Mat Fogarty is the Founder and CEO of Crowdcast, a leading provider of collective intelligence and prediction market solutions. You can read more of Mat’s posts on the Crowdcastblog or follow @crowdcastinc.
This article appeared on MASHABLE.com on March 6, 2010.
Collaboration and crowdsourcing are the realities of today’s public Internet, and the trend is now gaining real traction in the workplace. Smart companies increasingly understand that their richest source of insight, ideas, data, and information is within their own employees. They are the ones whose talent, work, and daily interactions with the product make the business what it is.
Just as so many of us look to the Yelp community to figure out where to make our dinner reservations, companies are increasingly looking to the employee crowd for the knowledge and insight to make better business decisions.
Enterprise Social Networks
“If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive.” – Lew Platt, Former CEO of HP
As the social enterprise builds momentum, the big question is: How will companies effectively tap the employee crowd to become more productive?
Enterprise social networks arm companies with social media functionality, allowing them to collaborate with their employees around up-to-the-minute information. Late last year, Salesforce stirred up some buzz around enterprise social networking with the announcement of its Chatter Collaboration Platform. Currently in beta, Chatter aims to bring together elements of Facebook, Twitter and other real-time services. By integrating profiles, feeds and groups across its platform, Salesforce offers its end users the same functionality they already use to share ideas and information on public social networks.
While social networking functionality excels at connecting teams around projects, information, and qualitative data, it falls short in its ability to drive quantitative, actionable insights — the holy grail for project managers and enterprise forecasting groups.
Prediction markets are all about tapping the crowd to source hard, unbiased quantitative metrics about the future of projects and business initiatives. A prediction market works like a stock market of sorts, allowing employees to anonymously place “bets” on key forecasts: When will the product really ship? How much will we sell in Q1? Will our competitor enter the market in 2010? And so forth.
Business leaders rely on metrics and data to inform decisions around new products and opportunities, but traditional forecasting methods suffer from bias and lack of first-hand information. That’s why business forecasting is an ideal target for the application of crowd wisdom. While bets are made anonymously, some prediction market software applications have built-in reward systems for accurate forecasters. And the accuracy of prediction markets over traditional forecasting methods is proven again and again.
Crowdsourcing the Next Big Idea
There’s a good chance that a company’s next big idea could be hidden within the people who are most engaged with its product and brand. More companies are turning to the crowd for ideas on all aspects of their business by creating online public forums. In 2008, Starbucks launched a major initiative to enhance their services with a website called My Starbucks Idea that polls members on decisions that would most directly impact them.
This kind of innovation sourcing applies to the enterprise as well. Companies likeBrightidea and InnoCentive are helping their customers tap resources to inspire, gather, and manage ideas and innovation from within their employee ranks.
As collaborative technologies gain traction, the future of enterprise will include internal social networks, prediction markets, and idea management platforms. In this vision, social networks will be the default location for a collaborative employee community. Think of it as a wide and deep pool of employee knowledge and ideas.
Prediction markets will then aggregate this knowledge to produce actionable, people-powered forecasts. The result is an ultra-rich information source that will lay the foundation for smarter, better-informed company decisions. We are already seeing the first movement towards this integrated vision with products like 12sprints from SAP.
The ability to manage and profit from employee knowledge through social networks, idea funnels, and prediction markets will be the defining competitive advantage for this decade. Employees will have a voice and enterprises will truly leverage their most valuable assets.