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Adi is a social business blogger and community manager that writes for sites such as Social Business News and Social Media Today. Away from the computer he enjoys cycling, particularly in the Alpes. Adi is a DZone Zone Leader and has posted 1288 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Better open innovation in three steps

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A key aspect of any open innovation project is getting the kind of input from participants you hope for.  I’ve written previously on some of the motivations behind participation in a crowdsourcing project, with the four main ones being:

  1. Money
  2. Fame
  3. Enjoyment
  4. Social worth

Research into participant behaviour at the Zooniverse citizen science project went further into the intrinsic factors behind participation, finding that passion for the subject was a key determinant of involvement.

A new study conducted by Linus Dahlander and Henning Piezunka has looked at participation from a slightly more tactical point of view.  They wanted to find out some of the things sponsoring organisations can do to encourage people to participate, aside of course from the high level things I highlight above.

The study explored the field of online feedback and suggestion boxes from around 24,000 organisations.  Admittedly, this is quite a narrow niche, but nevertheless, there may be some lessons for those attempting slightly more advanced open innovation projects.

Three key behaviours emerged that underlined many of the successful projects:

  1. Be proactive – Rather than have a build it and they will come philosophy, the study suggests that organisations should work to kick-start conversations, even if that involves some form of internally developed suggestions.
  2. Be engaging – Central to the submission of ideas is the belief that someone is listening to them.  The study suggests therefore that organisations need to make it clear that ideas are both seen and being considered.  People can easily be put off if they feel their time is being wasted.
  3. Be active – Building up a vibrant community from scratch takes a lot of work, so organisations should spend time building relationships with early users.  The Zooniverse study mentioned previously highlighted how valuable the core users were, so this step is not to be underestimated.

“One of the reasons why most organisations fail to elicit suggestions successfully is because outsiders don’t see how much effort actually goes on behind the scenes”, Professor Dahlander said. But without these steps, many attempts at open innovation will simply wither and die.

“Our suggestions might seem like common-sense rules for successful communication but the reality is that companies frequently underestimate the investment needed and often fail to apply such widely understood best practices when it comes to corporate engagement. If organisations actually adopt the strategies of proactive and reactive attention, they can then unlock the enormous potential of open innovation.”

Whilst most of these tips are indeed largely common sense, I think they serve a useful purpose in underlining the critical role community management plays in open innovation.  It seems a role that is often underplayed, with few professional community managers playing an active role in the industry.  Hopefully as more studies such as this emerge that will begin to change.

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