In times of recession, the “easy” thing to do is reduce costs, but this often makes us less competitive because of a loss in efficiency and/or quality. Reducing costs is only sustainable whenever it results in the optimization of a process, not simply in spend cuts.
It is important to point out that, as Schumpeter, stated, innovation is not only something that can be produced outwardly through the introduction of a new good or service, the opening of a new market, or the incorporation of a new source of supply: It also consists in the introduction of a new means of production or a new form of organization.
It is possible to apply the concept of crowdsourcing within the organization, be it a company, an institution, a university, a network of partners… especially in the optimization of processes. Don’t forget that employees in a company know the business and are clients of the processes they “suffer” and are tied to. The same goes for students, researchers and teachers in schools and universities, or for public servants in public institutions. No one knows the “collateral effects” of changes in internal processes better than they do.
In many cases, they have enough knowledge and talent to solve problems and innovate in products or processes that are outside the environment or role they have been assigned to.
How to manage this talent is the big question.
In this respect, the honest thing to do is to recognize that there are no experts. We are all learning. In recent times, it has become fashionable to create innovation departments, very often with only one person in charge and inadequate means. The first attempts have been based on the definition of a channel through which suggestions and ideas can be gathered, but these channels have almost always proven to be insufficient.
One of the sad truths we in the ideas4all team have had to learn in the last few years and, especially since our company exists is that the main obstacle for innovation in medium-sized and large companies in Spain is middle management. Even in organizations with structured channels for the gathering of ideas, we often face two factors:
- Obscurity, in the sense that ideas enter a channel and no one knows what happens to them until there is an official response (if there is one).
- The appearance of an expert (or a committee) who evaluates and promotes or vetoes these ideas. Moreover, we often find that the expert responsible for evaluating the idea that could change a process is, precisely, the person responsible for that process… it may very well be that this actor in the process does not look too favorably on change in the process. There is no openness.
In short: there is no democratization of ideas, there is no feedback towards “ideators” (a term we have coined ourselves) and therefore, no synergy, no innovation. The result? Disappointment and demotivation. In most cases, the company also has to face additional tasks related to managing the expectations of employees, motivating them to contribute, positioning itself with regard to proposals and evaluating them. A huge effort that usually entails the additional problem of interdepartmental coordination.
It is within this context, and in order to find a solution to these problems, that ideagoras or ideas social networks are born, such as ideas4all innovation agora. Here, technology is used as a medium, a catalyst, to manage this complexity. Openness is essential, as well as transparency, interaction between equals, the democratization of ideas (not of decisions), and open participation.