Crowdsourcing ideas can fuel major business innovations. We've seen it time and again, evidenced by countless products and even books, music and films. But there's one facet of crowdsourcing that's often not as well-known, yet has helped hundreds of organizations iterate. I'm talking about holding internal competitions: A practice that allows employees to merge their thoughts into a collective zeitgeist that can truly spearhead change. Here are four ways to succeed through this carrot incentivization:
Be Realistic: Managing Challenges
Compartmentalization and time management are two of the biggest strengths for entrepreneurs. When it comes to managing challenges, it's key to implement steps that break up directives in an easy-to-digest and manageable format. Think of it like a classroom syllabus. Knowing the goals, how to get there, and realistic expectations on a timeline help guide strategy and planning. This also helps avoid overwhelming employees. This means that before we run headstrong into a challenge, or a business plan, formulate a concise one-page pitch. Pooling the best pitches can flesh out ideas into a full proposal, a practice encouraging brainstorming and feedback.
Teach Them How To Walk So They Can Run
Learn, then apply. It sounds simple, because it is. Intrinsic motivation is action driven by internal rewards. In other words, participation is heightened when you know you're going to get something out of it. It's basic human psychology. But that doesn't mean it's bad to be selfish. Often the problem with challenges is companies don't always provide the learning or training to get the most out of their employees. Meaning how to clearly write an elevator pitch, how to actually go about brainstorming, or solving a specific problem. A way to remedy that is to have participants take training courses in particular topics, skills that they can then apply to a challenge, and potentially use in daily life. That's intrinsic motivation. So why not take a company's existing e-learning content and plug it into a challenge? It's more fun than a survey, and in my experience, many are willing to take a class to build a new skill that could help them tackle a problem.
Frame Competitions Around Specific Needs
Steer clear from open-ended questions. Open-ended questions often lead to open-ended answers. The more laser focused your expectations, the easier they can be delivered. No matter what, the goal is results, and we want precision targeting, not a shotgun blast approach. Case-in-point, the spaceflight challenge created for the X PRIZE Foundation. The specifics for the $10 million prize were crystal: reliable, reusable, privately-funded, manned spacecraft able to carry a trio 100 kilometers above the Earth. Contestants knew where to aim, and the results were overwhelming in terms of creative ingenuity. Teams were able to visualize the requirements of the challenge and work toward those specific goals, the opposite of open-ended answers.
Turn Results Into Actionable Tools
Building a team that can come together and work beyond the challenge is what it's all about. In everyday life, we're constantly thrown into groups and teams, and we often know nothing about how each member functions, and what they're good at. One way to assess skills is to take a creativity test. If you understand your teammates' strengths, you're able to put together a better team, and work more effectively. Here's a pop culture example: when you watch a reality show and someone doesn't win a challenge, they often say it's still the best experience of their lives. The fact that they went through rounds and iterated, experienced trial and error, and more often than not, are thankful for going through those rounds, and receiving the feedback from judges, all of that makes them a better person. That model exists here. The more experiments and tests you go through, the more successful you'll be when it's time for the real thing. For you sports junkies, think of it like baseball: the more at-bats you'll have, the more success you'll have. When we take too long to think about something, it's easy not to do anything. The sooner you make a choice, the sooner you can fail fast or scale quickly. That's what challenges do. They give opportunities to see what works, models that you can plug into the next challenge--on the job. I care about the outcome, I really do, but if it doesn't work out, the most important thing is being able to take the relevant information and learn from it. It's what makes us innovate, and always keep learning.