Innovation idea sharing

Crisis Innovations: Idea-sharing at its Finest

In its latest report, Human Capital Practices that Drive Innovation, i4cp looked at a number of practices that are correlated to effective innovation and market performance, and none of those practices were more correlated to both than "Uses technology-enabled collaboration/social media tools to share knowledge."

With a .28(**) correlation to MPI, and a .44(**) correlation to breakthrough innovation, there is striking evidence that in order to create valuable new ideas you must be able to take advantage of collective intelligence. In other words, to be effective in this area, organizations need quantity ideas from diverse sources. This may seem like common sense, but there is a secondary benefit to having a central repository for idea-sharing that becomes obvious when disaster strikes.

This other benefit of having a tech-enabled communication platform for idea sharing goes back to the core concept of why innovation is so important in the first place: change. Being innovative means you can adapt, you can adjust, you can transform products and, critically, you can transform the very way you do business. That ability to adapt to a rapidly-changing situation is never more important than in times of crisis.

This is one of the ancillary benefits of having a ready-made platform for idea sharing—it can be adapted for whatever the situation calls for. I spoke recently with Michael Muller, Research Scientist at IBM, and he relayed a story from IBM that occurred during the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March/April of 2011.

"Shortly after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear problems that hit Japan, three IBMers (managers but not executives) got together and said we should hold a Jam." They didn't have a specific number of people in mind, they just went to their mailing list and they simply asked people to join the community. Michael continues, "They began with core questions: how do we plan for disasters like this; how do we meet the most immediate needs; what technologies would help?" This was an entirely voluntary effort on their part—no one was paid to do this, nor was this on anyone's time. They had about 1,200 people join, and 275 different participants made at least one contribution (of course, total contributions were much more than that). As Michael points out, "It only takes the time needed to read and write, so the cost of participating is very low, but it does a lot of good."

This was a chance for people to do real good, with little investment of time and money, and it was important—all built around the social networking and sharing portals that IBM developed to foster innovation. Even the government of Japan became involved, as this became valuable information to them.

There are some aspects of our work that have no impact on our outside-of-work life, and vice-versa, but having a conduit for quick, effective and diverse communication is a system that can benefit people in any situation.

For more information on the specifics and statistics from IBM's disaster response initiative mentioned above, you can read "Brainstorming for Japan" by Michael Muller and Sacha Chua, published at the CHI 2012 (Computer Human Interaction) conference.