Organizational crowdsourcing

Jeremy Morgan at Lippincott: “One of the most consequential insights from the study of organizational culture happens to have an almost irresistible grounding in basic common sense. When attempting to solve the challenges of today’s businesses, inviting a broad slice of an employee population yields more creative, actionable solutions than restricting the conversation to a small strategy or leadership team.

This recognition, that in order to uncover new business ideas and innovations, organizations must foster listening cultures and a meritocracy of best thinking, is fueling interest in organizational crowdsourcing — a discipline focused on employee connection, collaboration and ideation. Leaders at companies such as Roche, Bank of the West, Merck, Facebook and IBM, along with countless Silicon Valley companies for whom the “hackathon” is a major cultural event, have embraced employee crowdsourcing as a way to unlock organizational knowledge and promote empathy through technology.

The benefits of internal crowdsourcing are clear. First, it ensures that a company’s understanding of key change drivers and potential strategic priorities is grounded in the organization’s everyday reality and not abstract hypotheses developed by a team of strategists. Second, employees inherently believe in and want to own the implementation of ideas that they generate through crowdsourcing. These are ideas borne of the culture for the culture, and are less likely to run aground on the rocks of employee indifference….

How can this be achieved through organizational crowdsourcing?

There is no out-of-the-box solution. Each campaign has to organically surface areas of focus for further inquiries, develop a framework and set of questions to guide participation and ignite conversations, and then analyze and communicate results in a way that helps bring solutions to life. But there are some key principles that will maximize the success of any crowdsourcing effort.

Obtaining insightful and actionable answers boils down to asking the questions at just the right altitude. If they’re too high up, too broad and open-ended, the usefulness of the feedback will suffer. If the questions are too broad — “How can we make our workplace better?” — you will likely hear responses like “juice bars” and “massage therapists.” If the questions are too narrow — “What kind of lighting do we need in our conference rooms?” — you limit the opportunity of people to use their creativity. However, the answers are likely to spark a conversation if people are asked, “How can we create spaces that allow us to generate ideas more effectively?” Conversation will flow to discussion of breaking down physical barriers in office design, building social “hubs” and investing in live events that allow employees from disparate geographies to meet in person and solve problems together.

On the technology side, crowdsourcing platforms such as Jive Software and UserVoice, among others, make it easy to bring large numbers of employees together to gather, build upon and prioritize new ideas and innovation efforts, from process simplification and product development to the transformation of customer experiences. Respondents can vote on other people’s suggestions and add comments.

By facilitating targeted conversations across times zones, geographies and corporate functions, crowdsourcing makes possible a new way of listening: of harnessing an organization’s collective wisdom to achieve action by a united and inspired employee population. It’s amazing to see the thoughtfulness, precision and energy unleashed by crowdsourcing efforts. People genuinely want to contribute to their company’s success if you open the doors and let them.

Taking a page from the Silicon Valley hackathon, organizational crowdsourcing campaigns are structured as events of limited duration focused on a specific challenge or business problem….(More)”