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Is a suggestion scheme crowdsourcing?

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Crowdsourcing is undoubtedly one of those hot topics at the moment, with a seemingly endless supply of projects and initiatives aiming to tap into a wider cross-section of people.  This is predominantly done with external communities, but there are also numerous examples of it at work inside the organization, with things such as IBM’s Idea Jams a prime example.

As a former resident of the London borough of Lewisham, it was interesting therefore to read about their attempts to save £95 million over the next four years via an internal crowdsourcing project.  This will be achieved by tapping into their 3,000 strong workforce for suggestions and ideas.

This solicitation will occur on a new software platform designed by Wazoku, with the boroughs boss Barry Quirk suggesting that the importance of the issue is why they’ve gone down this route.

“To say that finding such cost savings will be a major challenge is an understatement and to achieve such demanding financial targets we will need innovative and game-changing ideas from all our staff,” he said.

“But in reducing costs we also have the opportunity to be more productive in how we work and build a better borough for the next decade. Innovative ideas can come from anywhere within an organisation and it is for precisely this reason that we are using this tool.”

“We will involve our staff in the change process and give them some ownership of those changes too.” he continued.

Whilst I’m nominally speaking in support of attempts to engage an entire organization in operational and strategic matters, I do have to wonder whether special software is really required to do this in this instance.  Investing in dedicated software will inevitably open up accusations that not spending money on that would have been a good way to save money.

I mentioned in the 8 Step Guide to Building a Social Workplace a few low tech ways that you can help build an environment that encourages people both to help one another out and also to air their views on a range of issues.  There are many cultural aspects that underpin sharing knowledge and taking a collective approach to the operation of an organization that a piece of software won’t solve.

Hopefully Lewisham council will have taken these into account before they invested in the Wazoku platform to ensure that they’re not falling foul of investing in the latest buzzword without really getting the principles behind it.

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