It's not the size of your open innovation community, it's how you engage it

Rob Wilmot

Rob Wilmot
Founder & CEO

Posted by Rob Wilmot in Tips and Guides on 2 May 2017

As part of the recent Leeds Digital Festival, I gave at talk at on the Democratisation of Innovation at the Open Data Institute- Leeds Node (alongside Paul Connell of the ODI and Alex Craven of Bloom). The theme was how open innovation can be used as an effective tool to help governments and local authorities engage and involve citizens in the process of social and economic policy creation.

I was asked a very obvious question - which only became obvious to me at that moment. No one has ever asked me this questions at any of my talks before. It goes like this “What’s the lowest number of people where using an idea management tool starts to become ineffective and returns rapidly diminish”.

Here’s the answer I gave:

“By rule of thumb, the more people you invite into your community to address a challenge, the more ideas and interactions with those ideas you’re likely to get. And, especially when looking to get ideas and validation of those ideas to inform public policy creation, it’s better to have more contributors than less, as well as the broadest constituency of contributors, representing the broadest demographic. The more people who participate in the process of creating and selecting ideas, the greater the certainty that the outputs will translate into relevant and useful public policy.”

On the drive home it struck me that though I’d given an answer and the answer was useful in opening up a further debate, I hadn’t actually answered the specific question “What is the lowest number of people where using an idea management tool starts to become ineffective and returns rapidly diminish.”

When I arrived at the office this morning I asked Marie Peach, one of our account team the question from the night before. If anyone would have the answer it would be Marie as she spends most of her day helping customers to get the best out of using Crowdicity.

Here’s Marie’s answer:

Successful engagement for any size group is down to 3 things: the right audience; the tone and presentation of the brief – (is the objective clear?); and the incentive for the users to give up their precious time.

If a community gets those 3 things right, the size of a group is almost irrelevant, although less than 20 may be a struggle long term, simply because of a member’s daily commitments creating a barrier to engagement.

The Garage Group regularly run small internal focus groups using Crowdicity, for brands such as Kellogg’s and Pepsi. Members are given a specific time and response limitations, with a variety of challenges being run in an online workshop-style environment.

Each time they have achieved record levels of engagement with small groups of only 20 or 30. Here is how they succeed: the challenge briefs are simple and accessible, and allow a well-chosen target audience to find their areas of interest that include clear incentives; either prizes or the reward of seeing their winning idea take shape. The result is a busy insight crowd, who are not only full of ideas but excited to support and discuss each other’s concepts.

We have also seen the same clear focus and high engagement in long-running challenges, in 5000 user plus systems, which implies that the size of the group is less important than the technique of community management.

When the environment is right and the topic is one that interests the target group, a couple of dozen people will do just fine. From there you can scale up the crowd as far as you see fit!

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