Driving Innovation Through Communities

…doesn’t usually generate many useful ideas.

Take a second to look at Dell’s Ideastorm’s top implemented ideas.

They’re interesting, but we can agree they’re primarily tweaks around the edges of products. None saved Dell or helped invent the iPad. They’re also likely ideas Dell engineers already considered.

Ideas are pretty cheap. The hard part isn’t generating an idea, it’s developing the process for evaluating and nurturing ideas. Popular ideas need to be practical and a business priority. They also need strong internal supporters to fight for resources.

How many organizations are set up for that?

Crowdsourcing ideas from customers doesn’t usually lead to good ideas, it leads to a list of product complaints. The same kind of complaints you can gather from any of your support reps.

Innovation in communities comes not from gathering ideas, that’s easy, but in refining ideas. Getting early input into new products, testing concepts on small samples, and treating the community as a focus group works well.

Likewise, track which topics are rising in popularity, see which landing pages people are arriving on. This tells you which issues to address next. Create a place to report bugs (this also prevents all discussions being filled with bug reports).

But to make this work you still need the process for it. Go to the marketing team, PR team, and engineering team and see if they want early feedback from a tiny group of members. It works for content too. Before our ROI project, we gathered valuable feedback from dozens of our community.

Focus on building one process first (e.g. let’s get community feedback on our next content piece) and build from there. Collect stories of success you can use to persuade other departments.

Communities can be a really powerful tool for driving innovation. Build processes to use them to test and refine ideas.

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