Monday, June 25, 2012

Keep Your Ideas Fresh! Adoption & Engagement in Collaborative Systems


Sometimes it’s appropriate to be fresh!  Let’s face it; you periodically refresh your web site and your slide deck template.   

Well, you have to constantly think about your collaborative innovation system and refresh it to an ever changing audience with ever changing interests and needs.

Collaborative innovation systems go through evolutionary stages.  Sometimes the connections are self forming (when we find those with common areas of interest by accident), other times because the administrators of the systems nudge people into useful clusters.  The actual process of collaboration only works if there’s a point to the exercise: a goal; a reason for people to log in and touch bases.

With collaborative systems for innovation, users ask themselves “Why should I visit the site”?  And if there is value to be found there, they’ll show up and jump in.  Perhaps because I know everybody posts their white papers there, or there’s an RSS feed to an industry magazine I like, or maybe I know there‘s a conversation there I find appealing.

Let’s digress for a moment and talk about something most of us are familiar with:  Facebook.  Way back when we all logged in, we tried a bunch of new things.  Facebook administrators responded and kept tweaking the portals’ appearance and functionality based on statistical analysis of usage behavior.  Nowadays a lot of people have peeled away, while others stop by every day to check in with a small cadre of those with common interests.  

So maybe they see what their friends did yesterday or last night.  They see what new pictures people posted.  They comment or engage in a dialogue about a topic.  Then they log off.  Maybe they log in later for the same routine; or maybe they wait until tomorrow.

Once in a while “big news” happens or someone amongst their friends posts something provocative.  Then there’s a flurry of comments, discussions and collateral postings.  Then the topic loses its allure and people settle back into their daily routine.

Collaborative systems for innovation are similar.  First off Corporate Managers worry about adoption and engagement.  This means they think about how to lure users in from on line arenas where they dwell.  So users get a link in an email “Please give me your thoughts on this, click here”!  Or users discover a URL in a private corporate twitter feed with “I just posted a new idea, please give me your comments, click here”.
When they arrive in the collaborative innovation portal, corporate administrators think about how to cluster users.  They use “persuasive guidance” to lure the user’s eye and clicking fingers to where they want the “call to action”.  

Maybe there’s a “team” dedicated to a discipline (e.g. engineers, marketing people click here) or to a topic (e.g. those who want to talk about carbon bonding issues, or Latin American markets click here”).  Or maybe they encourage participation in an activity (e.g. please use our General Idea Box or Click Here to Join our Brainstorm Week!).

Some of these collaborative engagements have used multiple time zones and the discussion morphs as the work week progresses.  Other groups dive into a real time discussion forum where one user poses an acute question requiring a rapid solution and everybody else jumps in.  This is sort of an electronic brainstorming session that just keeps going on.  There easily can be multiple “rooms” with different topics being discussed.

So like Facebook again, users typically log into collaborative innovation systems for one of three reasons:   
  1. They have an idea they want to post and share. 
  2. They want to conduct a search to see what others have posted on a particular topic to help solve a problem….or maybe they’ll ask for help or 
  3. They log in,  driven by curiosity, to see “what’s happening” from amongst team mates they respect, to learn; to add to the discussion, ( and like Facebook) Corporate Administrators have to think about how to make the collaborative innovation environment useful and interesting to support these three activities.  

“Let’s change the layout, the colors, and the team names.   Let’s come up with an exciting interesting challenge.  Let’s open this discussion to a new group of people.  Let’s ask our vendors or our partners, or our customers or the public to join the conversation; to provide input; to give us their ideas.”

The point is:   corporate collaborative innovation systems or Idea Management Systems need to be administered, monitored, analyzed, modified and tweaked on an ongoing bases.

A successful innovation system keeps changing “the point of interest” to make everyday fresh, new and interesting.  A successful collaborative innovation system will work hard to help users satisfy their users’ intellectual curiosity.

As I said earlier, sometimes it’s appropriate to be fresh.

Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation ecosystem.  CogniStreamer serves as a Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for Innovation.  You can learn more about CogniStreamer here http://bit.ly/ac3x60

Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) http://bit.ly/ideamg

CogniStreamer® is a Knowledge Management system, an idea management software tool…in fact a social network dedicated to innovation.  It is an open innovation and collaboration platform where internal colleagues and external partner companies or knowledge centers join forces to create, develop and assess innovative ideas within strategically selected areas. The CogniStreamer® portal is an ideal collaborative platform that invites users to actively build a strong innovation portfolio. In addition it provides a powerful resource for internal and external knowledge sharing.  The CogniStreamer® framework is used by industry leaders such as Atlas Copco, Bekaert, Case New Holland, Cytec, Imec, Phillip Morris, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp. CogniStreamer® represents the best use of adaptive collaborative technology to harness human skill, ingenuity and intelligence.

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