Key learnings from first stab at crowdsourcing ideas
Any innovation initiative starts with creativity and ideation. Generating lots of ideas as raw input is a very creative process that requires facilitation, positive affirmation and conversations to evolve the ideas into something potentially new and valuable.
The fundamental assumption that there simply must be a lot of creative ideas already in the minds of our employees is what made us take a very wide approach to ideation at Transcom. What if we could have everyone contribute with their thoughts? After all, who knows better how to evolve our business than people who are working in it every day?
Running our first internal innovation competition “T:Den” became our first experiment to learn more about how to crowdsource ideas, and we’d like to share some of our key findings.
Think big – but with some guidance
Research on creative processes shows that idea generation still requires some boundaries to be efficient. Just sending out a note “hey guys, please come up with some cool ideas – the sky is the limit” simply doesn’t work. This is why we adopted the “missions” approach. A good mission statement for ideation has the following format:
“How might we <improvement statement> by <solution direction> so that <value expression>?”
This could result in a statement like “How might we slow down global warming by reducing Co2 emissions so that we can stay on this planet?”. Applying this general mission format, we expressed three missions (humbler than solving global warming) in which we asked our people for ideas.
Simply put – the mission statements need to be open enough to allow for ideas that are beyond the known, taking fresh approaches. But they also need to be narrow enough to inspire the thought process in a main direction. Our mission statements addressed three core aspects of our business that we’d like to improve through innovation.
So how could we bring everyone together to contribute with ideas and collaborate on them? Our 27.000 employees are spread across the world in different countries and time zones. We quickly realized that we needed a platform designed for this particular purpose. Luckily, we had stumbled across a startup called hives.co which does just this. We partnered up to explore this process together and learn from it. In a very short time we were able to make the hives.co website and app integrated with our Google identities and allow for all employees to sign in and start posting ideas in response to our missions.
To engage our employees, we made use of printed posters, a video, intranet messages, and last but not least, we encouraged our local leaders to spread information and get engaged with their employees’ ideas. The app of course had comment and like functions so that people could join the discussion around other’s ideas. We identified a team of Ideation Managers who supported in evaluating and qualifying the ideas submitted. This created a competition within the competition, where people would ask their peers to get engaged.
What’s in it for our people?
As always when launching a new initiative, the benefits of joining might not be immediately recognizable for the target audience. Here, we used the power of competition by launching a global innovation contest where five finalists would pitch their idea to the “Dragons” – our top management of Transcom, on stage at a big event. The winner would not only be a part of a team that can make their idea come true but will also get to travel to any Transcom location and spend time with local teams. So the key incentives were fame, recognition, and personal development. And a key motivator that the idea will not just be a paper product but actually stand the real test in T:Labs.
Results and what we learned
The pilot generated roughly 100 ideas from around the world, quite evenly spread across the missions posted. Five finalists were selected to pitch based on the “likes”, comments and management assessment. While we would have hoped for even more ideas to come in, we were amazed by the range and quality of ideas submitted.
Flying in the finalists to one of our main corporate events and letting them pitch their ideas to top management on stage was a huge success. We consider every idea submitter and finalist a winner, but there could of course only be one winner at the end. Stay tuned to learn more about how the winner explores the idea further.
This first round of crowdsourcing of ideas and competition clearly builds two very important culture elements that we want to incentivize:
- Innovation is a priority and focus area in the company
- Anyone with a good idea is encouraged and able to contribute to our future success
We strongly believe that this first round will serve as an eye opener for the organization and drive even stronger participation next time around.
A few improvement areas for next time:
- Even more powerful marketing effort up front to raise awareness of the competition.
- Platform of choice needs more capabilities in the next stages after ideation - to go into experimentation/exploratory work and finally potentially product development and management.
- We could do more to incentivize participants to collaboration on ideas refinement. The competitive element does not make this as easy as it should be.
We are already thinking about how and when to run the next round of ideas crowdsourcing. If you have ideas to share on how to do it even better, follow us on Instagram and send us a message!
Global Head of CX Advisory