Please note: in February 2018 Solverboard for Business became Solverboard Work, and Solverboard Open became Solverboard World. Find out more about these changes here.
It’s a confusing old world out there sometimes. Innovation software, idea management platforms, crowdsourcing platforms, open innovation tools – it's hard to know whether you need a tool and how it might help.
We know that what really matters to our customers is having a clear innovation strategy, supported by their organisation, that’s easy for them to manage and measure. What we also know, though, is that a tool or platform can significantly help in supporting that strategy, and make it easier to achieve your innovation objectives.
Never put all your eggs in one basket – but make sure one basket is crowdsourcing
There are many ways to innovate, and every challenge is different, so it makes sense to adopt several different approaches to innovation simultaneously. Greg Satell’s book Mapping Innovation provides a useful framework to decide what approach to use depending on how well defined your problem is, and how well you understand the skills needed to solve it (if you don’t have the book, he’s written a brief summary on Harvard Business Review).
As he points out, crowdsourcing or open innovation is often a useful approach if you are clear about what the problem is but not sure where solutions might come from. As far back as 2005, researchers were recognising the value of digital platforms in encouraging this type of innovation, and in 2013 Boudreau and Lakhani said "to answer the most vexing innovation and research questions, crowds are becoming the partner of choice.”
You could use an open innovation platform such as Solverboard Open to solicit solutions from anyone in the world, or open it up to partners, suppliers and members of your organisation only using our Solverboard for Business tools.
What kind of solutions do you need?
In the example above, you might just want new ideas – a great big pile of new ideas to jump start your innovation programme or kick a particular problem into gear.
At other times, you might need solutions to particular challenges, either in the form of quick suggestions for avenues to explore, or more detailed responses to in-depth problems.
This fuzzy front end of innovation can be a struggle for organisations that aren’t used to stimulating creative thinking or gathering ideas from their people. And yet a recent study looking at internal crowdsourcing in organisations in healthcare, telecoms and retail found that “harnessing the cognitive diversity within organisations can open up rich new sources of innovation”.
Collaboration beats competition
As well as providing ideas and solutions, innovation software tools can speed up innovation by stimulating collaboration and engagement. In his study of a leading IT firm, economics professor Michael Gibbs found that “an idea portal can encourage all employees to share new ideas, and showing those ideas to other employees can stimulate thinking, help create friendly competition, and encourage better ideas.”
Innovation software can also engage people with unique insights – people on the front line of your organisation who deal with customers every day, for example, or people who have recently joined and have a fresh perspective on the business. Soliciting their ideas can make a huge contribution to any innovation programme.
Supporting and measuring your innovation process
And finally, what if you want your innovation software to do more than just help deliver ideas? As we all know, ideas aren’t innovation - real innovation is about deriving value from those ideas, and that requires a robust development process.
If you’ve already got a process in place to take ideas all the way through development, you might think that software won’t be much help. A study by Tech-Clarity found that executives often feel software will slow down their processes, or will require time and resources to implement that they can ill afford. In reality however, the same study found that software tools provided improved visibility of the innovation process, enabled better decision making, and accelerated the time it took to get ideas to market.
So whether you're just starting to plan your innovation strategy, or have an established process in place, it's worth considering whether a dedicated software tool can help.