Posts Tagged ‘development’

Crowdsourcing – the way of the future?

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Will R&D departments be replaced by crowdsourcing? Or at least partly? A problem solved is a problem halved, the old saying goes. But what happens when you share a problem with an abundance of people instead of just a few colleagues?

Somewhere out there is the person who can find the missing piece for you. Do you dare to use crowdsourcing to find that expert?

Research and development is usually regarded as top secret and fiercely guarded against prying eyes. However that seems to be changing a bit due to the increased use of crowdsourcing, which allows you to tap into a much wider pool of knowledge and specialist skills.

Reach out to experts you don’t know

The idea behind crowdsourcing is to harvest both internal and external knowledge to solve problems by reaching out to capable people outside your company and regular network. And more and more companies post challenges on web sites and offer a reward to anyone who can solve it.

Get some of the brainiest people in the world competing to solve your problem

A good exampel of such a web site is InnoCentive. It has a network of about 200,000 of the brainiest people in the world that will be able to look at your problem from an objective point of view. The rewards are substantial and to get $50,000 for solving a problem is normal.

A tool for industrial espionage?

Needless to say there are voices are raised against crowdsourcing in particular when it comes to security and the dangers of industrial espionage. InnoCentive believes it has solved that by being responsible for the IP process by making both the source that posts the problem and the sources that solve them anonymous to start with.

Money saver as well as new job market

Crowdsourcing is becoming increasingly popular and new sites are appearing on a continuous basis which seem to indicate that companies are increasingly regarding it as an efficient way of handling innovation. R&D is extremely expensive and by out sourcing, at least part of it, to freelancing scientists not only saves a lot of money but also give companies access to some of the best brains in the world. It’s also interesting to note that it is creating a new job market for the intelligentsia of the world where they can pick and chose what they want to work with.

Goldcorp struck gold

One good example is that of the Canadian mining company Goldcorp, which was struggling financially and unable to find gold on its land in northern Ontario.

When a new chief executive arrived he put all its geological data online, asked for help on where the gold was located and put up $500,000 in prize money for accurate suggestions.

“They got submissions from people all over the world, including people using 3D computer modelling techniques. They found $3bn worth of gold on the property and Goldcorp became one of Canada’s largest mining companies.”

Secrecy versus solutions

Where would Goldcorp be today if secrecy had been more important to them than solving the problem? Crowdsourcing actually enables small and medium sized companies, as well as individuals for that matter, to have an R&D department comprising some of the best brains in the world. With worms like Stuxnet around is it actually possible to keep anything secret nowadays? Unless of course you don’t in any way involve computers in R&D (you don’t even have to post it online for Stuxnet to get access to it).

Useful tool for governments?

And governments are starting to use it as well. It can be particularly useful when there are difficult decisions to be made, such as where the axe must fall in terms of cutting public spending. Critics on the other hand, say it has been proved that crowd sourcing for governments gets out of hand and becomes a tool for lobbyists.

Crowdsourcing in your personal life

Are you using crowdsourcing to solve your own problems? You can actually do so even as a private person. Networks such as Globe Forum allows you to post your problems to their global pool of networks and instantly have a team of experts collaborating to solve your challenge.

What are your feelings about crowdsourcing? Do you believe it’s the way of the future? Or is safety more important to you than a solution? Will crowdsourcing enable small and medium sized companies to better compete with the giants? Do you already use, or plan to use, crowdsourcing?

Photo: PhotoXpress Alexandr Shebanov

Do you know how to communicate to harvest ideas?

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Apple, 3M and Google are prime examples of companies reaping the benefits of ideas generated by someone in their organisation. However, far too many companies still fail to benefit from the ideas of their staff.

staff, ideas, communication, Apple, 3M

The ideas floating around in your organisation are opportunities to develop and innovate. By listening to everyone your chances of innovating from within are unlocked.

So how do you get everybody to come forward with ideas they have for any area of the company? Could be ideas applicable to short term as well as long term benefits. Frequently management find it difficult to find out about all the different ideas employees have. They are unaware of anything from small ideas that would slightly improve their database to ideas that could result in new successful products – or even ideas that would completely change how the organisation operate. So how do you go about reaping the benefits from ideas your staff have?

