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Embracing Democratic Innovation

20 05 2008

 

In speaking to many clients who are embracing collaborative innovation whole-heartedly, I frequently get clients who mention that they want to allow participants to take part in the evaluation process too. A natural desire in reality – especially in the age of open software development, crowd-sourcing, and  other collaborative efforts going on in the world out there.  

Personally I think it’s a great idea…but maybe not for the corporate environment. You see – whilst for certain topics – especially those of a trivial nature – allowing a crowd to make the decisions as to what’s good for you is fine as there is low risk in low value projects going wrong – however, for more critical projects, I find very few companies are happy to commit themselves to implementing WHATEVER the crowd decides is top rated in a given ideation session.  You see – the risk is simply too big for most people – and whilst the philosophy behind democratic decision making is very commendable – how many people out there are really willing to risk the success of their careers on the decision making capabilities of a mob? Very few I think – in fact I have yet to find one as most clients back off from this idea when faced with the reality of the fact that if you ask people to vote on their favorite ideas, they’ll be expecting you to agree with them and implement the top rated ideas. If you don’t, you end up alienating the audience for future sessions. 

People need to feel like they own decisions that affect them – it’s one of the many reasons the old suggestion box system of old didn’t work – it relied on people being open to ideas they never asked to get and had no interest to implement. By making it the eventual implementors’ job to evaluate the ideas they will eventually implement – you increase their commitment to implement and allow them to have accountability over their actions. Why would you ever want to take away accountability? 

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