identify the winning title, we used them to help eliminate the duds. They were extremely effective at this.
This allowed us to reduce our long list to a much shorter one that could then be reviewed by a small, yet select team of experts.
In the end, I enlisted the help of two individuals who had a solid understanding of book marketing, innovation and my objectives. Both independently agreed on one of the previously suggested titles: “Best Practices Are Stupid.” This still possessed the controversial edge we were seeking, but seemed to appeal more to my target market. The publisher agreed.
In this scenario, I had initially identified an inappropriate crowd for my needs. Although this particular group’s opinions proved to be less effective in determining the best title, they were in fact quite helpful in eliminating the bad ones. This insight could lead to some very beneficial practices for businesses to consider as many still succumb to crowdsourcing pitfalls similar to what I had experienced.
When companies use internal voting systems, they are, in essence, asking a generic crowd for their opinions. Yes, employees may have some background on the organization, but these individuals often see only small slices of the big picture and may not be best at determining what will be most effective…
January 8, 2010
I need your help!
We have been working on a subtitle for the book – and I would love your input.
I realize that you don’t know the details of the book. But in general, it is about creating high performing innovation teams through the use of my specially designed poker cards. There are a few key concepts:
- Individuals should “play to their strong suit.” In Personality Poker, the four suits correlate to the four primary innovation styles and the four steps of the innovation process. Therefore, if you understand your innovation style/suit, you can maximize your contributions to your team. [NOTE: "strong suit" is actually a term from bridge and not poker]
- Organizations must “play with a full deck.” That is, companies must have all of the styles (and sub-styles) in order to truly be innovative. Most organizations are out of balance and have too many of just one or two styles. This inhibits innovation.
- “Deal out the work.” Once everyone is clear about their role in the innovation process, you want to divide and conquer. Avoid having everyone do everything. Give people specific tasks and roles.
That’s the 10,000 (maybe 30,000) foot view. You can learn more – and watch a video – on the Personality Poker page.
So, the question is, what is a good subtitle? Here’s a list of some ideas we had…
- “[How to] Play Your Best Hand to Win Big in Business”
- “[How to] Play with a Full Deck to Win Big in Business”
- “[How to] Play to Your Strong Suit to Win Big in Business”
- “[How to] Play with a Full Deck to Create High Performing Teams”
- “[How to] Play to Your Strong Suit to Create High Performing Teams”
- “[How to] Play Your Best Hand to Create High Performing Teams”
Do you like any of these? Note that the “How to” is optional as each subtitle can stand on its own without those words.
Better yet, I would love to get new ideas for a subtitle.
Please leave your suggestion (either a new idea or a vote for an existing idea) as a comment. If we end up using your subtitle, we will send you the Personality Poker system (a $200 value). Plus, when the new book is published, we will send you a signed copy (with an additional deck of the redesigned cards).
Thanks in advance for your help.