Let staff know you value their ideas

The first thing to communicate is that you are sincerely interested in any idea someone in your organisation might have. Make sure they feel welcome presenting ideas to you even if the idea isn’t yet fully developed. Find simple ways that enable anyone from the cleaner up to take their ideas further than chatting to colleagues about them during a coffee break. Give them courage to present their ideas to colleagues and management. And make sure they are not afraid of looking ridiculous or get reprimanded for having suggestions.

If you don’t know about the abundance of ideas floating around in the organisation you are missing opportunities to develop and innovate, not to mention earning money. By listening to everyone your chances of finding new strategies and opportunities increase.

Ideas lost may be money lost

The more ideas are saved, mixed and worked on the better for an organisation. And it’s time to move on from the boxes where employees dot down a few ideas for the management to read. Frequently such communication neither give credit to ideas nor does it enable colleagues to discuss and develop a seed into something that can be used.

Develop ideas during office hours

To give an idea a fair chance the person behind it should be able to come forward with it and explain the benefits. One way would be to have monthly or weekly meetings where ideas can be presented to colleagues and management. The more ideas see the light of day the more ideas will be created and developed.

Brainstorm on a regular basis

In my experience brainstorming is a wonderful way of developing ideas, not to mention whole organisations. And it’s mainly ideas that are far out, almost regarded as crazy, that turn out to be the best. It’s hence best to have as many people as possible participating so that a seed can be creatively developed. It’s also crucial that people keep an open mind and don’t discard something that may turn out to be a bestseller before it’s developed.

Develop a culture that embrace ideas

For ideas to flourish staff must feel that they are appreciated for putting forward ideas and encouraged to think, question and be innovative. Obviously not all ideas are good ideas but you will lose out on the good ones if staff don’t let you know what they would like to improve.

When a lot of people come together and give feedback a lot of good ideas are developed. Even more so when people from different cultures join forces and look at innovations from different perspectives, which is one of the key assets of companies like Google and Apple.

Once you have developed a system where everybody in the organisation are encouraged to develop their ideas and present them you will not only get a lot of ideas but a culture where staff dare communicating what they would like to improve as well as increase the creativity of the organisation enormously. The result will be an atmosphere that is fun, people like to go to work, aren’t afraid to make mistakes and new products and services will be created that otherwise would never have seen the light of day.

Jump on the Google & Apple innovation band-waggon

Far too many companies all over the world have a culture where only the management are allowed to think and have ideas. So many that it’s often assumed that’s the case, even if management would like to develop a culture where everybody contributes. If that’s the case, it’s time for you to start communicating that you are open to all ideas and let staff know that you are interested in their thoughts and ideas. They will never know if you don’t let them know.

What are you doing to encourage a creative atmosphere that breeds ideas? Does staff come to you and explain their ideas? Do you have regular brainstorming session to find and develop ideas? Or is this an area you have neglected since it seems to complicated? If so, it’s high time you follow in the footsteps of Google and Apple and create a culture that breeds success.

(Photo: PhotoXpress – Stasys Eidiejus)

Are you innovating on a continuous basis?

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Nowadays the market is constantly changing and businesses adapt or die. Preferably you should be a leading player who determines what changes take place and when. So, if you haven’t yet developed a culture of innovation, it’s high time you do. Even a start-up with a proactive philosophy can over time become a market leader. Do you for instance reap the benefits of ideas generated by someone in your organisation?

To succeed in developing a good suggestions is as crucial as realizing when an idea is too expensive and time consuming to be worth while. Especially if it’s questionable if the company will really benefit significantly from it.

In today’s market you need to develop and evolve on a continuous basis. If not, stagnation sets in and you are on the wrong path. What customers want and desire change all the time, competition intensifies, the need to be efficient accelerate, economic fundamentals are altered, re-financing has to be done, new techniques are introduced and your staff turn over. It’s actually easier to list what doesn’t change constantly than what does.

Nothing ever stays the same

Gone are the days when you could just sit back and run your company like a machine. Something is always happening that has an impact on your business. Or as Lewis Carrol put it: “It takes all the running you can manage to stay in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you have to force yourself to run at least twice as fast.” The same goes for risk, to prioritize stability and safety and not taking any risks would be difficult, if not impossible, in today’s integrated world.

Beware of stagnation 

Catalysts for change can come from an abundance of stake holders such as; customers, you, your colleagues, the board, science, new and improved technologies, the media, new theories, world events, new competitors and your own strategic planning. What was new half a ago is already out of date.

If you haven’t yet started to innovate on a continuous basis, even change for the sake of change can actually be a good thing. It will add a momentum that break stagnation and stop mold from growing.

