Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How can SMEs benefit from Crowdsourcing?

Typically Crowdsourcing has been associated with large brand names that have huge budgets and try to involve the crowd to co-create products. Best examples which come to mind are Coca-Cola or Lays.  The key thing in these engagements is millions of fans and also budgets to spend on advertising and build up awareness.

So the question is - Can Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) use Crowdsourcing techniques since they don't have huge budgets or millions of followers?  Thankfully the answer is yes, and to do so SMEs can adopt some of the techniques described below.

More the merrier, yes but no – While it may be OK and acceptable for big brands to just focus on getting anybody to contribute, SME firms need to be very focused on who they are trying to attract. When you are small, you may not have a brand image which you can give back and which a contributor can relate to, so providing a very specific reason or a trigger is of utmost importance in order to get fewer responses which are more relevant. This will help you save lot of effort, time and money in dealing with thousands of responses. For example - if your product offering is for sports persons, then challenge their intellect such that they would want to be part of your innovation. 

Be trustworthy, but how? - Creating the trust of your customers is good for your business, but creating trust with a casual contributor overnight is not worth the effort. Use a trusted partner like ideaken, to reach out to large number of relevant and willing contributors. Once someone contributes, then you would also have time and reason to build the trust.

You are better than your bigger competition, at least at this one - One of the areas where large brands may falter is in acting on good suggestions from the crowd quickly.  This is mainly because large brands have existing businesses which they can't afford to change. On the other hand, SMEs typically don't have such limitations or say have less of it. Be nimble in your approach and act on good suggestions early.

You might as well learn few new things about open innovation while Crowdsourcing ideas for your business - which could open up new opportunities for you to contribute and benefit via open innovation initiatives by bigger players in your domain.

In summary, SME have much to benefit from Crowdsourcing, and knowing these techniques might help.

ideaken can help you Crowdsource for ideas, solution and innovation, get in touch for a special SME package.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crowdsourcing for Branding.

I was reading a rather disturbing survey report, conducted by YouGov, which concluded that nearly half the customers (43%) don't think it is worth complaining after a bad experience and move to rival products, as they think that companies simply don't care.  This is a worrying trend from a brand engagement perspective.  Just think of it.  Products and brands are the lifeline of any organisation.  A lot of effort goes into coming up with a product with multiple teams within the organisation who work together.  No organisation can afford to lose customers in this manner.

The same survey revealed that customers would be more likely to give feedback if they receive a response (81%).  Also majority of customers (78%) were open to give feedback if there were rewards or some incentive offered for it.  Another interesting fact is that involving customers in innovation is found to fuel performance.  

While most brand managers are slowly adopting social media tools to listen and engage the customer in their product development process,  we observed following trends of using Crowdsourcing for branding.

1.  Customer feedback surveys giving way to crowdsourcing engagements - While customer feedback through surveys/interviews are established way of getting inputs, they tend to ‘lead’ the customer and thus you don't always get unbiased inputs. Surveys are also increasingly considered boring and you see most people try and avoid them.   Crowdsourcing engagement, on the other hand, is an open ended way of getting inputs and so tends to be more realistic in engaging users and capturing inputs which can be of real value for your company and eventually to end customers.

2.  Social Media tracking no longer only for  responding to customer complaints - but also for provoking responses which may not necessarily be complaints. Customers are much more vocal today and that has opened up the opportunity to involve them in building your products, service and eventually your brand. 
3.  Improve Brand Perception at much lower cost – In today's cluttered world, brand marketeers are finding it difficult to stand out. There is always a high possibility of someone else who spends more on advertising and steal focus from your campaign. Consumers have learned how to close their eyes and ears from constant bombardment of your ads.   Crowdsourcing campaigns offer an ideal platform for marketeers to improve their brand perception and stand out as a company which values customer inputs and preferences at a much lower cost.

4.  Develop customer base and lead users - Anybody who participates in a brand engagement initiative is very likely to develop into a customer for life, if the brand/company engages the user and values their inputs. There are many cross-sell/upsell opportunities if this group of participants are engaged and nurtured. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Are you planning online Crowdsourcing for ideas & Solutions?

Here are some important aspects you must consider before you begin online Crowdsourcing for ideas & solutions?

What is your purpose to do online Crowdsourcing?

