It’s said that no one is a prophet in his or her own country. As it turns out, with the exception of such companies as Pixar and Google, no one is a creative genius in their own company either. So where do companies go to tap into extra energy, ideas and innovation? Other people’s employees –- through a concept called crowdsourcing. It’s fun. It’s relatively free. And you have your pick from a firehose of incoming ideas that can be eye-opening and fresh.
Why are people motivated to participate in crowdsourcing, when the chances for reward are minuscule? And more often than not, their efforts are going to fall way short of the goal, like a battered salmon? There’s something about the joy of the stretch and the creative challenge that’s irresistible to individuals in their discretionary hours.
Who are these people with so much productivity to spare? Maybe they’re someone else’s employees (assuming they haven’t been laid off). But they could also be your employees –- people who have found another way to channel their genius because they’re not seeing a way to make it work for them where they work.
Why let other companies have for free what you might be throwing away at great expense? Am I suggesting that you forbid your staff to participate in creative projects in their off-hours? Absolutely not. Am I suggesting that you overwork your folks during their on-hours? Nope. Am I suggesting that you open opportunities for creative input beyond their job descriptions? Absolutely!
How do you get started when your company is bound by both job descriptions and functional silos? Here are some ideas:
Make it easy for your people to let it be known what their passions are. Have an internal Facebook-like directory in which your people can write their own profiles according to not only what they do but also what they know and would like to do outside their job descriptions.
Create a time budget in which employees are free to pursue projects and ideas that have captured their imagination and that might benefit the company in the long run. Google does that, and look at how their products have exploded in recent years.
Develop a learning culture so that employees are free to teach each other what they know. Your people know so much more than their resumes and job descriptions might reveal. Create an environment in which they’re encouraged to share that knowledge with each other, either formally or on the fly.
When your company is about to launch a new initiative or tackle a profit problem, go to your people first for ideas. When it comes to solving your operational problems or opening your prospects, no one knows what buried potential and solutions lie right in front of your nose like the people who are working right in front of your nose. Consultant Jim Shaffer works directly with corporate communications groups to run brainstorming sessions during which solutions and ideas emerge as if the unspoken sentiment is, “Finally! Someone asked!” Result: Millions of dollars made for companies such as Owens Corning, FedEx and ConAgra.
“A number of our clients use crowdsourcing to solve problems quickly with a broader range of skills and knowledge. And when pay is replaced with recognition or a prize they’re able to capitalize on the largely untapped power of intrinsic motivation. It’s a win-win for the people who are contributing solutions and the companies that capitalize on them,” Shaffer says.
Give your people the chance to volunteer their gifts, talents and skills to causes they care about. Salaries are important, no doubt about it. But inspiration and motivation are refreshed when your people have the chance to see how what they can do directly helps other people and causes. They get a new perspective on the true value of what they do professionally. And with that perspective, they are more motivated to grow and give to your company as well.
Now. Isn’t that better than depending on a crowd of strangers?
Image credit, James Steidl, via Shutterstock