Crowd-sourcing as internal communication tool

Smart mobs, crowd-sourcing, citizen journalism –have you noticed how these waves of outside influence keep crashing on our shores?

Howard Rheingold, in Smart Mobs, uses a powerful analogy of human intelligence and computers. If you consider thousands of computers in a building as heaters running at full capacity, he says, only a small part of the heat generated is being used to warm the building. The rest of the energy leaks outside. It could easily be distriuted to other parts of the enterprise.

Now consider the ‘leakage’ of intellectual capital in your office every day. Employees arrive at the workplace, power-up, and are left to run, but vast amounts of  knowledge and ideas are untapped. The occasional survey, the large meetings where no one wants to raise their hand only scratch the surface.

Crowd-sourcing (despite books like this on the future of business) as a driver of big ideas, or as an  internal communications / HR function has not taken off. When it has been attempted –in a controlled environment such as focus groups — the costs and time involved make it a very expensive nice-to-have.

So how do you connect the internal circuits of your human resource that occupy the building? I’ve come across voting tools, idea-generation apps and feedback systems. Here are a three:

  • IdeaScale – for community-level conversation tracking
  • ConceptShare – for teams of designers and Creatives to collaborate and generate ideas
  • GetSatisfaction -a tool for customers and employees to gather ‘social knowledge’

Feedback widgets are here –and coming soon to a mobile device near you. Many of them only go so far. Some experts even warn of getting entangled in intellectual property problems. But the big hurdle to consider is motivation. Engagement goes hand in hand with incentives -the old WIFM concept.

My client, Arizona-based GreenNurture has takes the concept of feedback and employee engagement further. Deeper! 

Here’s how it works: In a company that wants to deploy a sustainability program, employees login to a social media-like app, come up with ideas, start comment or conversation threads, make pledges and vote on each others ideas. When hundreds of them start talking to each other, some idea gets refined, tossed out or voted up. The cream rises to the top, so to speak. There’s more granular information, including an assessment tool, deep reports etc –making sure no ‘heat’ is lost.

If you are interested, check the demo here!

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