So, for everyone who may or may not be aware – I work for a company that concentrates on Crowd-sourcing Innovative Ideas as a software offering. Innovation is what we sell and we achieve results by providing tools and knowledge that enable that.
So, what’s the short story on this? At the end of the day, how do you make it happen?
I’m going to start by telling a story of a kid working professionally in his early 20s. That kid was me. I’ve always been the kind of person who spilled ideas out of his pockets wherever he went. I do so freely and without expectation that I’m going to be compensated for all the ideas, and I don’t worry to much about it. I have more than I’m ever going to be able to work on, so I don’t see a reason to be a hoarder about this.
All that being said, when I was about 22 or so, I worked for a company that was on the crest of a new wave – the commercial internet. We worked long shifts (I was a system operator) and we tried very hard to make sure that everyone stayed up and running all the time. We performed special requests for customers, we got to walk around in shorts if we liked and though this was just outside Washington DC, we were by all the definitions that matter – a startup. We didn’t have the panache and the savoir faire of another startup that became much more famous in Washington – AOL, but we did get to be a part of the creation of something new – the commercial version of the internet and the beginning of the world wide web. These two things are the same now for most people…but then – things were different.
Some other things were different then as well. Although even then I wanted to invent, create, innovate, be a part of R&D, imagine what might come next, etc etc etc – I didn’t have the keys to that kingdom. I’ve learned over the years what those keys are…or what they were anyway before what I’m doing now:
- Credibility – you have to have recognition as someone who’s ideas matter
- Position – you have to be in a position to promote your ideas to those who can invest
- Vision – you have to be able to articulate how the idea you have would be realized
- Passion – ok, I always had that
- Relentlessness – took a while for me to get this, but it’s what keeps you going when people don’t always get it
- Mental Flexibility – you have to be able to explain it in what ever terms and in what ever model will make it happen
- Risk acceptance – you have to be able to take a leap of faith
- Ability to Fail Fast – you have to recognize when it’s time to quite, when it’s time to shelve it, and sometimes, when it’s time to bull ahead
- Social Savvy – you have to be able to get a crowd behind you – even then – the crowd mattered
- Influence – you have to be able to convince your backers, investors, sponsors, or whatever – that this is achievable
- Execution Premium – if you’re going to do it and you have everything else going for you – then you better have the commitment to execution and realization – for certain you will crash and burn all of your other 10 capabilities if you fail to execute – and you’ll have to build them all back up again; execution doesn’t mean that your idea is going to be a winner, but it does mean that you produce something and that your idea becomes reality
- Track record of success – this is what let’s you turn around and do it bigger and better each succeeding time
So, what’s different now? Well, today, you can put together a team with the support of the crowd, to bring together all the people, having all the traits listed above, and you can do it faster and better – than any one person could do in the past. Welcome to the Network Effect, welcome to the Human Network – and welcome to Crowdsourcing Innovation.
So why does all this matter – because when I was that 20 something – I gave a pile of ideas to organization after organization – and became disengaged each time because all my ideas were being ignored.
What about now – ok, so my circumstances have changed – and so maybe my ideas are no longer ignored, but a few weeks ago – I got to hear a story about how the software from the company I work for resulted in a new college grad’s idea being selected as the best of the best out of a conference of 900 people. This new college grad had a voice, because crowdsourced innovation now exists.
But – that’s just the story about why this matters – so what about making it happen?
And this is the key point here – at the end of the day, though my company sells the software, it’s the network effect – and moreover the Human Network that makes this possible. The Human Element is what we engage with. We don’t do software for software’s sake, we do software for the opportunity to make it easier for people to interact with, engage with, support, enable and empower one another. You do that by doing the things that humans have always done – you communicate with, you celebrate with, you recognize, you reward, you do it together – and – you don’t turn this whole thing into a cold metal box.
The metal box might make all those things you are doing a little easier, but this isn’t about automation – it’s about human engagement. I’ll talk about this more in future posts, but remember – it’s about the Human Network. That’s how you make crowdsourced innovation successful.
Hopefully, my story about myself and about a recent new college grad this summer can help everyone see why this is so important as well.
John-Michael – August 1, 2012