The new book Empowered highlights the benefits of empowering HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives) within the workforce. As we approach our first-ever CIO Forum in October, I’m looking around for great examples of how governments are using social technologies to empower employees to serve empowered citizens.
When I think of government IT projects, I often think of multimillion-dollar projects lasting years before going live. But it doesn’t always have to be that way, as the following example illustrates.
Peter Koht is a HERO working for the City of Santa Cruz Redevelopment Office. In 2009, the city was facing its worst budget crisis (a problem familiar to many city officials). Running out of options, the city had already shut down civic services such as the community pool, museums, and a family resource center when it faced up to the reality that the people of the city needed to be involved in the decisions about what services to cut. Unfortunately, the voices too often heard at civic meetings were representatives of the extreme viewpoints at either end of the political spectrum. In an effort to collect more ideas from the silent majority, Peter suggested the city could tap into social media to connect with its citizens. Lacking any kind of budget or resources, Peter had to rely on the help of three volunteers to get a community site up and running in a week.
As I said in my last blog post, we're looking for feedback on the questions we're asking about thought leadership in the technology industry. At the same time, we realized that it has been a while since we held an open house in Forrester's Foster City office. (If you're not aware, we did a few informal sessions for product managers and product marketers, to give people in that role an opportunity to talk amongst themselves about topics of interest, sprinkled with whatever useful information an analyst like myself can provide.) Suddenly, a spark leaped across the two neurons carrying these separate ideas.
Two recent articles from The New York Times illustrate why, for innovation to work, you need to keep updating your playbook.
Serious Games And Biochemical Research
When a team of researchers at the University of Washington wanted to unlock the puzzle of protein folding – a complex process that moves faster than we can observe – they decided to crowdsource the investigation. The team posed the question as a serious game, a medium that sometimes produces better answers than what people normally envision as the process of crowdsourcing.
Instead of just throwing out the question (How do our bodies build these proteins?) to an anonymous audience that may or may not have been motivated to answer it, the researchers built a game, Foldit, that simulated the protein-building process. The motivations were no different than any game: the satisfaction of beating the game at some level; the score that both rewards you for your current level of accomplishment and dares you to do better; the public standings that inject another level of competition beyond beating your last score. Humans can be very competitive creatures, even when the only rewards are intangible, which is why certain types of serious games often stimulate more participation than other approaches to a problem. (Check out the book Drive by Daniel Pink for one explanation of this behavior.)
In a prior post, I told you that 83% of companies use social media, but fewer than half of those have product teams that are currently using social media to influence product design, creation, or strategy. In that report, I also divulge that 72% of consumer product strategy (CPS) professionals claim that social media will enhance their existing capabilities of using customer input to shape product strategy. I've also posted about how social co-creation is an important opportunity for consumer product strategy (CPS) professionals -- and it's something that some, but not all, of those companies who are active with social media use. For those CPS pros who are not actively engaging in social co-creation, a common question is, "Do consumers want to co-create? And will they want to co-create with me?"
As many readers know, I have a strong interest in understanding the practical realities of innovation and want to help companies define what that "buzzword" means -- what it is, who manages it, and why it's important (see my just-published report on the ecosystem of innovation services providers).
I believe Sourcing and Vendor Management (SVM) can and should play a critical role in the innovation process. However, my biggest disappointment when I speak to many technology vendors, IT professionals, and business users is when they tell me that they avoid working with SVM when purchasing (or in the cases of vendors, selling) a new technology. Fairly or unfairly, they see SVM's involvement as a bureaucratic stumbling block that will stifle their ability to move quickly or pick the technology vendor they want. For these people, SVM acts as a barrier, not an enabler, of innovation.
Rollin Ford has one of the toughest CIO jobs on the planet. He leads a global IT team in one of the world’s largest companies by revenue and employees, a company that has earned a reputation for leadership in supply chain that has allowed it to dominate its markets. Yet Wal-Mart is constantly under pressure to maintain its leadership position. In the US, Target has become a fierce competitor, while in the UK, Tesco may have overtaken Wal-Mart in supply-chain leadership, with Tesco's move into the US watched closely by Wal-Mart.
Earlier this year, Ford sat on a CIO panel discussing IT’s role in innovation. His thoughts on innovation also touched on strategy and alignment. He suggested that innovation starts with the customer, then leads into a business strategy, and then it gets enabled by technology. However, he acknowledges, “there are very few secrets out there.” Ford suggests that the only competitive advantage over time is the speed at which your organization can implement and leverage innovative ideas: “Your organization has to embrace change and new technologies, and that becomes your model. It’s about getting from A to B and doing it quicker than everybody else.”