Opinion polls are one of the most common ways we see opinions about political and government issues, but how effective are they at really reflecting the feelings of constituents? For starters, online opinion polls aren’t much different in use from paper and pen opinion polls. We feel there’s a better way for governments to access the opinions of their constituents, but first let’s review these key problems with opinion polls.
1. They don’t reflect everyone. Opinion polls are usually taken by a random sample of individuals within a community. While that may be a scientifically sound method of approaching statistical gathering, it doesn’t actually reflect all of the ideas and opinions within a network. Similarly, surveys and consultations aren’t usually able to reflect every individual.
2. They aren’t interactive. Once a constituent answers an opinion poll, that’s it. There’s not necessarily even any follow-up of the issue. They give their opinion and hope that it weighs in amongst the sea of others polled. In terms of the experience of the constituent, it’s not necessarily inspiring nor does it really make them feel like they’ve sparked any change.
3. They are too simple. Not everything can be explained or conveyed in an opinion poll, which is one of the problems with statistical gathering. Sure, you may get the feedback that the majority of your constituents disagree with, for example, building a park in a specific place, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the reasoning behind it. Maybe some of those polled have voted “No” because they want a larger park, while some have voted “No” because they’re worried about budget. Opinion polls rarely reflect the complex issues that governments face.
4. They don’t solve problems. You may get feedback about a specific issue from an opinion poll, but that’s not necessarily a solution for a problem. You have an entire network of people who could have a better solution, but an opinion poll just leaves you stuck trying to implement one you hope will work or you hope the majority of your constituents will like. It’s not made to address all the issues.
5. They don’t reward contributors. Unless you have a very dynamic opinion poll, everyone is only able to contribute so much to the effort, and thus there isn’t much to reward a contributor for being involved in an opinion poll, short of awarding a random participator some sort of gift card. This means that those of your network that have more to contribute won’t be able to and thus, won’t be rewarded for their hard work.
Opinion polls have their limits and they don’t necessarily work as great tools for governments to truly get feedback from their constituents. An innovation management software solution provides them with an environment for both their employees and their constituents to submit their own ideas as well as respond to challenges. An adaptive solution should give administrators the power to analyse ideas and create real solutions with them.
There are many reasons governments can consider looking into innovation management as a way to respond effectively to the demands of their boroughs, cities, or towns. We believe that it is a very effective tool to gather ideas and solve problems not just in the business sector, but also in governments.
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Simon Hill is CEO and co-founder of Wazoku, an idea software company; an Associate Director with the Venture Capital Firm FindInvestGrow; and an active member of the London technology and entrepreneurial community.