Getting feedback, looking for new ideas and ways to improve product and service offering can be traced back in time to town squares and bazaars where people would meet to exchange goods and try to learn through observation. A lot changed in the last century to help people make better connections and work with people in remote regions as new systems were developed and customers were encouraged to mail in their comments or participate in phone surveys.
Nowadays there is a whole new paradigm as many employees and customers actually want to actively have a real voice to share creatives ideas and disrupt industries without taking to the streets or mailing in feedback. This new group is called “Generation C” (Gen C), also known as the YouTube Generation. 65% of Gen C are is under 35 years of age with an intense desire to share, express and connect. They are trendsetters but also work as a group to make decisions. They can become brand ambassadors and provide the innovative insight organizations are looking for.
We are living in incredible times, constantly bombarded by great new content from ever increasing sources vying for our attention. But Gen C is not your traditional generation, they are mavens ready to influence, communicate and interact. They want their voice heard yet very few organizations are taking advantage of the amazing advice and feedback they can provide.
It has also become a lot easier to Crowdsource for ideas. There are effective systems that make it simple to engage, identify and select from external sources. Companies can work with their customer, partners and suppliers or reach out to the community at large.
Many medium size businesses are missing out by not making the right investments to drive a sustainable culture of innovation which fuels consistent growth. Now more than ever before investment in innovation should be a one of the top strategic projects organizations look to fund so that they can also tap into Gen C”s creativity and passion for collaboration, which makes such investments instant winners.
Understandably, smaller companies often times lack the resources or the means to take on such an activity but this is a massive missed opportunity for businesses between $50M to $1B revenue who should make the investment when you consider the incredible insight the Gen C is ready to provide and the rewards they would reap as a result of such an initiative.
Some larger organizations especially in verticals such as Technology and Engineering have made some strides and understand the importance of reaching out to the Gen C externally through crowdsourcing and internally to drive better employee engagement. Interestingly, these organizations are also trying to restructure themselves and operate certain teams as small to medium size businesses to drive innovation. When you look at the challenges some of these large companies have launched and the great ideas they received from the Gen C the financial impact is astounding. Companies such as Google, P&G, PepsiCo, Starbucks and Verizon have reported extraordinary ROI from these projects.
Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award is a great example of a purposeful and successful crowdsourcing challenge that has resulted in great ROI.
It is important to highlight that these challenges often times can also lead to great marketing campaigns. The publicity and social impact can be spectacular. Setting aside the impressive donations it received, who will ever forget the “Bucket Challenge” and what it did to raise awareness for ALS. Medium sized organizations, have the opportunity to leverage Gen C to discover new disruptive ideas and shape their future.
I have worked with many medium size businesses for the last 20 years and unfortunately many of them are missing out. Invariably, the lion’s share of the company’s resources are placed on keeping the light on activities and at best looking for incremental ideas to achieve growth. But competition is fierce, there is only so much efficiency you can gain by implementing systems to become leaner and everyone is fighting for the same M&A deals. You need to look for real growth opportunities through meaningful innovation and there is a new generation out there ready to help you do just that.
A small group of smart individuals can only do so much. You can achieve so much more and on an ongoing basis if you embrace a more collaborative approach to innovation. This is where employee engagement should take center stage. As companies continue to operate in the Cloud and with a dispersed workforce you need to make sure you are reaching out and capturing the best ideas as you engage your workforce, your partners and your customers.
How should you get started? Keep it simple and identify a single organizational-wide or functional challenge that you can take to the internal or external community and start with a small project that a single executive sponsor can champion to reach out to the Generation C for ideas. Look at your results and then keep iterating with more challenges, more groups and more participants. I am sure you will not be disappointed. The initiative will be positive from several different aspects including enhancing internal company culture, increasing market awareness and brand visibility, as well as the great value the thought process and introspection will provide, not to mention the breakthrough ideas you may be able to uncover along the way.
Launching the right challenge with the right partner will often times cost a small fraction of your R&D, IT or Marketing budget. Generation C workers in your company and community are ready to get inspired and share their insight. What are you waiting for?
“Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant. There is fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.” ~Johann Gottfried Von Herder