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Your innovation is only as good as your brief

10.08.2013
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When thinking about crowdsourcing and open innovation, there’s a temptation to think of it as a sufficiently emergent process that it doesn’t really require any planning or management.  The magic will happen all by itself.

Suffice to say, that seldom ever happens, and the first place many innovation efforts slip up is in the preparation of a sloppy brief.  This is certainly the case when briefing smaller internal teams, but when doing so for potentially thousands of external people it takes on even greater importance.

With a much wider range of potential participants it is wise to assume that most will lack an insight into the goals and philosophies of the sponsoring organisation.  Therefore greater effort will be required in communicating exactly what is required and expected to ensure as many participants as possible are aware of what is needed.

Research conducted by Sžren Petersen and Peter Phillips found that context was often critical to the success of a brief.  Alas, the research also found that most briefs lacked even the smallest amount of strategic context, with most focusing instead on strictly performance related issues.  In other words, they had plenty on the how, but very little on the why.

So if more strategy needs to be included, what kind of content should be shared with participants?  Obviously the ambition and proposed impact of the crowdsourcing is a great place to start, but the brief should also include details on the culture and philosophy of the sponsoring organisation.

These are often elements that your employees will be all too familiar with, and this familiarity can lead organisations to make the false assumption that external participants do too.

In addition to providing context via aims and cultures, a strong brief can also include some of the other key stakeholders involved in the area and any other related issues.  So for instance, if the crowdsourcing is designed to improve a CSR related area, make sure you include CSR related things in your brief.

Crowdsourcing can bring many exciting insights, but make sure you don’t fall into the trap of short changing your brief.

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