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Open innovation (also known as user, cumulative, mass, or distributed innovation, or as know-how trading) and crowdsourcing are both affordable, reliable, powerful ways to keep your company on the cutting edge of innovative ideas and products. But if these techniques aren't used properly, they can fail to yield the results you're hoping for. First, you need to understand when to utilize open innovation and when crowdsourcing is the better option. After that, you need to leverage the right platforms at the right times in the right ways in order to produce success. Here's how you can score with these innovation strategies.


Don't Go Straight to Crowdsourcing When Open Innovation is Preferable

Before tossing out the project to the masses, make sure you
don't have good reasons for keeping the innovation process in house.

Open innovation is using a combination of internal and external sources to produce ideas. Crowdsourcing is usually defined as the use of outside sources for ideation. Opening the door to both outside and inside ideas is usually optimal. You might not have to pay for ideas generated by your own employees (though you should be willing to consider a bonus for great ones), but those are your best resources for ideas that fit nicely within your current business model and strategies.

Outside ideas can come from a vast range of backgrounds and experiences, which can often mean more varied but creative ideas. However, outsiders lack the in-depth inside knowledge of your current product base. Sometimes their ideas don't fit well within your current business model. However, the ability to be flexible enough to change when an excellent idea comes along is one of the hallmarks of an innovative organization. Think carefully about whether your ideation is best handled by an inside innovation team, an outside group from a crowdsourcing organization, or a mix of the two: open innovation.


Use Caution When Crowdsourcing With Time-Sensitive Projects

Crowdsourcing is perfect when you have some time to wait for ideas to trickle in, time to sort through and choose the best ideas, and then time to get the idea into development and testing before it hits the marketplace. The problem is, many businesses turn to crowdsourcing when they need something immediately. If you're in a time crunch, an open community may not have the liberty to conduct due research and deliver well-conceived, carefully thought-out, fully-developed ideas. Either extend the deadline or opt for an in-house team who is aware of the need, the demands, and the time limit.


Pick the Right Crowdsourcing Platform for the Kind of Ideas You Need


Open innovation

Don't turn to an engineering crowdsouring platform to
find help with designs, or to a crowdsourcing site for newbies when
you need ideas from experienced pros.


The kinds of crowdsourcing services you get from mTurk (Amazon's Mechanical Turk) and those like 99designs are extremely different animals. In other words, crowdsourcing sites are like dating sites and social networking platforms -- make sure you submit your project to one that is made up of experts who are knowledgeable about your specific type of project. However, don't get too specialized unless the project truly calls for it. In other words, don't submit a relatively trivial project to a crowdsourcing group of experienced professionals. Similarly, don't submit a highly technical, specialized project to a crowdsourcing site that's mostly made up of college students or young, entry-level folks.


Go for Quality, Not Quantity

Some businesses turn to crowdsourcing sites just to rack up a fat bank of ideas, none of which ever get used, or even really seriously considered. This is a mistake for several reasons. First, it's just wrong. People who work hard to deliver serious ideas that they believe warrant serious consideration are just being set up for failure. Don't waste the time of people willing to chip in and help with their best ideation work. Second, it's wasteful on your part. Don't take up valuable work time submitting and collecting project ideas that never stand a chance to deliver a marketable product. Third, you can eventually get a reputation for being a waste of time, meaning you won't be able to turn to relevant crowdsourcing communities that you've abused when you actually do need an idea. Only submit requests for ideas that you have a real intention of using, if possible.


Use Crowdsourcing to Solve Problems & Fulfill Needs

In order to assure that the projects you submit are going to be seriously considered, make sure you're asking for an idea that will fill a real need or solve an actual problem. Be specific. Don't submit overly vague requests when you can spell it out thoroughly and get meaningful and relevant solutions.


Look for the Goldilocks Payment

Remember Goldilocks and the Three Bears? This payment is too little. That payment is too big. This payment is just right... This payment isn't enough to get the attention of anyone who is actually qualified to work on it. That payment is so big that people will assume you want too much and won't even bother with it. Pick a payment that is reasonable for what you're asking for. Not sure what that amount is? Research what others are offering for similar projects and price yours similarly.


Use the Goldilocks Law to Find the Length of Time, Too

This company is giving way too long to work on a project -- so people procrastinate, probably forget, and you get few, if any, useful, practical ideas. That company doesn't give people enough time to conduct basic research, let alone develop a reasonable, viable idea. Be the other company -- the one offering just the right length of time to research, develop, and deliver a spectacular idea.


Use Open Innovation & Crowdsourcing for Improvements, Not Just Ideation


Did you get so far with a project and then hit a roadblock?
Crowdsourcing is an ideal way to find people with brilliant ideas
to get around the obstacles and get the project back into
viable territory.


Open innovation and crowdsourcing aren't just useful for getting your hands on brand new innovation ideas. They are also a wise way to improve existing ideas. Designs that just didn't quite work out. Development projects that didn't quite pass the testing phase. Products that were poorly received by customers and discontinued. These don't have to end up in the great graveyard of gadgets and gizmos -- you can turn to open innovation and crowdsourcing to breathe new life into old or nebulous projects.

With smart use of these valuable mass innovation resources, you can deliver a regular stream of innovative products to the market and become a true innovation success story. Ready to get the innovation tools you need to manage the innovation process, both within your company and outside? Contact us at HYPE Innovation today.

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Maria Wenning

Maria Wenning

Since 2014, Maria Wenning works at HYPE in the Marketing Team, and is responsible for organizing client-specific events, Social Media activities and writing content about idea and innovation managemen
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