Crowdsourcing can help improve service, increase sales and promote engagement.
ORLANDO, Fla. - Businesses are using collective
intelligence to speed up company growth, improve efficiency, enhance products
and services, and strengthen the employee environment, according to new
research from IBM.
Over the next five years, 80 percent of
chief marketing officers (CMOs) said they must improve their ability to develop
deep relationships with customers and integrate clients into product and
service development, said Denis Brousseau, vice president and global
leader, organization and people, at IBM during an IBM
general session on Jan. 17 in Orlando. Eighty percent of CMOs also
said they must tap into greater intelligence and gain more insight in order to
fuel corporate growth.
To accomplish these goals, however,
organizations must improve their ability to share knowledge and collaborate,
according to 70 percent of executives surveyed in an IBM study, Brousseau said.
"In order to succeed, an organization
needs to be able to capitalize on collective
," he said.
There are four primary methods that
organizations use to encourage input from their communities, such as employees,
customers and partners, said Brousseau. These include contests and challenges,
collaborative design markets, virtual ideation and communities of practice, he
"When we talk about social business,
the first thing that comes to mind is collaboration," said Brousseau. "But
there is also a place for competition. It's applied when you think a
competitive environment will give you better business outcomes."
Intelligence in Action
Seeking new ways to engage its
readership around the world and increase attendance at its Ideas Economy
conference series, The Economist
magazine launched a contest based on a series of challenges that asked its
audience to develop new ideas around various topical issues such as health care
information and biologic solutions for climate change. In conjunction with
online crowdsourcing firm InnoCentive
gave monetary prizes to
challenge winners and interviewed them during live events.
In addition to engaging its audience, The Economist
garnered public and media
attention, Brousseau said. Challenge winners not only took home money prizes, but
they also received media visibility and exposure to potential investors to turn
their concepts into reality, he added.
"The quality and the volume of
[responses] we got back were just extraordinary. In each of the cases so far,
we've had very high quality responses. People take the InnoCentive process
seriously, and respond accordingly," Justin Hendrix, vice president of business
development and innovation at the magazine, said in a statement.
For its part, purse-designer Coach
hoped to win over the hearts and wallets of younger consumers when it launched
a collaborative design market initiative to design a new Coach tote bag. Six
million people checked out the contest, and consumers submitted 3,200 designs,
said Brousseau. In six weeks, 100,000 people voted on the top candidates.
"They were able to increase their sales
based on the winning designs they put into production," he said. "For the
winners-and this is an area I think Coach got really right-if your design was
selected, you had the option of attending a launch party at a retail store or a
$2,500 shopping spree."
Wanting to improve its services, Citi's
Global Transaction Services division used an approach called virtual ideation
and dialog to tap the expertise of its worldwide employees. In addition to
soliciting workers' ideas and opinions, this process helped the organization
unite employees and encourage a feeling of connection among people separated by
geography and language. Twenty thousand people participated over 48 hours; on
average, participants spent four hours contributing to a forum about improving
customer service, said Brousseau. Employees felt good about Citi because
executives sought their opinions, communicated with employees, and used some of
their ideas to enhance services, he said. This approach also helped individuals
connect with their colleagues.
"It's an opportunity for you to make
new connections, to link to colleagues you may not have known," Brousseau said.
Communities of practice typically begin
at a grassroots level, he said. CEMEX, a global provider of building materials,
such as cement, uses this approach for its global-innovation initiative. Within
one year, the program grew to 2,000 participants in nine global initiatives,
said Gilberto Garcia, head of innovation at CEMEX, during IBM Connect. There
are 11,000 unique participants in more than 350 active communities who discuss
topics, such as environmental concerns, reducing capital expenditures and
"It was really an experience when this
started to grow virally," said Garcia.
To spur participation, organizations
can use distribution questions and answers; "gamification" and
forecasting, said Brousseau.
"These ideas are not mutually
exclusive," he said. "You can mix and match."
Businesses also must consider
knowledge, diversity and disruption when they seek participants for their
collective intelligence programs, said Brousseau. Diversity is important to
ensure a variety of views and opinions, and companies also need participants to
be disruptive-or willing to challenge the status quo, he added.
Selecting the right awards is
important, too. Financial incentives often attract a wider external audience,
whereas organizations may choose gift cards or office perks to encourage
employee participation, said Brousseau. In some cases, people may join solely
for the sense of engagement, he said.
"There has to be a sense that there's a
mutual benefit and that ideas are going to be acknowledged," said Brousseau.
"Make sure you monitor behavior. People need to have a sense that rudeness and
bad behavior will not be tolerated. Make sure you address the resistance that
is going to be natural within your organization and working with your customers