Check if your purpose indicates one or more of the following

a) The response you get is not as much important as the purpose of engaging with the users.
b) You have had this problem and you already tried all possible ways but are not able to solve it.
c) You don’t have any problem; you need ideas to do what you do still much better.

Note that you may have more than one purpose from above list, but typically you will have one of these as primary purpose. If your primary purpose is a) in above list, then this indicates that you want to use Crowdsourcing for marketing or branding purpose. If b) then it reflects that you would like to use Crowdsourcing for doing open innovation. Finally if c) sounds like your true purpose, it might indicate that you would like to co-create with either employees or customers.

If you struggle to fit your purpose in one or more of the above pointers then I suggest you have a second look at your plan, it might not be worth Crowdsourcing.

How would you enable online Crowdsourcing?

One sure way is to develop a website or pages within your website. It takes anything between 60 to 180 days to design a good system which can enable your basic Crowdsourcing. If you plan to have a workflow, approval, wiki or any fancy stuff then the time could be even more. Or in Crowdsourcing spirit you can outsource this to a company who is specialising in doing just the sites for Crowdsourcing. This will also help you save time and effort and also benefit from the experience of previous campaigns.

a) I suggest you create a new URL for the campaign and promote it with minimum of your branding or marketing material.
b) Avoid same look and feel for subsequent campaigns.
c) Make sure your online avenue for Crowdsourcing campaign has excellent up time and the URL works even after the campaign is over.

How would you take care of IP and confidentiality?

There is lot to learn from the processes your organisation has put up to deal with contract work, partnership or the outsourcing. The main point is the ability to segregate what cannot get out of the building and what can. Apply the same principles for Crowdsourcing.

a) Break down your purpose into smaller chunks. Crowdsource for one or more of these chunks which has biggest potential to benefit as per discussion around first point on “Purpose” above.
b) Think if your competition puts up such a Crowdsourcing challenge, will you benefit from it?. If the answer is “No” then most probably it is safe to make it public. Don’t forget that we are only taking about the challenge to be in public domain, the responses are anyway protected and only authorised persons can see it.
c) If responses could have IP involved then clearly state in your challenge how the IP will be handled. 

How would you get the desired results?

Yes the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If you are a fairly big company then starting with your employees could be a good option. Requesting them to share it with their personal network is a big no no. If they do it on their own then consider you have put up a pretty interesting campaign.

a) Test on a sample user base to see if participants understand what you are after?
b) Decide on reward which is proportionate to your organization stature, purpose you are trying to accomplish, effort someone would put in to response and above all benefit you would receive because of a good response.
c) Use social networking enablers and professional Crowdsourcing vendors like ideaken to get desired results.

Finally remember - It takes patience and a little bit of experimentation to achieve consistent results in Crowdsourcing.  Try out different campaigns and develop metrics to measure the benefits from your crowdsourcing initiative.

Happy Crowdsourcing!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why talk about Implicit Crowdsourcing?

Basically to showcase that seemingly unsuspected things have Crowdsourcing involved, and if you can develop an eye for it then you might be able to come up with better usage of Crowdsourcing for your business.

The Crowdsourcing based business or a project is comparatively easy to detect, but it is amazing that there exist many trivial but interesting examples all around us which has Crowdsourcing embedded. The influence might vary for each case; however they might open your minds to rather interesting possibilities. 

Scene 01:

You decide to learn a new language.  You searched on Google and zeroed in on one website. You had a great experience in learning a new language. At the end of it, to your surprise you might as well have contributed in translating
digital text for businesses.  

Implicit Crowdsourcing at play:

The language learners also help to translate digital text for businesses for other clients.  For example – if say 50 people guess that the word “pelota” in Spanish means “ball” in English then Duolingo assumes that it is correct.  Duolingo has more than 250,000 active language learners – so you can guess the “intelligence” it has acquired through Crowdsourcing.

Scene 02: 

A leading news daily posted an article online on their website with a title “Vivekananda balls to boost Modi campaign “.  I glanced over it and said to myself, they need better editors and I moved on. It could have been some journalist’s way to sensationalize the article or just a genuine oversight.
When the article went in press for a print edition the next day, the news title did not have the obvious issue and was changed to “Vivekananda volleyballs to spike up Modi campaign”.  I checked back the online version and it was changed there as well.

