How The ‘Crowd’ Drives Innovation

Crowd is the word ‘du jour’: crowdsourcing, crowd communities, crowdfunding the list goes on. More organisations are tapping into crowds for inspiration and ideas, resulting in the creation of numerous innovation challenges. Many of which are open so that anyone, anywhere can share their ideas and thoughts and see what else has been submitted, thereby creating open community dynamics that drive the innovation process forward.

Some challenges fully or partially piggy-back off well known tech (e.g., Slack, Facebook and Twitter) and others are hosted on more bespoke online platforms. Often utilising functionality such as the ability to like and comment on submissions and the opportunity for collaboration between submitters, creating online communities around the organisation and the challenges they post; instead of the one-way relationship between submitters and sponsoring organisations in
closed challenges. Being a bit of an open innovation geek, I want to highlight some examples of open innovation communities and what it is that makes them innovative.

1. Cross-Sector Teams

First up is the +Acumen Challenges run by the non-profit Acumen where virtual teams collaborate to solve a problem set by a social startup. One week before the challenge day, selected participants from Acumen’s network of global chapters and social innovation enthusiasts receive a challenge brief. On the day itself, the participants join their Slack teams and work through the problem using the principles of design thinking guided by Acumen and the startup. Three hours later, Acumen and the startup have multiple solutions sourced from around the world and the participants are invited to become a part of an elite community for networking and problem solving in the social innovation space. Everyone seems to benefit, while the time commitment for the participants is relatively brief.

2. Collaboration and Idea Development

For more complex challenges there is even greater potential for collaboration and idea development. One highlight is Jovoto, a Berlin-based open innovation platform for creatives, which hosts challenges for sponsoring organisations. Typically, financial rewards are given to the top ideas selected by the sponsor and also by the community itself. In addition there are awards for collaboration, the best feedback, etc., driving a cycle of feedback and improvement on the submissions throughout the challenge.

3. Post-Challenge Improvement

After the winners are announced, some innovation challenges encourage the ideas to develop further, as is the case with Orange’s Imagine.Orange platform. Winners of their challenges can opt for Amazon vouchers or an in-person innovation coaching session in Paris with Orange’s experts. Also on their platform is a startup page where anyone can submit their startup ideas to test their concepts, collect feedback, and connect with people from all over the world. This creates a community of innovators that are collaborating together not simply applying to win the brief

This is what Pace Ventures does with its hackathons: creating a community in which the hackathon occurs and the hackathon ideas continue to develop. Likewise, some of the online open innovation platforms have elements of a community that is dynamically encouraging idea development and unusual collaborations. None of them capture all of the elements but many come close.

I could not write a post about innovation platforms without mentioning one of the best examples out there: Lego Ideas. This platform enables global Lego enthusiasts to submit, like and comment upon Lego set ideas. The Lego team reviews the most popular sets and if they are liked again, they go into production with the idea originators receiving a percentage of the royalties. Thus allowing Lego to get new ideas, enthusiasts to buy sets they like and ideates to be continually rewarded for creativity. This profit sharing initiative is certainly unique and creates a new dynamic from the typical ‘them and us’ relationship between the corporate and customer. Something to be touched upon in a future blog post no doubt.

The main takeaway is the power of the crowd is a force to be reckoned with and we will continue to see collaborative innovation in various forms taking place. Whether you are a startup, a charity, a corporate or even a government, crowdsourcing of ideas and innovation is an intriguing development that will only continue to grow in importance as well as acceptance.

Did you find some of the stories and examples of crowdsourcing interesting? Have you experienced the power of the crowd whether as an individual or a startup?

Let us know in the comments.

Photo by William White on Unsplash

Kate Rushton
Kate is a Community Manager for open innovation challenges. Before this she worked as a Market Intelligence Analyst for over five years crossing multiple sectors for the UK government and consultancies and has experience of startups, hackathons and entrepreneurship.