It goes without saying that the internet and collaboration tools have allowed us to be connected in ways we have never been before. With so much possibility it can be hard to know exactly what to do with it. Sure, we have easy access to created content, records, work flows and customer files but what about the knowledge that is ever changing in the living breathing humans touching and learning from all of this content every day?
As top executives and HR professionals work to adapt business strategy into actionable outcomes, one capability now available is to crowdsource solutions by posing the right questions or business problems to a broad employee segment.
Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”
Think of crowdsourcing as a photo snapshot of the current thinking of a group of employees based on everything they know and have experienced right now. When it comes to knowing what to do, or what actions to take, right now this is a great tool to leverage.
Not only might you get better ideas to bring business strategy to life than what a hand full of people behind closed doors brainstorming may deliver, but by involving employees in coming up with solutions they are more likely to own and deliver on the decided course of action and be happy doing it.
Solving Workplace Issues through Crowdsourcing
- Leverage technology, in particular collaboration tools, and open them up to large and diverse segments of your employee population.
- Ask the right questions (PDF). Guide your crowd towards a desired outcome without limiting their thinking, For example: We need to increase sales by 15% next year. What are the best ways we might achieve this outcome?
- Be transparent about real business problems and work them into your questions. For example: We need to increase sales by 15% next year without investing in any IT infrastructure. What are the best ways we might achieve this outcome? Your employees want the company to succeed and will take solving the problem personally.
- Make it safe for new and different ways of thinking and make it safe for discernment. When deploying a crowdsourcing event indicate clearly that new ways of thinking are welcome. Guide the crowd to offer up alternatives to any individual idea as an act of building on the original idea instead of shutting it down completely. Enable rating features that allow employees to “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” ideas or provide a rating scale beside content if available.
- Be clear that management decides the course of action.
- Have rewards and incentives available and give them out for top content and to reinforce the right behaviors. For example, you can reward individuals who contributed a lot of content or built on a lot of content in addition to those who’s ideas were actually made part of the plan after the event. Be mindful that you may do this again and you want employees to want to come back.
- Have a plan B. Crowdsourcing will not always get you the best outcome. Note this petition to build a Death Star as a solution to defense and to create jobs on WhiteHouse.gov. You are in a leadership position for a reason and making tough decisions is likely one of them. You might be impressed by what your employees have to say and how successful their ideas and solutions make your business but remember strategic direction is your accountability. Choose wisely.
What are your experiences with crowdsourcing?