Implicit Crowdsourcing at play:

Within hours of publishing the article online, unlike me, many readers objected and commented on the online article. The news daily took a note of it. The news business is typically one way traffic, and reader’s feedback is usually on general public or parties covered in the article. Here you see a business case for media to formalise incorporation of such feedback before they reaches wider audience.

Scene 03:

There was this interesting page doing rounds in a South American city. Simply compare randomly selected two faces and tell if they match or not, and get paid for it.

Implicit Crowdsourcing at play:

This case is an attempt to locate the offenders in the mob video captured by an amateur. Authorities asked several citizens to assert if the individual pictures match with randomly selected images of their citizens, but they did it without telling the background story. Such Implicit Crowdsourcing with undisclosed agenda, however has to face moral questions (and for the right reason) if it is right to get work done w/o revealing the end purpose.
In another similar example, authorities at UK uploaded 2000+ images of rioters from London in 2011 and asked people to identify them.
Scene 04:

You are surfing the web and at one of the sites, you entered a captcha validation (where you need to see the picture and key in the letters to prove you are human and not a machine). And you went on with your surfing life.

Implicit Crowdsourcing at play:

Well, you just made a valuable contribution to digitizing an old precious book. One of the two words in the captcha image was scanned from the heritage book that they want digitized. And in case you are wondering how the website knows if the words you typed is correct or not, and if they already know then why they need digitise again. The trick is they always use a set of two words, one of them is known to them, and that is the only one used for validation. The second word you typed in is your contribution to digitise a book. You can see how a entire book can get digitised one word at a time.

This list can go on and we will share more examples like these in the coming months. And you too can send us instances you spotted.

These examples might trigger ideas on how you can utilize Crowdsourcing for your own business. 

ideaken can help you Crowdsourcing challenge based problems or a scenario where wisdom of crowds can make a difference for your business.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

FRUGAL Open Innovation

Frugal Innovation is the art and science of taking out non-essentials from a product manufacturing process, from product feature list and from product maintenance lifecycle, in turn drastically reducing cost to the extent which didn’t hold much importance in pre globalised world.

Frugal Innovation for Product Innovation is what “Lean” is for production practice – which considers dedicating resources for a goal other than the one which creates value to the end customer as waste and a target for elimination.

Why is Asia at the forefront of it? The primary reason is scarcity of resources, (which has nothing to do with anything else but the fact that this part of the world was inhabited first!), and the necessity to get around the problem of scarcity.  For example the inexpensive ECG machine developed by GE, which addresses the key scarcity of continuous electricity and can even runs on a car battery. 

Case for FRUGAL Open Innovation

I am using this term ‘FRUGAL Open Innovation’ while I think aloud and eventually made this a title of this blog!

1) The thought I am working backwards from is ‘Open innovation’ and ‘Frugal Innovation’ both have shown its merits and their share of challenges in the recent past. What happens when you combine these? Does it make sense? And if it does make sense then what are we talking about?

We are talking about a conscious effort and hence adding ‘must meet’ or ‘good to have’ FRUGAL EXPECTATION in open innovation challenge definition.

2) Though frugal innovation is happening and will keep on happening, with an assumption that you would like to derive some benefits and check out the frugal possibilities for your products and services, let us continue working backwards from the thoughts we discussed so far.

Arbitrarily putting stretch goals won’t make something Frugal. The expectations and hence the objectives of frugal innovation need to come from a root of it – ‘The Need’. So the open innovation aspect of it starts even before we talk about the solution. Unless you already have a hang of what is the need, your first step should be to reach out to diverse audience of that geography and solidify the need.

It is very important to note that even if you are trying to create a product for developed world eventually, it cannot skip the step at a geography where application of that frugal product makes more sense. In fact, most probably the frugal idea won’t take birth if this step is omitted. And if it is born anyways then it still might leave some unanswered questions about its real frugalness!

For innovators from developed world, one of the challenges would be to embrace frugal thinking, but it’s just a matter of time.  

3) Note that we are still talking “The need” and haven’t moved towards the invention part of it. One last reason I feel like mentioning here is, origin of most of the successful frugal innovations were the need (or pain) felt by an individual. So as an organization you should not skip this step and there is no better way to simulate it than co-creation.

