Collecting ideas is the easy part, believe me. If you launch an idea generation campaign, whether it be internal or external, you will receive some creative, brilliant ideas. Internal stakeholders or external customers have the answers that you’re looking for. You need to believe that good ideas will come, and start collecting.
The real problem comes with idea management. A few years ago, Dell launched a campaign to collect ideas and suggestions from their customers. The response was overwhelming, but their big problem was they weren’t prepared to handle all of the requests. The campaign backfired, and customers were left to feel ignored and that their thoughts didn’t matter.
This is why the role of an idea champion is so important. Most companies out there will pitch the fact that with software, you can sit back and let the crowd build up ideas and respond to requests, etc… This is a popular theory known as “crowdsourcing”, a term coined by Jeff Howe in 2006.
This rarely works. Of course there are the exceptions, but it usually involves subjects that people are truly passionate about. The harsh reality is, the employees and customers aren’t as passionate about a brand as the CEO is. The idea champion takes ownership of the idea and makes sure that it gets the traction that it deserves. The problem with leaving it up to the crowd is something psychologists call the “bystander effect”. Essentially, the bystander effect means that when you are in a situation (idea processing), people are less likely to help (take ownership of the idea), than if you were alone (idea champion).
You can’t have your cake and eat it too… if you honestly think that you can launch an idea campaign, and get million-dollar ideas while sitting back and enjoying the sun, you’re dreaming. There needs to be a big level of human involvement in the process. This notion might scare some people, as they already have lots of work to do, but the truth is, like any decision in life, you need to weigh the pros and cons, and realize that even a little effort can really go a long way.
I think ideally, you can have a blend of both. At BrainBank, we make the Idea Championing optional, meaning that if you submit an idea to the system, you don’t necessarily have to be its champion, and you can champion someone else’s idea. What this does, is it still creates a sense of crowdsourced effort, by having the crowd champion ideas at their volition. Usually, it makes more sense to champion your own idea, because you are the most passionate about it, and probably have a vision for how it could work, but that’s not always the case. Either way, every idea should have an owner, or a “champion” to ensure the idea gets the attention that it deserves.