My SUV in Sayulita, Mexico has been consumed by rust over the years as the salt in the air has taken its toll. It sputters quite a bit, topping out at 45 mph. The floor is full of sand and surf wax is permanently embedded in the dash.
A while back, after a particularly memorable surf session here, I hopped a plane back to the states. I had to give a speech in Vail. When I arrived home to Boulder, the new Audi magazine had come in the mail. I couldn’t help but lust after the RS4. What fun that would be. The next morning as I drove my three-year-old Audi S4 to Vail at 90 mph, I started to feel an uncomfortable spot in the seat. I thought to myself, “This seat is worn out. I don’t want that new RS4. I actually need it!”
The memory crossed my mind this morning while stuck in a traffic jam caused by cows crossing a dirt road on my way to the waves. I laughed. How could I be so happy with my junker here in Mexico and so unhappy with my S4 up in Boulder? I always thought it was because of context, but really it’s because of mindset.
Last week a group of 41 Harvard scholars, CEOs, and director-level managers from open platforms and global companies got together in San Francisco. The gathering was hosted by the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH). The mission? To help organizations shift their mindsets to more easily adopt tools like crowdsourcing. Here are five ideas that surfaced.
1. Take A Soft Approach
Most people are filled with fear when faced with change and a sensitive approach is needed to support them to adopt new ways of working. Karim Lakhani, Professor at Harvard Business School and Founder and Co-Director of LISH shared how old business hierarchies have a tough time with innovators. A common pattern happens. First, the innovator is ignored, then debated and denied, then comes under personal attack, then ultimately fired. “Today it is almost an out-of-body experience for those trying to figure out how to crowdsource,” says Dyan Finkhousen, Managing Director, GENIUSLINK & President, GE Fuse. “We need to ease crowdsourcing into daily operations in a way that is very routine and mainstream.”
2. Get Early Buy-In From Key Players
Educating and getting buy-in from key players is essential to success. Begin conversations early with key people in departments like legal or human resources. Lakhani said LISH was able to complete groundbreaking work at NASA because of support from a NASA lawyer who comprehended the value of crowdsourcing and proselytized it throughout the organization.
3. Simplify Pricing
Provide pricing that makes sense and is packaged clearly and accessibly. Create bundled service packages or a menu of common services requested by others. Varied or hard-to-find pricing can make crowdsourcing confusing. “Simplify the menu and make it approachable,” says Paul Estes, Senior Director, Office 365, Microsoft.
4. Tell Or Do A Relatable Story
Information lands best when told as a story. How will the new tool, in this case crowdsourcing, meaningfully affect a person’s life? Will it save time? Money? Help with productivity? Find and share the stories that feel the most personal. Mission-based companies have an easier time attracting client and media interest by embedding their story into the most basic aspect of their brand, says Ty Montague, CEO of CoCollective. “Your story today is best delivered by doing,” he says.
5. Plan For Bottom-Up Culture Change
Culture change can be easier with a mandate from the CEO, but many organizations are beginning to crowdsource from the bottom-up. Some are hiring people to evangelize crowdsourcing to their teammates. Others are working with integrators—outside companies or internal people who are already set up with the crowdsourcing platforms and can help an organization fit crowdsourcing into its culture and system.
The Good News: These Are Common Problems
Many of these business problems are not specific to crowdsourcing. In the end, says Finkhausen what we are trying to solve for is work. It’s about people and outcomes. As the U.S. economy becomes the gig economy, all of us must learn what Estes calls The Gig Mindset. We have to be doers. Entrepreneurs. Trusting our instincts and becoming more resourceful. More engaged in the actual work. We’ve just got to figure things out. I can’t wait.