4) From here on you have two enablers to take you forward.

a) One, you can tap into the inventions which match your need. The small issue with this (and even the previous step of formulating the challenge with the help of need owners) is many of the frugal innovation authors won’t be reachable on internet. But many might. One of the good things in Asia is when you omit many, many still might remain! Nevertheless partnering with the local partners like ideaken will help.

b) Once you have got the need formulated and the frugal aspect incorporated. (Which you will need to be really sure about), you can ignore from where the solution come from. In other worlds you are back to pure open innovation and still have a frugal strain incorporated as one of the expectations.

So here is the definition of Frugal open innovation

Frugal Open Innovation

Frugal Open Innovation is a conscious effort to incorporate the expectation of taking out non-essentials in a perceived localized need, followed by an innovative solution with the help of external know how, to delight the customers with perceived but mostly with non perceived need of same or different geography.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Trends for Open Innovation, Co-Creation and Crowdsourcing

We, at ideaken, have been keeping a watch on the new trends in open innovation and Crowdsourcing, while the clear definitions and the trends are still far from arrived, following is our take on what they should convey and stand for.

Open innovation is a systematic inflow of external know how to accelerate enterprise innovation, resulting in a new or improved products, services, or processes, and therefore increase in market share. (Derived from and with due acknowledgement to Dr. Henry Chesbrough)

Co-creation with Co-workers is an act of innovating with the help of employees who are officially not designated as ‘Innovator’ in your enterprise.

Innovation Competition is a simplest form of Open Innovation, executed as one off or at yearly interval for an intellectual connect, market advancement and diverse innovative ideas.
We find following as philosophy and trends being acknowledged in general.

1.  “Can't ignore open innovation” - Most companies agree that open innovation is a definite plus to their R&D efforts and they can't simply afford to ignore it anymore.  Type in “open innovation” and company name of your choice in Google to see for yourself. Though confidentiality and IP related questions still remain the primary concerns, we also see that some of these concerns dilute substantially after processes and best practices followed by companies using open innovation successfully are discussed.

2.  “Collaboration, not Competition, is the way forward” – We believe this statement misrepresents the underlying thoughts more often than not. The world is too big and too complex to put  ‘collaboration’ against  ‘competition’. The real future is in right sequencing and benefit from both. For example you might decide to identify opportunities using  a consortium based approach, followed by close collaboration with a select few as it is not possible to collaborate with infinite number of individuals or organizations and do justice to all parties.  True technology advancement can happen at the intersection of competition as a reason and collaboration as an enabler. 

3.  “Innovation as a branding strategy” – We believe we are going to see more of this going forward. It helps in two ways - first it communicates to potential customers that the company is committed and serious about improving its products and services. Secondly it pushes the company to deliver on the innovativeness image they have been portraying for themselves!

4.  “Innovation for engagement” - This is yet to be tried more widely but has been used quite successfully in Information Technology industry, where candidates are given puzzles or tough challenges as a means to shortlist for recruitment.  There's an opportunity to drive innovation by this means.  We foresee a future where companies would pose their tough open innovation challenges to students and recruit based on responses.  Employees recruited via this route can then drive those  projects to completion.

Check out ideaken.com for your Open Innovation, Co-Creation and Crowdsourcing needs.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Open Innovation in China.

What are some important aspects to consider while thinking about open innovation and co-creation in China? Does it need to be looked at differently?

Asia continues to rise and fit better into the global economy every passing year. And China is an essential and a large contributor in making this happen.

Responsibility of doing innovation goes in hand with such transition, but often takes far longer than to pass the language and culture barriers. In other words, for Asia and China to continue their ascent, they must also invent at par with the west. That said, how does open innovation and co-creation as accelerator of innovation fair in China and what are the opportunities?

Why Chinese customers could be bit different than you expect: While countries like India has been hugely influenced and has accepted western norms, same is not true for China. If your business really wants to enter China, then you will need to understand the customers more than you will need to do in rest of the world. So co-creation with customers is not just good to have but almost an essential strategy. 

Business model of customized services, products and experiences: One of the business model innovations happening around the world is with respect to customized services, products and experiences. Though there are clear customer delight factors, it is usually not possible to build machines to automate the delivery of such experiences. Think of a personalized women’s designer footwear for a lady in Spain. China with its huge capability in manufacturing excellence, combined with huge skilled manpower, could have a big advantage over rest of the world and rest of Asia to perform exceptionally well in businesses which are based on personalization or customization of product delivery.

