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Open Innovation | Idea Management

Crowdsourcing As A Driver Of Innovation

An ant alone is stupid. But if ants appear as a mass, they are smarter than each individual, building houses together and procuring food - This example, which was presented at many conferences, explains a phenomenon that is supposed to generate cash for companies when implemented with Web 2.0 tools: Crowdsourcing.

"A practical idea for everyone who likes to cook: A cutting board with a collecting tray underneath, in which you can collect your cuttings directly". This is how Tilla Goldberg describes her product, the first result of the crowdsourcing platform "Tchibo Ideas", which found its way into the Tchibo stores. Since May 2008, Tchibo has been relying on swarm intelligence with its dialogue platform. The principle is very simple: a mass of internal or external resources is called upon to enter ideas on an online platform and to jointly develop and evaluate them. The result for the companies is well thought-out suggestions for improvements and (product) innovations, in short: innovations.

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Open Innovation as Part of the Ideation Process

In the so-called "Open Innovation" approach, companies involve their customers, partners or suppliers in the idea-finding process. In the "Closed Innovation" approach, on the other hand, companies use the ideas and suggestions of their own employees in order to keep the knowledge internal. The intelligence of the masses does not only benefit in the form of new ideas. Not everyone has ideas, but most people are good at judging whether a proposal is promising or not. This potential can be used by evaluation and feedback possibilities. Together, a community evaluates the quality and chance of an idea. The reputation index that develops over time helps to identify brilliant minds - regardless of hierarchy and structure.

Depending on its use, a platform that relies on crowdsourcing can improve a company's competitive situation by increasing its ability to innovate and leading to new ideas that increase productivity or improve profitability. Social web components such as the networking of employee profiles lead to the improvement of social relationships and open up new opportunities for cooperative leadership for superiors.

But what does modern innovation management have to offer to create such effects? Above all, it must be intuitive to use. Crowdsourcing can only be successful if the "masses" also participate, which they will only do if it is clear at first glance what contribution possibilities are available. The user must also have a clear goal in mind, be it a monetary reward, social recognition (e.g. an article in an employee newspaper) or an original prize (e.g. a meal with the CEO). Interfaces to well-known social web sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, XING) can increase the attractiveness of the site for users. For companies, connections to employee databases, roles and rights management as well as the possibility to integrate e-mail notifications are of additional importance. Crowdsourcing can only be successful with a modern innovation culture, stringent processes and the right software solution.

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