Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How Companies are Using IT to Spot Innovative Ideas

          In today’s market, companies have to constantly be on the lookout for new innovation opportunities to have a competitive advantage over others and to be the first choice among customers.  Companies have now turned to collective decision-making technologies to help them sort through ideas for new products, customer service, and productivity improvements.  These innovative technologies include prediction markets and voting tools where people can post new features and options that might be beneficial to the company.  An example of this technology can be seen through GE Research’s experiment where it turned 85 employees into day traders.  The traders had to buy and sell stock, but the stock was product ideas that the company could create.  GE held $50,000 in research funding to put towards the highest-valued stock.
        I believe that collective decision-making tools are a great way to create innovation and should be used by every company.  These tools can only help a business grow by obtaining feedback, advice, and new ideas of what to pursue in the future.  There are two different types of collective decision making technologies discussed in this article.  The first are the prediction markets, where the employees trade stock that represents ideas to see which stock is ultimately the most valuable.  This approach works because there is virtual money on the line that employees won’t want to lose, so they will pay close attention to each idea and put thought into each exchange.  The second is vote-counting where the company can see how popular certain ideas are.  This process is very simple; therefore it can be distributed throughout the entire company along with the general public.  Although these are two different ways to collect input, I believe both have something important to offer and should both be implemented in companies on a regular basis to keep innovations flowing.
          Although there has been a rising interest in this innovative technology, these tools are not yet conventional throughout every business.  One part of this reason is because prediction markets are seen to be a “leap of faith.” Jonathan Reichental, director of IT innovations for PricewaterhouseCoopers says, “Predictive markets use a science that is not intuitive from the start.”  It is also said that no one has published how much money these markets wind up saving or making companies in the long run.  Another issue is that people with higher positions in their companies are skeptical to trust the results from these markets.  The technology itself takes time to learn, the employees who participate need to be rewarded, and someone needs to supervise the process
        These collective decision-making technologies do have their faults, just like many other business tools; however, a majority of these faults can be fixed. For example, early adopters had executive sponsorship to validate these markets and rewards were taken care of by online recognition or distribution of trophies.  The technology is worth being implemented in all companies for fresh ideas from all different types of people.  There may be thousands of postings on new ideas or suggestions and although not all of them will be useful, a couple hundred will be taken into consideration or spark relative ideas.  A small percentage may even become total game changers for particular companies.  The process takes about ten minutes, one visit per day and so far employees have been very successful with fitting it into their schedule.  This innovative technology should be adopted by all companies because once it is set up and managed, it is a simple tool that can generate all sorts of feedback, predictions, advice, and invention to further develop productivity and efficiency.

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