Frugal or Reverse Innovation: China primarily due to the sheer size, over last 1000 or so years has almost lived in its own universe. And that has made them immensely indigenously innovative. Every aspect of products, process and application of things has their own flavor in China. This opens up a huge opportunity for rest of the world to look at the so called universally accepted way of doing things in completely new light, and in turn spur innovation of a different kind.

Academia connection: With more than 2500 universities and 20 million students, China boasts of the biggest source of intellectual talent no one would like to miss out. The new generation in China wants to experience the world, more open than ever to jump onto opportunities which connects them to outside of China. If you have Academia collaboration in your list then China will figure in it  sooner or later.

So what’s on the other side? What could be the one big hurdle?:  Unlike the west, Asia is not good at marketing their innovations; not for the purpose of selling; but to reach out, receive diverse opinions, and improve it with outside help. Most of the Asian countries lack this attribute.

Monday, May 21, 2012

From where the ideas might come from AND from where it may NOT.

Ever wondered where you should put in your effort to increase the chances of getting positive innovation outcome, or where you should not? We attempt to answer this question below, where we prioritize many positive and negative origins of innovations. If you find something missing or have a different opinion then we surely would like to hear from you.

Situation 1:
You are looking at sustaining innovation, you know the problem which is not easy to solve, and you need an innovative solution. 

- ideas most probably come from … someone who has already partially or fully, in same or different domain - solved it.
- ideas most probably come from … from a analysing a conflict between two or more expectations of your overall objective.
- ideas most probably come from … how emerging countries getting around it or from a person from different industry all together.

- may NOT come … From someone you were expecting it to come from.
- may NOT come … from your city of operations.
- may NOT come … from a problem statement which has not evolved from its original state during last few months.

Situation 2:
You are looking at creating a disruption in how user consumes the product or a service, even changing the mindset and create completely new need. 

- ideas most probably come from … a serious trouble, and not routine goals and objectives.
- ideas most probably come from … Confidence from your previous success.
- ideas most probably come from … Individual Genius, followed up with knowledge based collaboration.

- ideas may NOT come … from meeting rooms and conferences.
- ideas may NOT come … From a situation where top management is waiting for the team to deliver.
- ideas may NOT come … when you are in a hurry to counter the competitor’s recent launch.

Situation 3:
You are convinced that little drops can add up, and you are keen to innovate at a lowest denominator on a continuous basis.

- ideas most probably come from … Diversity of idea providers, Diversity in opportunities you make avilable.
- ideas most probably come from … Genuine ego to be better than the rest in the market.
- ideas most probably come from … an irrelevant inspiration or derivation of bad or not so good ideas.

- ideas may NOT come … When you are trying to think of an idea!
- ideas may NOT come … From the provider of previous great idea.
- ideas may NOT come … When you receive many ideas and goal is reduced to selecting one great sounding idea.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Announcing winner of DSM e-nnovation challenge hosted on ideaken platform.

Geoff McCue from US who submitted a detailed idea of exercise suit with multi-functional resistance patches is the winner of DSM e-nnovation challenge hosted on ideaken platform. Geoff wins a VIP trip for 2 to the Olympic Games in London this summer. Congratulations Geoff!

The jury's main verdict was that Geoff McCue had submitted a solution that was elegant in its simplicity.

Geoff said "My design was triggered by the variable elasticity of Arnitel Eco, as well as its ability to be shaped into different forms and colours, making it possible to give every resistance level a different colour."

Runners up in the competition were Alexander Xydas with shin pads; Alberto Villareal with a soccer ball; Sebastian Wolzak, Millie Clive-Smith & Seitaro Taniguchi with a prosthetic leg; and Daniel Hernly, who was selected by the popular vote, with a golf glove.

Jury Chairman Francis Aussems, Innovation Manager at DSM Engineering Plastics says: "The quality of the ideas that contestants submitted was very high. The 5 finalists delivered absolutely top professional designs and ideas.” Francis Aussems concludes: "No single entry was the same, and most designs were valid applications of Arnitel Eco”.