From here to success

Innovation equals change and shows a desire to improve. It can happen in a multitude of ways. Could be new products, new marketing, services, business processes or even changing your organization as a whole.

No matter what, the ability of turning ideas into progress is a true mark of a successful innovation. To succeed in developing a good idea is as crucial as realizing when an idea is too expensive and time consuming to be worth while. Especially if it’s questionable if the company will really benefit significantly from the idea in question.

Look at the pros and cons

Unless you have to, don’t start implementing any idea that could be lucrative. Evaluate it carefully by looking at pros and cons. A SWOT analysis is one way of determining the likelihood of succeeding and will give you a good platform for deciding if you are likely to benefit from going ahead or not.

Determine and evaluate results

Before starting a new project it’s vital to decide what would constitute success and what result would be good enough. How will you measure if it’s a success or not? Can it be achieved quickly or do you have to look at the project long term? To measure and follow up results is also a great way of determining how to succeed with future developments. What made it a success? Why was the result just good enough and not excellent? What factors contributed to an outcome that was merely OK? Why did the idea fail?

Step by step

Innovation can actually be fun and challenging. It will facilitate if you can break it down and take one step at a time. Frequently organizations start a project without finishing it. So do it gradually, take action, make sure you are making progress and finish the project. The worst that can happen is that you fail and learn from it.

How do you develop and innovate? Does your business have an innovative culture? Or maybe a culture of creating value? Do you focus on evaluating ideas and suggestions for change? How do you set goals and determine what would constitute a positive change? How do you follow up and determine what mistakes you made and learn from them? Change happens through evolution or revolution but make no bones about it development and innovation needs to be done on a continuous basis. It’s how you go about it that determines if you succeed. If you resist change you will stagnate and competitors will gain the upper hand. And then, one way or another, a revolution will take place, for better or for worse.

Photo: o5com – Flickr

Holiday Reading: Learning – an access to having it all?

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

The day I stop learning I’m dead. And even when that day comes I will not know everything there is to know.

The day I stop learning I’m dead.

Nobody does, even Einstein said he is not an expert on anything, merely curious. Did you for instance know that sweating leaves produce electricity? Neither did I until I came across that revelation.

Learning is fascinating. Some days what we learn have a fundamental impact on our lives, some days it’s just minor things and sometimes we are forced to learn lessons we really could do without. But regardless, the important thing is that we learn and develop. If not, how can improvement take place? How boring life would be without constant learning and development. Imagine how inflexible people would be..

Ever met a person who has never had a problem?

Everybody has problems, the richest man in the world as well as the poorest. It’s just a question of what problems. The important thing though is what we learn from them. The easiest is to blame everybody else but that approach will just assure that the same problem happens over and over again. The smart, and interesting, way is to take responsibility for what happened, learn and move on.

Almost every day something new happens

In Saudi Arabia you learn a lot. KSA is, in my opinion, the most interesting country in the world because almost every day something happens that you have never experienced before. Life in the kingdom hence enriches you enormously, provided of course, that you are not stuck in your ways or intolerant. We are all different, and that’s what makes life beautiful. How boring it would be if we were all alike.

If you have a curious mind and constantly learn you can succeed with anything. Don’t know how many times I have been asked to do something I have never done before in different parts of the world. So I just found out, learnt and did it.

Life has no guarantees

Sometimes I think people are afraid of learning and developing. It’s not only laziness but also easier to take the option of doing nothing since, they could, after all, fail. And society sometimes reward people for towing the line as opposed to learning and developing. It’s not unusual that even top positions are filled with executives who will just preserve the status quo. That’s all very well, but how will companies develop with that kind of mind-set? Sure control is important but surely not at the expense of the company learning, developing and improving results? And how can they do that unless they start looking at new and different options? Besides I don’t understand the contradiction since I have always followed company policy and at the same time learnt, developed and improved results.

For me acquiring new knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, preferences and understanding is vital. To be broad-minded and curious is probably one of the key, if not the key, aspect of life. And how would that be possible without constantly learning? I know more today than I did yesterday and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I really enjoy living and am not afraid of dying but anything in between I’m simply not interested in. And isn’t that how we end up leading our lives if we stop learning with all that entails? Or maybe Oscar Wilde had a point when he said: “Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching”? Joke aside, at least that’s how we sometimes felt when we were at school.

(Photo: PhotoXpress giuseppe porzani)