HBR: 5 keys to success when crowdsourcing innovation

Before dismissing crowdsourcing as a recipe for "a Bermuda Triangle of logistical difficulties, internal politics and professional insecurity," per the Harvard Business Review, consider the vast potential of innovation that builds upon multiple sources of expertise.

Sending out an open call for new ideas will certainly come with its challenges; perhaps the biggest roadblock, HBR notes, will come from internal employees offended by the feeling of being overlooked in favor of untested outside sources. But crowdsourcing can also produce innovations that internal teams never considered possible or reframe previously passed-over ideas.

To mitigate the challenges of crowdsourcing innovation and bolster an initiative's chances of successes, then, HBR proposes a five-step plan modeled after the International Committee of the Red Cross' successful Enable Makeathon project, a global call for new product designs to serve people with disabilities.

1. Start with a team: Rather than spending valuable time forming teams around a single outside innovator, focus instead on cultivating the ideas of those that already have a cohesive development team in place.

2. Plan the business: Encourage contributors to create a business plan alongside their invention, and provide access to entrepreneurs and other business mentors.

3. Meet in person: Integrating outside innovators into the internal team will make employees more amenable to crowdsourced ideas, and allowing innovators to collaborate with their potential consumers and other stakeholders in the space will ensure their inventions actually accomplish what they set out to do.

4. Lower your risks when you can: Provide plenty of guidance and mentorship to ensure new, previously untested ideas and business plans will be as successful as possible.

5. Pave the route to market: Introducing inventors to distributors, industry associations and other leaders in the market during the development process will increase the likelihood that an external innovation makes it to market.

More articles on innovation:
10 Arkansas providers recruit startups for 2nd annual digital health accelerator
What hospitals can learn from Airbnb to promote innovation: Dr. John Halamka discusses
Innovationeering: The six degrees of innovation

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