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Crowdsourced Innovation: Is It Right for Your Startup?

Crowdsourced Innovation: Is It Right for Your Startup?
Teri Boron

Teri Boron

Photo by Marianna

Is Crowdsourced Innovation Right For Your Startup?

A Brief History

Innovation has traditionally occurred behind closed doors. There are countless stories of inventors experimenting with problem-solving ideas in seclusion. Many of these contributions have positively impacted our world. We don’t often think of the inventors, but we frequently utilize their inventions and even improve upon them to make the world a better place. How many times have you turned on a light, driven a car, or rode a bicycle? Can you name the inventors? How about your favorite brands?

In a monitored environment, pre-selected focus groups test products and give their opinions. Those contributing thoughts are often paid to do so. Although, there isn’t always a paid incentive to participate. Genuine interest was and still is sometimes enough to enlist participants.

Let’s take into consideration a few benefits and risks of crowdsourcing innovation to help determine if it is right for your startup.

Understanding Negative Aspects of Crowdsourced Innovation

Founders and their teams can easily become overwhelmed by the immediate influx of ideas suggested by community members. Sorting through every idea is necessary to eliminate those that have already been tested and failed for whatever reason. Some ideas may be duplicates or too similar to others previously mentioned. The amount of time required to effectively accommodate increased popularity of company requests often goes underestimated. The evaluation process can be time intensive.

Tip: Have an unbiased vetting system of some kind in place prior to capturing innovative ideas to cull less desirable and repeat suggestions.

Collecting ideas isn’t enough. After sorting through them and creating a plan to get things done more questions begin to come about. Can an idea be owned? No. Who owns the idea? No one. Copyright laws do not protect ideas, but they might protect the ways ideas are expressed. Trademarks protect words, phrases, symbols, or designs that help to identify sources of products and services. In the United States, a patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion. However, inventions can be patented. They are considered tangible, design implementations of ideas.

Tip: Take into consideration creating a short form or agreement policy on what happens to ideas that are chosen to be implemented. Remember to research all applicable laws. Share the form with contributors before garnering ideas.

The Logic Behind Crowdsourced Innovation

A company can have several methods of collecting ideas on how to proceed with growth from employees including brainstorming meetings, collection boxes, or question and answer sessions. The problem with stopping the ideation process there is limited resources. Although each employee is unique and comes from different personal and professional backgrounds, a company only has “x” number of employees to approach. Their real world experiences may provide an excellent starting point, but it doesn’t compare to tapping into the brain trust of the masses. Consider the sheer number of possible ideas from a crowd of thousands as opposed to nine outstanding employees. Almost limitless, right? One idea always seems to lead to another.

Harnessing the powerful mindset of an innovative community can bring ideators into direct contact with companies looking to hire and find interns or volunteers. Open innovation platforms are a logical means to sourcing ideas from members located around the world. Being able to tap into such a widely varied group of intellectuals can reduce the time involved in thinking of ideas and lower financial costs.

In summary, knowledge acquisition is the main advantage of crowdsourced innovation. It may lead to great rewards and comes with many risks, yet it is necessary when running a business. Without innovation, stagnation occurs. Companies fail to achieve their goals. They are overtaken by a competitive market. It’s a rare situation for there to be no competition, to be first to market.

Many believe the open innovation process ends when customers adopt ideas as solutions. However, companies can continue to improve idea management processes by researching their own innovation results and those of their competitors.

We all want the best growth possible for our companies and crowdsourced innovation is the method chosen by several thriving companies today. Will you join us on Idea Hunt, our crowdsourcing platform where we connect companies, people, and ideas?

Tags: #Innovation #Crowdsourcing #Startups

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