The DSM e-nnovation contest, which was launched in 2011 on ideaken platform, invited creative thinkers and designers interested in sports to submit ideas for equipment innovations that could make a difference in any sport. The specified material for the designs was Arnitel Eco, a bio-based thermoplastic copolyester. Karen Scholz, Project Manager Open Innovation at DSM says: "As a company that is strongly committed to open innovation, DSM is always ready to talk to the designer community. We want to create valuable applications with our materials and a competition such as this gives us the insights into people's needs and expectations. This competition enabled us to start such a dialogue about design and sport– we are keen to make it an ongoing conversation”.

Jayesh Badani, CEO of ideaken.com said “We loved hosting DSM Arnitel innovation challenge; it was an exciting experience to reach out to a unique mix of innovators from material science, design and sports domains. This example showcases how open innovation is not only for technology advancement, but also for market advancement.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crowdsourcing for not only Technology Advancement, but also for Market Advancement

So you have spent a lot of time, effort and money to come up with that very niche and breakthrough product. Thankfully you have also achieved remarkable success with it and have found various applications for your product. But have you explored all avenues? Are you missing out on other opportunities of using your product in diverse areas? How can you be sure that you have explored enough if not all?

This problem is not new. Traditionally companies rely on hiring consultants who are experts in their field to give them suggestions or in some cases, actually leave it to their customers to further develop it. But now with the advancement of crowdsourcing, it is possible to use the crowd to further develop new application ideas. The advantage is the diversity of ideas. Also research has shown that experts and customers will only help in getting incremental innovations or application ideas, in related areas. For truly blue sky thinking and disruptive application ideas, we need to reach out to unrelated audience. Breakthrough and disruptive ideas are more likely to come from the freaks and geeks, more diverse the audience, the better the probability of finding something really out of the box.

So how do you go about it and what are some of the success factors when using crowd to get application ideas for your product?

1. First and foremost, ensure that all jargons and standard information are eliminated when describing your product. This is important to keep a sharp focus on the key aspects otherwise the reader might lose interest quickly or end up looking at what is not important for the purpose at hand (e.g. Avoid putting standard information about your company at the beginning)

2. Ensure that the key strengths and limitations of the product are highlighted. Don’t use your marketing material; instead use internal technical specifications to arrive at the product boundaries. Specifically – don’t try to steer the reader towards any specific area of applications.

3. Avoid temptation to go to people you know – take a chance with unknowns, especially across domains and expertise.

4. Beware of the fatigue which sets once you get the ideas. It is like, now you got the ideas, you can look at it anytime. Chances are you won’t, and even if you do, the rigour might give it a miss. Key is to finish the evaluation soon after the ideas are received.

5. Keep an eye out for the invisible potential in the ideas received. As a rule of thumb, spend at the least, as much as you spent on preparation, on executing the process of receiving ideas.
So is this applicable to any kind of product? While the concept is applicable to any kind of product, niche products, probably, are the best place to begin with.

ideaken helps organizations and SMEs to leverage crowdsourcing for product application ideas, identifying partners and market expansion.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Diversity - hard to define, but has pretty good impact on business & innovation.

When you come across someone very innovative or creative, most probably you would be looking at an intersection of abilities and the breadth of knowledge. If you zoom out a bit, the communities which are rich in diversity are also fun to be in. Take it to another level and you will find companies which are most innovative are also the ones who support diversity – not by chance but pretty much by design.

However diversity is not an overnight change which you can bring into your community or a company.

Let’s examine ‘Why’ diversity has such positive impact and ‘How’ you can make sure you are not leaving this important aspect unaddressed and how you can benefit from it in your quest for the business growth and innovation.

WHY (diversity has positive impact)

a) It all starts from a very unique environment and culture we as individuals are brought up in . The world is so big that no single community can survive with the same outlook, practices and tools. This  localized and trapped knowledge is pretty much accessible via the people who move around the world.

b) Heard of bio-mimicry, the science of looking at nature and solving problems not related to nature or taking an inspiration and innovate. Diversity is a tool using which one can think from different perspectives, which as we all know can result in inventions.

c) Most probably your company strategy is somewhere trying to capture the long tail of a market, you probably need a similar strategy for your research and development activities, where you can reach out to the long tail of talent, the just in time, and the right match and just for the period you really need it.

