Innovation From Within

Some of my favorite crowdsourcing stories detail ideas that have emerged from surprising places. When all lanes on the idea expressway are open, good ideas can surface faster from any source : gamers completing complex protein research – a grad student who finds a solution to nitrate poisoning. I like rooting for the underdog, an upset victory, or a plot twist. It’s one of the reasons that I appreciate crowdsourcing so much – it can surprise you. And some companies are fully embracing the era of “active listening.”

A recent Wall Street Journal article elaborates on the benefits of expecting innovation from anyone inside a company. The article quotes research from Alan G. Robinson, a UMASS professor at the Isenberg School of Management who states that “the average U.S. employee’s ideas, big or small, are implemented only once every six years.” That’s a rather staggering statistic considering that a company’s employees are often the most intelligent audience from which to solicit suggestions: they know the product, the processes, they live the defects and complaints and know what resources you’re working with. It’s one of the reasons that IdeaScale offers private community idea management. I wonder if that number will shift in the coming years.

The same article mentions a recent Allstate call for ideas.  Allstate is a brand that seems glad to recognize a great idea from any source. This same week, I saw that they had announced the winners for their predictive modeling challenge that would help predict injury claims based on vehicle characteristics.  In the WSJ article, Rachel Silverman mentions a recent idea challenge launched by Allstate to their employees soliciting a new design for their mobile application. The winning idea came from… one of the firm’s trial attorney’s. Not exactly the head of mobile marketing…

Nowadays both employers and employees appreciate companies that offer them range of motion and flexibility – jobs that don’t necessarily have borders. Sourcing ideas from across all departments in a company allows some of those borders to come down; it allows for a fresh take and for some creativity from people who are the most invested in your success.

What are some of the best methods for soliciting ideas from employees? What are some of the most surprising crowdsourced ideas?

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