Challenges in Traditional Innovation Management
Innovation is the propellant of the manufacturing industry, helping enterprises gain a competitive edge over their peers in the market place. However, conventional innovation management processes including workshops, brainstorming sessions, customer site visits, etc. pose key challenges like limited resources within the enterprise, limited yield of ideas, higher lead time for garnering and filtering the right ideas, inadequate transparency, lack of idea traceability and ineffective processes that results in reduced volume and velocity of ideas.
Crowdsourcing, an ‘agile innovation methodology’ that harnesses the power of mass innovation by leveraging the intellectual capital of large crowds and communities, both within and outside enterprises, through an agile mechanism. It demonstrates a flexible network model for innovation, collaboration beyond boundaries of organization and an enterprise wide culture that inspires collaboration and innovation.
Crowdsourcing acts as an ‘idea factory’ where people from different geographies, cultures and professional streams converge and germinate revolutionary ideas for resolving specific product and/or business problems of an organization.
Reimagining Innovation through Crowdsourcing
Though crowdsourcing is not a new phenomenon, with the advent of digital forces like social media, cloud, mobility and big data and analytics, it has become a powerful tool for organizations to feed ideas through the innovation funnel, and redefine the innovation landscape. It eventually helps them create sustainable competitive advantage. Crowdsourcing can be applied not only in the product design and development function but across the manufacturing value chain.
Benefits of Crowdsourcing include faster time to market, accelerated conversion of ideas, improved idea churn, easy tracking of ideas, more successful product launches and fostering of innovation.
Idea Churn – The Key to Sustainable Crowdsourcing
The idea transformation process in any organization that of a Biomass Pyramid with vast pool of ideas lying at the bottom of the pyramid with some of them with the potential to metamorphose into path breaking features. The key to ensuring the sustenance and success of the idea transformation pyramid is to maintain the rate of idea churn through incentivizing the crowd, embedding gamification for rating and commenting on ideas and synthesizing ideas through pattern recognition.
The Crowdsourcing Framework
This figure illustrates an effective crowdsourcing framework that can be utilized to plan and drive a successful crowdsourcing initiative. The framework guides organizations in effectively analyzing and aligning ideas with their overall business strategy, and realize the desired outcome. The five key modules of the framework are:
- Listen: Understand the crowd’s sentiments, opinions and aspirations on its brand, products and services
- Define: Segregate issues and define into problems that can be launched for idea generation
- Ideate: Launch the problem statement pertaining to product, process and business model themes and get ideas from the crowd
- Analyze: Evaluate the ideas gathered based on pre-decided framework
- Align: Aligned and prioritize in line with the organization’s vision and strategy
Establishing Crowdsourcing as Part of Innovation Strategy
Leveraging crowdsourcing in the organization requires a step by step approach
- Strategize: Identify broad areas of collaboration with innovation partners
- Collaborate: Develop pilot initiatives for crowdsourcing
- Realize: Realize the first benefits of crowdsourcing and address the key issues. Demonstrate crowdsourcing potential in the organization through selective replication
- Establish: Learn from the pilot initiatives; integrate the processes, tools, and governance into your organization to establish crowdsourcing
The maturity of an organization’s crowdsourcing strategy can be assessed continuously against various parameters like governance, crowd engagement methodology, process, filtering of ideas, rewards and governance.
The Future of Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing in the manufacturing industry has already picked up in the wake of digital revamping. The leading factors that will drive crowdsourcing in future include the transition from crowdsourcing of crude ideas to garnering breakthrough ideas for products, services, and business models, single discipline innovation to multi-disciplinary innovation, piecemeal approach of innovation to end-to-end innovation, 3D printing for product development and development of home grown open communities to nourish and tap the crowd base. There would be further improvement in the crowdsourcing process driven by the use of artificial intelligence algorithms and adoption of automated back end processes.
Changing demographics and a hyper connected world are driving a new innovation paradigm to reality and the older methods towards archival. Manufacturing companies can respond to their innovation needs with agility, and address the emerging trends in crowdsourcing by implementing a phased strategy, choosing the right tools, and aligning these with their core competencies and chosen business strategies.