More participation everywhere
Technological innovations of the 21st century have enabled a major trend: participation. Social media and real-time communication technologies have created the basis for broad interaction of diverse people from all over the world. Consumers not only consume, but co-communicate, comment, and co-develop eagerly. Citizens no longer wait for governments to shape their environments but start their own petitions and initiatives. Organizations have begun to use this trend to advantage by harnessing the power of crowds. While innovation contests or joint brand communication have become popular, the inclusion of crowds in the strategy process is less common. Examples of Open Strategy show that companies have begun to apply a variety of practices to engage a broad spectrum of actors. Some recent implementations include blogging, wikis, jams, ideation contests, and community platforms or prediction markets. This multitude of practices reflects the range of potential methods of inclusion.
Why companies open their strategy-making to crowds
Organizations have different objectives for including a wider range of participants in strategy development. According to our research, the most common goal is to generate novel and unconventional ideas for a company’s strategic direction. In some cases, managers believe that people not connected to the company, with mindsets free from a dominant corporate culture can increase the likelihood of finding groundbreaking technical or social solutions. Other companies want to pool knowledge and tap into the wisdom of crowds to improve decision-making within an existing strategy. They aim to gain access to collective intelligence because under certain conditions, large groups can be more effective at problem-solving than individual experts.
An approach commonly used when improved implementation is the objective, is to increase internal participation by inviting a broader scope of employees to share in decision-making. Many strategic initiatives fail because implementors do not “own” the strategy. Improved buy-in, shared understanding, stronger commitment, and a more effective implementation can be achieved when those who must implement a strategy are involved in the process of developing it. For these reasons, it has been found effective to include internal implementers in a crowd project. In other cases, organizations claim that including a broader set of stakeholders increases external acceptance because it makes the strategy formation process more transparent and comprehensible to the general public.