Leveraging the Power of The Crowd

Fresh from my 15 minutes of fame in the Big Ideas film booth, here’s the gist of my Big Ideas video challenge (coming to Procurious soon!) about leveraging the power of the crowd.

The Crowd

Delivering innovation is top of the CEO’s growth agenda. Developing a creative culture, one in which ideas can be offered without fear and allowed to fail fast, is critical to this. But what tangible actions can we take to create this kind of culture? And how to distinguish between the ideas that bomb, and the ideas that pay?

Once a phenomenon amongst hoodie-wearing Silicon Valley “Coders”, hackathons are now being embraced by industries and organisations of all sizes, to crowd-source innovative ideas and create new product developments.

In fact, some of the most successful products we use today, such as Google Maps, were born from hackathons.

Precious Opportunities

The term itself can be misleading. Rather than some kind of subversive counter-security activity, hackathons are a crowd-sourcing, creative event, where organisations make enormous amounts of data available to teams. The teams, who are often working competitively, are dared to ‘think the unthinkable’ and brainstorm solutions.

Usually occurring over the course of one, or even several days, a hackathon is a rare and precious opportunity to work ‘on the business’ rather than ‘in the business’. Who wouldn’t agree that it’s hard to think ‘big’ when buried deep in the day-to-day minutiae?

By taking a day out to ‘think big’, innovation can be fostered and new ideas prototyped quickly, with the most commercially viable options being presented for further R&D. At these events, no idea is too “off the wall”, and every idea from every participant is considered equally and fairly, before any final decisions are made.

Hackathons are also an opportunity for different people and teams that might not otherwise meet, let a lone work together, to socialise, and share processes and skills.

Outside Comfort Zones

I think we can all be guilty of sitting inside our comfort zones. It is something that is all too frequently reinforced by silo-ed organisational structures, and misaligned incentives, between between departments.

The concept can also extend beyond the bounds of the business itself. As the interface between the business and the supply chain, Procurement has an important role to play in inviting suppliers and customers to take part, and contribute their thinking to the hackathon too. Think of it as the old ‘Supplier Day’ on steroids!

And finally, the combination of working quickly, working collaboratively, and working on something that isn’t necessarily within your traditional job scope, can not only lead to some Big Ideas, but can be enormously energising and intellectually stimulating.

So my message is, use the power of the crowd and hack your way to success!