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Internal crowdsourcing: how to improve business productivity like Facebook

Jeremy Morgan
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pitch questions at the right level. If questions are too abstract or open-ended, the usefulness of feedback will suffer. (Source: Getty)

The UK's productivity crisis is one of the greatest challenges facing its businesses.

The latest ONS figures show the UK’s quarterly productivity growth increased by just 0.4 per cent and still remains well below the 1994 to 2007 average, when productivity was at a high. With little sign of the crisis abating, how can organisational crowdsourcing provide one solution to lift the UK workforce’s productivity?

One of the most consequential insights from the study of organisational culture happens to have an almost irresistible grounding in basic common sense. When attempting to solve the challenges of today’s businesses, inviting a broad slice of an employee population yields more creative solutions than restricting the conversation to a small strategy or leadership team.

This recognition – that, in order to uncover new business ideas and innovations, organisations must foster listening cultures and a meritocracy of best thinking – is fuelling interest in organisational crowdsourcing.

This discipline focuses on connecting employees and using their collective expertise to generate new ideas. Leaders at companies such as Facebook and IBM have embraced employee crowdsourcing as a way to increase organisational knowledge and promote empathy.

Bottomless upside

The benefits of internal crowdsourcing are clear. First, it ensures that a company’s understanding of key priorities is grounded in everyday reality, and not divorced hypotheses developed by strategists. Second, employees inherently believe in, and want to own, the implementation of ideas that they generate through crowdsourcing.

How to do it

To start, pitch questions at the right level. If questions are too abstract or open-ended, the usefulness of feedback will suffer. Brainstorming in an initial workshop with senior leaders is a first step towards identifying gaps and opportunities that can inspire a productive crowdsourcing event.

Involve leaders in promoting your event. Team leaders must be committed to the role they’ll play when your crowdsourcing challenge opens: facilitating meetings with employees to share best practices for participation, and encouraging productive discussions during the event.

Designing and deploying communications on and offline, and adding urgency by making the crowdsourcing challenge a discrete event, are also essential for generating employee interest and excitement.

Finally, analyse, categorise and share results. Conduct working sessions with the core project team to review and discuss outcomes with the aim of developing an action plan. Share the data with employees, along with implementation plans.

At the very top, leaders have to understand the needs of their employees and, guided by data, learn to adjust future policies, processes and behaviours.

The organisations that commit to crowdsourcing and quickly executing employees’ ideas will be more innovative and collaborative than their peers.

Jeremy Morgan is a partner at Lippincott, a creative consultancy.

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