A while back, I had an interesting tweet exchange in which we touched on the topic of democracy versus control in open innovation and crowdsourcing.
You can argue that you should just follow the flow and set things free. There are so many people out there and we all know that 99,99% of the best people does NOT work for your company. If you can set such a force free, then you have a ton of ideas that you can tap into. Democracy or – perhaps even autonomy – rules!
But wait a minute! This will turn into chaos. Companies need to set a direction and they should design their activities around this direction. The main reason for this is that any company that is doing OK with regards to innovation has plenty of options. They can find enough ideas and projects – internally and/or externally – to feed their innovation intent.
Their key challenge is to set a proper direction and get the right external resources to join forces with the internal resources. Control is more important than just letting things flow freely!
I don’t really believe that you need to choose one of the two although I am leaning more towards control than democracy. You need to strike the right balance that fit the context of your situation. Overall, I will argue that control is the more important (definitely for innovation teams in big companies), but there are also situations in which you should just let things go and let the crowd decide.
As a final note, I can mention that when I advise on networks and communities, one of my key points is that you should let things go wild and free for a shorter period of time. Any successful community is build on the interests of the users; not the initiators. If the initiators act as owners, then you will not get the true commitment that you often seek in such initiatives. On the other hand, you will also have to set a direction – perhaps after 6 months – in order to reap the business potential of the initiatives.
What do you think of this?