The way people run their businesses is shifting rapidly. Between technological advancements, globalization, and the growing pressure of a Veruca Salt style “I want it now” mentality, how can businesses keep up? Add to that a pandemic, political unrest, and ever-shifting social attitudes. Then pile on even more with pressure for adequate testing, intuitive marketing, managing shareholder expectations, and meeting your customer’s needs.
How can you keep a steady pace, let alone adapt at a financially advantageous speed? Who has the luxury of effectively running their business while still entertaining outside-the-box ideas? Spoiler alert...it involves crowdsourcing.
Simply put, crowdsourcing is opening up your company to information, feedback, or crafted solutions from people outside your company. Crowdsourcing combines the motivation of competition, the innovation that can only come from a fresh set of eyes, and the connection of social media. It can be as simple as Lay’s letting potato chip fans pick their next flavor or as complex as NASA posing a major space challenge to solve an issue with their waste system.
Opening up your business to outside experts is not a new concept, but not everyone has the luxury of hiring consultants or niche experts. Luckily, with crowdsourcing, you create a way for these people to find you. The best ideas can come from the most random of places, which is a reflection of the paradigmatic shifts changing how we do business.
Other important shifts occurring include open-source software that has widened accessibility to tools that empower creators and new businesses. Organizations today can have a team of remote employees all over the country or even the world. The advent of cryptocurrency is shifting how we invest, opening up opportunities that are creating more access while also decentralizing financial power. Crowdsourcing is a powerful tool that can help decentralize solutions. After all, if you’re going to outsource your admin to a virtual assistant and your social strategy to a marketing firm, why not pay for the best idea possible?
In a recent HeroX webinar, VP of Possibilities Kal Sahota said “It’s absolutely critical that you keep up with change to protect your brand and your vision.” Obsolescence, emerging technology, and shifts in the market can be an intense wave for businesses to ride. “It’s when you get complacent or resistant to that change, that’s when you’re going to run the risk of losing your brand and your business.” Truer words were never spoken. There are countless social, economic, and systemic factors affecting all businesses. If you can’t ride the wave you can wipe out with a catastrophic financial impact. Sometimes you just need a different perspective.
Imagine Kodak’s stock prices if they developed a social media app for sharing photos and videos. Instead, we have Instagram and TikTok. Would Blockbuster have stayed in business if they’d quickly shifted their business model from brick and mortar stores to kiosks like RedBox?
Quaker Oats has recently rebranded their pancake products from the problematic Aunt Jemima to The Pearl Milling Company. Hasbro recently made their Potato Head toys genderless. These bold moves are likely coming from a PR team or cultural experts. And sure, there are no guarantees there will not be fallout. But not only did it generate major publicity for these brands, but it also opened up their products to a different user base who may be more attracted to their products because they are socially conscious.
Not all companies have the luxury of hiring consulting firms or commissioning elaborate RND strategies. Social issues, shifts in the market, and changes in society require a deft hand. Even those firms can, at times, be out of touch with the common customer. They also may not have the skill set to solve your specific problem. Sadly, you may not find out until you’ve shelled out their fees and been left with a larger financial fallout to clean up. Crowdsourcing can offer the value of PR, engagement, and a myriad of solutions that your team can vet together.
And though a brainstorming session can be a lot of fun, it’s also very time-consuming. Not to mention, even if you get some creativity flowing there’s no guarantee you will get viable ideas. But if your entire team was working together to vet ideas that someone specifically designed to solve your problem you get the best of both worlds. Your team is focused on vetting, validating, and integrating an idea. Plus, you get to live out your own “Shark Tank” fantasy.
Some business skills don’t translate across your entire company. Over time, your priorities shift and you focus on saving money, exponential growth, or the bottom line. Sometimes you can lose touch. That’s why the CEO doesn’t head up R&D and also probably why they don’t plan the Christmas party. How can you be able to have fun, be creative, and keep ideas scalable if you’re focused on, well, everything? You can be too close to the subject matter.
Crowdsourcing evens the playing field. There are no bad ideas...that is, if they’re vetted, fit the criteria you’ve set, and help meet your needs. Plus, even by hearing them, you can get the juices flowing.
So what is the definitive definition of crowdsourcing? It’s not just posing a question or concern to a community and receiving potential ideas, solutions, funding, or insight. It’s also receiving viable solutions that serve your business and provide you with invaluable feedback, innovation, and additional interaction to solve your business needs.
It’s like HeroX CEO Christian Cotichini says, “Most big innovations begin as crazy ideas. This is incompatible with the de-risking nature inherent to stable organizations – their ‘immune system’ prevents bad or half-baked ideas from receiving resources.” Well, crowdsourcing just might be your vaccine.