HOW (you can promote diversity)

a) Companies do not have a bias in their hiring policies, but the person in control could pretty much influence the not so diverse hiring, best place to retrospect. Though one way to bring in diversity is to bring in people from diverse background, another important way is to reach out to them and engage with them in a mutually beneficial way for a short duration of time.

b) Apply tools which bring in diversity, talk to the wrong people (assuming you have already spoken to the right people!), pick the odd country and imagine your product and services there, may not be for your expansion but just to get away from stereotype market you see around you. You may not be able to build a machine which flies like a bee, but you will surely find an idea for improvement, get inspired, and possibly get close to where you want to be.

c) Long tail of a talent match is all about spreading it wide and letting the receiver decide if he or she would like to engage.  Diversify from your conventional methods of engagements; the good news is it does not cost the earth in this connected world.

ideaken enables your engagement with individuals from diverse geographies, connect to the perceived wrong set of people and engage with someone who could be at the long tail you are after!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thinking about how to use social media for your innovation needs?

Social Media is slowly maturing and companies are now beginning to explore the potential of using social media for their business. While its use has been proven in customer service, providing post sales support and managing reputation - most customers are still not clear on how to use it for their innovation needs.

Here’s some food for thought. We believe there are primarily 2 methods of using social media channels to fuel innovation.

1. Social media as a Listening in medium to identify trends - This is easy to get started, listening to customers is an old method but traditionally this has always been attempted with a small selected "focus" group of users. With tools like Twitter and Facebook, it is now possible to listen to many users. But of course, by listening to a larger group, it becomes a challenge to identify and work on true trends and separate it from general chatter which is usually present when you have large groups of people talking. Good news is there are also tools available to filter out this noise and make some analytical sense from out of it, though at a early stage of their evolution, we believe the trend is promising.

2. Social Media as an engagement channel - This is a much more strategic way of looking to involve your customers systematically in your innovation exercise and get some targeted responses from your customers. While the benefits of this can be far-reaching, it does call for patience, constant customer engagement, incentives to motivate customers to innovate for you. On your side it needs openness to receive feedback and be responsive.

The method you choose to use is also dependent on the goals of your innovation initiative.

For example – if your business is wide spread and your products or services are household name from a long time (e.g. windows operating system) then 1. Social media as a Listening in medium to identify trends would help. Also when you want to monitor what your competition or the customers of your competitions are saying then again the method of listening is quite helpful.

On the contrary, if you are running a innovation project where you need a specific innovation or a specific solution to a specific problem then 2. Social Media as an engagement channel is more suitable. This method is also helpful in showcasing that you care about your customers and are keen to engage yourself rather than just listening in anonymously.

In summary - the old days of closed R&D and "focus groups" are getting over. Today more and more companies are opening their doors to interested users, suppliers and working out mutually beneficial relationships. The benefits of such approach is not only in better customer co-created products but also the enhanced brand reputation.

ideaken offers systematic and complimentary ways to use social media with your collaborative innovation initiatives. Contact us now to initiate a dialogue.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Innovation spend Vs. Innovation results – Have you recently given a thought to this?

Is it time you looked at how much you are spending on innovation and what you are getting out of it.

There is a possibility that you are doing great, and there is also a possibility that you are feeding a black hole, or you could be somewhere in between.
Nevertheless, you would benefit from the following thought process.

Spread: How is your innovation spending spread? Try bucketing them as Capital cost of R&D infrastructure, Full time R&D people, Maintenance of R&D infrastructure, Outsourced services cost, Cost of promoting innovation culture, and the likes.

Means: What are you means of achieving innovation? Try bucketing them as Market research led, Perceived customer needs, Customer complaints based, Innovation team driven, Driven by employees who are not part of innovation team, Co-creation using external talent, Open innovation, and the likes.

Types: What types of innovations are you focused on? Try bucketing them as Disruptive or Break though innovations, Significant improvement of product or a service, Small but iterative improvements, and the likes. Additionally irrespective of what you offer, you could surely have service innovation as one bucket. You should try to map your innovation objectives of just being in the game to penetrating the new markets to the type of innovations underway at your organization.

For above 3 categories and the respective buckets, arrive at individual targets for your organization. You metrics could then become to not deviate too much for an extended period from the set targets. Setting the right targets would play very important role, however this would primarily be driven by DNA of your organization.

Tracking sheet could look something like below.

Note: The numbers in the table above are for example purpose only.

The most important thing is you are now thinking your innovation spend Vs. Innovation results, that, by far could be the most important take away from this post.