3 Crowdsourcing Success Stories That Prove the Value of Ideas

group of creative business people in an open concept office brainstorming

A winning idea can come from any department and any consumer demographic—and it can have massive results.                                                          

Carter Liebscher|
September 16, 2019

We’ve said it once—maybe more than once—but we’ll say it again: Great ideas often come from unexpected places.

It’s a narrative we’re all familiar with. Corporate wants to introduce a new product or service, but the pool of viable ideas is shallow. In comes an employee, perhaps from a department other than R&D, and presents a winning idea. Management is ecstatic, but it’s also kicking itself for not thinking of it earlier.

This scenario is no cause for shame, however. That idea could only have come from that employee, their position in the organization and their unique personal experiences. Companies with high hopes for their innovation programs must engage and evaluate ideas from every department. Isolation is an innovation killer.

Since 2000, 52% of Fortune 500 companies have disappeared as a result of lackluster innovation programs and industry disruption. Your company, whether you’re a Fortune 500 or an employee-led startup, can’t afford to become part of that statistic. With disruption affecting every industry, especially tech, health, and law, the time to increase your agility is now.

Read these three crowdsourcing stories—instances where companies avoided disruption and became the disruptor by tapping into employee and consumer knowledge—and learn how your organization can also become a force to be reckoned with.

Amazon Prime: How One Engineer’s Own Online Buying Habits Inspired the Future of Online Retail

Sometimes crowdsourcing is done out of curiosity. In this case, it was borne from necessity.

Before Amazon became the online retail giant it is today, it had its fair share of issues. As it was falling behind in pure revenue and inventory to other retailers, most notably eBay, Amazon was drawing the ire of the media and shoppers alike. It endured a publicized lawsuit with Toys ‘R’ Us regarding a broken exclusivity deal, and its website suffered frequent outages during times of high traffic. Wanting to bolster its name, the company started brainstorming a new shipping service.

Enter Charlie Ward, the company’s then-principal engineer. He’s a self-acclaimed “one-click addict,” a title that describes his desire to simplify processes for both the company and the consumer. That core principle served as the impetus for Amazon’s biggest venture, Amazon Prime.

In a meeting with other colleagues, Ward off-handedly suggested that customers pay a set price at the top of the year get free two-day shipping for the rest. It seemed outlandish at first, but after getting founder Jeff Bezos’ backing on it, the Prime project was a go.

Today, it’s a service that no other online retailer can rival. As of 2019, there are over 100 million Prime members, generating the company a net of $3.6 billion in Q1 of this year alone. These are tangible, big-ticket results that prove interesting ideas deserve recognition and action.

Patient-Provider Collaboration: Dr. Lisa Sanders’ New York Times “Diagnosis” Column

Googling your symptoms isn’t the best idea. What really is a common cold turns into a terminal illness after reading a couple forums. But when your primary physician and the specialists they send you don’t know what’s ailing you, the internet may be the only place left to go.

Like other doctors, Dr. Lisa Sanders has some reservations about online self-diagnosis. However, she also believes that the mass of information available to patients, both from peer-reviewed sources and from other patients, can be beneficial—and finally lead to diagnoses eluding doctors.

In the early 2000s, Dr. Sanders created a column for the New York Times entitled “Diagnosis,” where she would recall her other doctor friends’ and her own experiences with uncommon, confounding conditions. After coming across a story of another doctor asking readers of their blog to help root the cause of strange fevers, Dr. Sanders decided to open up her own column to reader suggestions. 

She collected a number of unsolved medical cases and asked her readers to chime in with their educated guesses or firsthand experiences. She received thousands of tips from around the world. Some of the knowledge shared was from others in the medical community; some of it was from others with similar experiences. In one case, a mother connected her son’s undiagnosed symptoms with a stranger’s, providing health professionals with a valuable jumping-off point for research.

In health care, crowdsourcing knowledge could save patients’ lives while saving resources for other programs in need. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that heart disease and stroke cost the U.S. over $316 billion in care costs and lost productivity. With so much on the line, why wouldn’t health care providers reach out to the greatest number of people for help? 

Casetext: Freeing Up Lawyers’ Time

For any lawyer, prepping a case requires days, weeks, months of research. Reading through related cases and organizing citations are integral steps, but they can also be a slog.

Jake Heller realized these issues on his own path in law. Just like many of his fellow digital natives, Heller is inclined to use technology to intellectually fund both work projects and personal ones. The technology available in the industry, though, was cumbersome. A number of companies put together vast case databases, but at a high price and a hard-to-use interface.

Inspired by the dissemination of information elsewhere on the internet, Heller created Casetext, a case database with a cheap price and clean interface. It also included a community section, where users could comment and blog their connections, opinions, and ideas.

Since being founded in 2013, Casetext has amassed at least 50,000 monthly users that read and annotate cases. It’s a tool that the industry had a long time coming—a disruptive tool, in other words.

What You Can Learn from These Success Stories

Crowdsourcing is more than a buzzy business practice good in small doses. Making it the rule rather than the exception can result in massive results.

Our clients have had their own share of crowdsourcing success stories thanks to Ideawake’s idea management software. Aurora Health Care, Wisconsin’s largest employer, partnered with Ideawake to source ideas from their 35,000 caregivers to the forefront of their organization.

If you want to learn how your organization can collect and put into action your employees’ ideas, read these case studies and take your organization to the next level.

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