Top-down and inside-out innovation process: why crowdsourcing helps companies go beyond

David Asch, an executive at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, once argued that, although there is an old saying that argues that “if you build it, they will come”, the time is now to take that statement to the next level by making the case that “if you build it with them, they will already be there”.

Engaging the outside world in a company’s innovation process holds the key to going forward and successfully implementing positive changes. Top-down, inside-out mentalities can only get an organization so far: developing new solutions also comes hand-in-hand with a democratization of the innovation process.

According to Christian Terwiesch, a renowned expert on Innovation Tournaments, “companies know that they don’t have all the answers. They want to get ideas from the front lines, they want to grow their business and look or customers that they have not served before”.

This is the point where crowdsourcing is crucial: by taking a wider approach to innovation, organizations introduce a higher degree of competition and creativity in the process. It is no longer about outsourcing a certain aspect of our operation: it is about creating a “marketplace of ideas” in order to maximize the opportunities for change.

For solvers, this truly is a win-win situation. Those who join an Open Innovation Tournament know that they will have an equal chance at solving the same problem as the others. The reward goes beyond the monetary prize: it is also about enjoying a new experience that promotes knowledge while also opening the doors to a higher degree of professional visibility.

Take the case of Air France, which we have discussed before. When the airline decided to give its in-flight meal tray and tableware a complete makeover, it chose to develop a targeted crowdsourcing initiative. The Tournament was rather picky (Air France only targeted a certain type of participants from a certain number of countries) yet this seems like a reasonable step in order to open up your innovation processes.

At the end of the day, it is all about taking a step back and realizing that a “marketplace of ideas” will always be more productive than a controlled process where new opportunities are simply developed in top-down, inside-out fashion. The time has come to go beyond: that is why crowdsourcing holds the key to better results.

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