Serendipity is one of the most powerful forces in innovation. There are so many great product ideas or sales opportunities that emerge through the power of random chance. However, COVID-19 has radically altered the workplace.
According to research, serendipitous encounters play a central role in the development of new collaborative partnerships that are crucial for corporate innovation. These unplanned interactions between employees or employees and customers, depend on us working in close proximity to each other.
With so many employees working remotely – and the remote work itself becoming a permanent fixture, not a temporary fix – how is the occurrence of serendipitous encounters to be preserved? How can you occasionally “bump” into someone in your office when all your meetings are scheduled in advance on Zoom?
Technology, of course, can help. Two promising approaches could be considered:
Creating a virtual reality office which employees could “visit” via realistic, high-quality avatars. Spatial, a NYC-based startup, allows its clients to share a virtual room using just a web link so that users can enter it with a web browser and even without a special headset.
Another option could be enterprise-wide adoption of networking apps allowing random matching of the firms’ employees.
Firms should also not neglect a time-tested approach that by its very nature is designed to let large groups of people innovate together - crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing is a process of assigning internal jobs to external crowds of people in the form of an open call. Over the past 10 years, numerous organizations – including corporations, governmental agencies, and nonprofits – have adopted crowdsourcing as an open innovation tool to help them address their most pressing business challenges.
At times of uncertainty, crowdsourcing becomes an indispensable ideation tool allowing firms to define the contours of their “next normal.” Different crowdsourcing approaches could be chosen depending on a specific corporate goal:
External crowdsourcing can be used to spot the so-called weak signals, early signs of shifting customer demand and newly emerging consumer needs. Later, these weak signals can serve as input to scenario planning, a disciplined process of the creation of flexible long-term plans.
Internal crowdsourcing, an approach to engaging the “internal crowd” of the firm’s own employees, has been proven effective in finding new ways of optimizing operations and cutting costs. Many firms can also benefit from internal crowdsourcing to perfect their remote work processes.
Talk to Change Logic if you want to leverage crowdsourcing to ideate for “next normal” in your organization.
Read More Articles in our COVID-19 Series