Using Social Media to Improve Corporate Innovation

Point: Social networking tools help capture the “quiet contributions” from the fringes of your company

Story: In the typical company, innovation relies on a hand-picked team leading an innovation project. The trouble is, these teams often have no good way of tapping the expertise of the whole company. They tend to call on the small circle of colleagues they know or on the acknowledged experts in an established field. But they have a hard time identifying people whom they don’t already know but who might have new knowledge relevant to the problem at hand. As a result, potential good ideas are lost or hidden.

That’s where social software tools come in handy. With a tool like InnovationSpigit, for example, a company can start a discussion on a topic and employees who know about the topic self-identify by posting ideas, refining the ideas of others, and voting on ideas.

For example, a company could start discussion like “Can we develop a new water filtration product?” People from market research might identify the top-selling filtration products and their value propositions (e.g., “BrandA removes chlorine and lead”).  Someone from HR, who recently bought a water filtration system for her family, might contribute her own insights gathered from what blogs and outside websites were saying about all the competing products (e.g., “BrandB sucks because it’s hard to install”). Unforeseen expertise & spark-generating ideas might come from an employee who’s studied marine animals who might suggest “have you looked at how fish gills work? Perhaps we could base an idea around that.” Other employees might point out the engineering deficits of a proposed technology (e.g., a potential filter material is too expensive for consumer water filters). Another person might have good suggestions for how to solve the cost problem (e.g., to coat the expensive filter ingredient on a cheaper material).

The point is that these contributions can come from anywhere, not just the hand-picked team members and their inner circle. Happenstance insights and contributions from non-obvious personnel help increase the volume and quality of ideas. Reputation systems and voting mechanisms, built into innovation-specific social applications like InnovationSpigit 2.0, help direct innovation efforts into the most productive directions.

Action

  • Explore how innovation-specific social applications like InnovationSpigit can be used to improve innovation in your organization.
  • Look for tools that expand the range of idea sources to more people and leverage the intelligence of crowds to focus innovation efforts.
  • Create a vibrant set of communities around open-ended problems to get new and disruptive ideas.
  • Use small incentives, reputation engines, and voting systems to encourage fast feedback that focuses efforts on the best ideas.

3 Comments »How-to, Innovation

3 Responses to “Using Social Media to Improve Corporate Innovation”

  1. Vincent Carbone Aug 19th 2009 at 08:45 am 1

    Another great tools in the area is by Brightidea.com – Check out how Adobe is using open innovation: ideas.acrobat.com

  2. Andrea Meyer Aug 19th 2009 at 09:13 am 2

    Interesting example, thanks Vincent. I like how Adobe is using open innovation to both improve existing products and to get ideas for new products from its customers. The Brightidea tool lets you see ideas (by rank and by category), comment/extend ideas, rate ideas, see profiles of people who’ve contributed (their background, ideas, comments, collaborators and total points accumulated). This looks similar to what I saw at the Spigit Summit. It’s great to see Adobe’s live application in open innovation like this. I looked at Brightidea’s case studies and see that the Adobe one currently describes metrics in terms of ideas generated. Do you know if there are any metrics yet that talk about the number of ideas implemented?

  3. How can organizations use social media to drive innovation? - Quora Mar 4th 2011 at 08:33 pm 3

    […] media to drive innovation?See examples from IBM: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.c…and Spigit: http://workingknowledge.com/blog…  Add AnswerBIU     @   Edit Link Text Show answer […]

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