3 Tips on Communicating with an Open Innovation Community
Posted by cbonner on June 13, 2012
Communication breakdown, it’s always the same. No matter if it’s a global enterprise or a local Little-League team, communication between the individuals that comprise the whole is paramount to success. When you are producing assets with a global community and hosting scores of Open Innovation challenges to procure those assets, the focus on how you communicate with the individuals competing only intensifies. Whether you are on the TopCoder platform as a client or simply looking to better how well you communicate with your crowds, social fans and contributors, here are three communication tips that will help you get the very most from the individuals who comprise your communities. For the three tips below, it’s important to realize varying contest types will require different approaches, especially when reading tip #3 where the amount of detail you offer in a contest specification will vary greatly between a creative design contest and a software development contest. 1. Be on Time, Every Time If you are hosting competitions or asking your contributors to perform some act for you, you are most likely setting some submission deadline, some date and time that their contributions are due. It is imperative that you then reciprocate this adherence to established deadlines when it is time to perform your duties. What kinds of duties are we talking about?
As an example: In the world of TopCoder there are often milestones, a set date where submissions are reviewed and feedback is given, allowing the competitors to digest the feedback and alter their submissions based on the client feedback. Milestone feedback is due to the competitors within a certain timeframe. If you are asking others to adhere to a strict submission schedule (and in Open Innovation practices, you should be), then you must meet your own deadlines, every single time. It’s a matter of respect for those around the globe who are taking their time to participate in the community and submit their work. If you demand it of them, demand it of yourself. 2. You Must be Honest It does no member of a community any good to be dis-honest or less than honest. If a particular submission is simply not that strong and you are looking to offer that individual feedback, don’t be afraid to be honest. You can do this without being offensive or rude and in a way that is truly constructive for the individual submitter. Why does this matter? Inside a competitive community, those competing are often working on something they’d like to master or get much better at. Sometimes people enter competitions because they want practice, they are striving to gain a new skill and improve themselves. That kind of community behavior should always be supported, and the best way to do so is to offer them honest advice, while politely laying out ways the individual can seek to improve or hone their skill. At TopCoder, we have witnessed coders, algorithmists and designers go from very humble beginnings, work hard, listen and apply feedback, compete often and emerge as a consistently strong competitor.
That individual progression happens when the individual understands what to improve, and that is a consequence of honest communication. 3. Give Detail Without MicroManaging Creativity When you are setting up a new competition it is crucial to give guidance as to what you are hoping to see in their submissions. Often, our clients will provide a reference to an existing asset to further the point. However, be careful not to take this exercise too far. If you offer too much detail you can stifle creativity and lose would be competitors who most likely would have submitted quality, innovative work. Remember, you like what you like because you’ve encountered it and though it may be a great solution – like an intuitive UI experience – you should leave room, and even expect to be surprised. There are over 410,000 members in the TopCoder community spanning more than 220 countries. That adds up to a whole lot of cultures and experiences and preferences you most likely have not encountered yet. When you create your contests, give direction, shed some light on your preferences, but don’t attempt to micromanage creativity. Instead, when it comes to the details, be purposefully vague, allow your community to ask the questions they want to ask and encourage them through communications to bring their unique experiences to the solution. You will end up with a greater variety of solutions and maybe even a few submissions that completely blow you away.
Communication breakdown, it’s always the same. No matter if it’s a global enterprise or a local Little-League team, communication between the individuals that comprise the whole is paramount to success. When you are producing assets with a global community and hosting scores of Open Innovation challenges to procure those assets, the focus on how you communicate with the individuals competing only intensifies.
Here are three tips on communicating with an open innovation community:
1. Be on Time, Every Time;
2. You Must be Honest; and
3. Give Detail Without Micro-Managing Creativity.