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Getting Beyond Top-Voted Ideas & Harnessing the Collective Wisdom of the Crowd

From blog.ideascale.com

by Suzan Briganti

Crowdsourcing is based on the idea that under certain conditions, crowds can be wiser than experts. Some collection platforms focus solely on ideas that receive the highest number of votes. But do top-rated ideas really capture the full wisdom of the crowd?

What are the collective patterns in crowd ideas? Totem has been analyzing the collective patterns in crowdsourcing campaigns for three years now, and the results are astonishing. Here are some amazing crowd-discovered accomplishments:      

- Crowds identified an innovation “white space” for a global beer conglomerate that had gone undetected – despite millions of dollars of R&D. 
- Crowds have powered a development roadmap for one of the leading tech firms in the world. 
- And crowds are envisioning the strategic plan in 2030 for a major UK university.

However, oftentimes, lists of  top-rated ideas do not capture such collective patterns in crowd campaigns. Nor is the simple post-and-vote approach designed to do so!  These accomplishments didn’t emerge simply by plucking the ideas with the highest votes. What do you do after idea collection? What begins as ideas need refinement so that various stakeholders can understand and evaluate them. Why?

Because crowds express their ideas in a wide variety of forms and degrees of finish. One idea may be stated in a single line of text. Another idea is a mini-business plan. And a third may be submitted as a video. How can you evaluate ideas expressed in such disparate formats? Idea conversion is the key, so that you are evaluating ideas apples-to-apples.

There is an art to expressing an idea this way. Totem has delivered top-scoring, test-ready concepts to diverse clients – concepts that have gone on to impressive market success.

Beyond ideas to crowd insights Ideas are extremely important, but are just part of the innovation process. Where do ideas fit in? An idea typically proposes a solution, but to what problem? There are a few questions that should be asked of every idea:      

- What problem is the idea solving, and for whom? 
- Is the problem widely experienced? 
- Is the problem associated with a mild or intense pain point? 
- Can your organization solve the problem?

Identifying problems worth solving can increase your innovation ROI by up to 50 percent. Why? Because otherwise you can spend millions developing a solution to a problem that is only experienced by a niche market, or that your customers see as “nice to have,” but not worth paying for. We state such problems as “insights.” Crowds have generated fresh insights that can power entire innovation pipelines for years – as new solutions become feasible.

To summarize: Voting is a valuable way to view your crowd ideas, and will remain an important one. But to get the full value from crowdsourcing, you need to harness the crowd’s collective wisdom, convert ideas so they can be evaluated apples-to-apples, and also capture crowd insights.

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