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Spigit CTO James Gardner, who presented at this year’s Chief Innovation Officer Summit in NYC, knows a thing or two about how to be successful at crowdsourcing innovation. In a recent piece for Techonomy, James outlines the crucial points for enterprise leaders to keep in mind when turning to the crowd for new ideas on solving business challenges and addressing industry woes.
With an extensive background in building innovation programs from the ground up, Dr. Gardner is adamant that a primary problem existing for business leaders — especially those that are savvy enough to fear becoming disconnected — is the motive behind wanting to engage employees. “We must learn how to encourage our employees to want to engage in innovation. Not because they are under threat,” he says, “but because they are eager to be engaged.”
He also notes the importance of clearly communicating what it is that you want. “Working with leading innovation teams and programs in multiple industries, on multiple continents, and in various cultural settings, I’ve found it necessary for business leaders to work harder on defining what innovation means for their company,” he says. “It’s not just the practice of inventing new products or coming up with new ways of doing things. I’ve found companies are most successful when they approach innovation as a catalyst for culture change, a means of driving employee engagement, and a methodology for turning good ideas into great outcomes. In my experience, companies that achieve the most successful results have one important thing in common: they lay bare their business challenges, broken systems, and innovation initiatives before the crowd. The way to get the best innovation is by crowdsourcing it.”
Crowdsourcing innovation doesn’t have to be the daunting, out-of-control undertaking that some people are afraid it will be. In fact, according to Gardner, delegating innovation to employees, partners, and customers should be the norm — innovation should never happen in a vacuum, or be the property of a company’s higher-ups. “If deferring to subject matter experts was the answer to your problems, there wouldn’t be a reason to reach out to your crowd to begin with,” he writes. “But the crowd is powerful because of the countless perspectives and experiences of the people within it. Do not make the mistake of imagining that the crowd is somehow inferior to experts or leadership. It is not.”