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Recently I had a chance to read a terrific article in the most recent issue of the MIT/Sloan Management review about internal crowdsourcing. Co-authored by Lale Kesebi at Spigit customer Li & Fung (watch her awesome presentation at Ignite here to get inspired), I recommend it to anyone considering doing ideation with an internal crowd.
I thought I would spend some time sharing a topic that the article touches on – when is it better to do ideation with an internal crowd versus an external crowd?
Let’s start at the beginning and define some terms.
What is an internal crowd? An internal crowd is broadly defined as a group of employees of a company (more than 200 to be a crowd, per Spigit recommendations) that are invited to participate in an ideation challenge or ideation community. The employees can be in multiple departments or divisions.
What is an external crowd? An external crowd can be a mixed population of people that are not employed by a company hosting the ideation challenge or community. Companies often reach out to customers, partners, consumers (who may or may not be customers) and other specific groups.
What is an ideation challenge or community? An ideation challenge is a time-bound collaborative multi-step process to solve a specific business challenge, and is powered by ideation management software like Spigit to uncover the best ideas by using both crowd input as well as crowd science and machine learning algorithms. An ideation community, however, has no time constraints and the crowd works on broader problem sets, but otherwise follows the same staged process as an ideation challenge. Spigit customers can use Spigit for both or either.
What kinds of problems/challenges are better suited for external crowds? On the plus side, external crowds are less involved day-to-day, so bring a fresh perspective to solving problems, and the insight of a customer or potential customer. They are almost by definition less technically immersed than employees in how a company’s products are made and sold. Thus, the best type of challenges for an external crowd are:
Spigit customer The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, or UNHCR, (read the case study here) routinely reaches out to refugee communities with ideation challenges in order to provide better support for refugees. This is a great example of where reaching directly into an external crowd helps improve the “customer” experience.
Issues to watch out for:
I’ve adapted a chart from the MIT article below.
What kinds of problems/challenges are better suited for internal crowds?
Employees are immersed in your business underlying technology – how do we make what we sell – as well as the markets you operate in. With a large enough crowd that includes employees outside the division hosting the challenge, you will have enough diversity. Here are the kinds of challenges that work well with employee crowds:
Issues to watch out for:
Should we ever mix internal and external crowds in a single challenge? As a rule, we generally recommend against this due to potential issues with intellectual property and the need for differing incentive structures.
Remember: customers/consumers need different incentives than employees. However, there are always exceptions to a rule. Not sure if it makes sense for you? Check with your Spigit Strategy Advisor, and he or she will help you think through it.