A Look at Crowdopolis: Stephen Shapiro on Innovation & Problem Solving

During the last few years, crowdsourcing has gained both its proponents and its critics. To weed out the good from the bad, the folks at DailyCrowdsource.com are hosting their one-day event, Crowdopolis, on July 19, 2012. They were kind enough to connect ReveNews with several speakers from the event. Today’s Q&A comes from Stephen Shapiro, an Innovation Consultant and author of Personality Poker.

1. What’s the biggest innovation leap forward (i.e., the company that got it right) you’ve seen in the last 10 years?

Over the past 10 years, the emergence of open innovation and crowdsourcing has been the biggest leap forward. Companies like InnoCentive were formed a decade ago and since then the concept has grown in popularity.  However, most companies still pay lip service to openness and few really take advantage of its full potential. Therefore, the overall impact has not been as great as it could be. And just because a technology (e.g., crowdsourcing) exists does not mean it will be useful.  For anything to provide real value, you need to address the cultural and structural issues first, and ensure you are using an efficient process.

2. What’s the most common issue that gets in the way of people and companies solving their problems?

Too many companies have been using crowdsourcing as a modern day suggestion box. This is wildly inefficient. In order to be better at solving problems, you need to apply the “Goldilocks Principle” to the definition of your challenges. You don’t want to ask broad, abstract and fluffy questions, because the result will be a large quantity of poor quality answers. On the other hand, you don’t want to be so specific that the questions you ask imply a particular domain of expertise, a particular solution, or a particular way of thinking about the problem. You need to define the challenges “just right.”

3. You’ve talked about designing to handle the exception. How can companies make the switch from thinking that the goal is to treat everyone/thing equally versus improving efficiency?

The concept of segmentation is obviously not new. We know we can’t treat all customers the same. My point is that although you want to be able to handle every situation that might occur, you don’t want the exception to drive the design of your most common activities. An insurance company once processed all claims processing the same, being handled by a high paid expert. But they realized that nearly all of the claims were incredibly easy and could be handled by a low-paid generalist. Just by assuming all claims were easy, they cut wait times and costs massively. And when a specialist was truly needed, they were now available to provide the best service possible for the most complex claims. Treating everyone the same should never be the goal. When things get boiled to the lowest common denominator, most people (customers, employees, vendors, etc.) suffer.

4. Why should someone attend Crowdopolis?

When done properly, I’m convinced that crowdsourcing can massively accelerate the way you innovate. Unfortunately, too many organizations have not used this powerful tool properly. Crowdopolis will be an incredible sharing of what works – and more importantly what doesn’t work – when using crowdsourcing and open innovation.

About Britt Raybould

Britt Raybould has a passion for telling stories and she specializes in helping companies figure out how to tell their own stories. Through her firm, Write Bold, she shows companies how storytelling can define them, both to their customers and within their industry. When she remembers to, Britt blogs on her personal sites at bold-words.com and brittraybould.com. You can find Britt on Twitter @britter.

Twitter: britter

One Response to A Look at Crowdopolis: Stephen Shapiro on Innovation & Problem Solving

  1. Very neat.  Looking forward to it.