May 17, 2016
Do It Like Doritos: Use Crowdsourcing Inside Your Company To Find Your Best Ideas

For the past 10 years, Doritos has blazed the trail in external crowdsourcing. Rather than lean on expensive ad executives, the company has invited the general public to take part in competing for the chance to promote its crunchy product. And its executives don’t just ask for a mere like or retweet — they want a totally original 30-second commercial.

In return, they put their money where their mouth is and offer the winner a Super Bowl commercial spot.

The beauty of Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign is not only the wealth of ideas from fans who love the product, but also the relentless loyalty rewarded to a company that trusts its customers with the biggest ad spend of the year.

Now, companies are taking the same methodology Doritos uses and applying it internally. Using employees as the “crowd” to uncover new products, ideas, and solutions isn’t just resourceful and fun — it’s good business. Instead of having a few executives or a lab decide the legitimacy of an idea, gathering the opinions of hundreds or even thousands of people in the company and distributing some of your budget to crowdfund the ideas, Kickstarter style, yields a stronger, more credible signal about potential success.

The ROI of Copying the Crunch

The implications of internally crowdsourcing and crowdfunding ideas are massive. Individuals can advocate for what they believe is best for the company, and the added benefit of “owning” their ideas turns employees into motivated, problem-solving intrapreneurs.

For Doritos, the incentive for creating clever commercials was the shot at being “instafamous.” Within your organization, crowdsourcing provides a natural reward structure. For intrapreneurs, having their ideas get funding — or even getting to work on their own ideas — is the best reward of all.

And the business value of going through this process is unquestioned. Companies often struggle with how to best prioritize resources and constantly ask themselves, “Are we working on the right things?” Crowdsourcing means companies get a powerful signal about which ideas to work on from the people who know best.

Starting the Crowdsourcing Engine

If you find yourself inspired by the Doritos campaign but wonder how to translate such a revolutionary concept to your organization, here are some tips to get started:

1. Start with a supportive culture.

Think about your company culture. Would it be open to an internal crowdsourcing model? Would executives be willing to part with some budget and decision-making authority in favor of empowering employees? Before launching into crowdsourcing internally, ensure your leaders are willing to support such an initiative.

To spread the gospel of crowdsourcing, solicit champions at all levels of the organization ahead of time. The initiative needs to feel organic, not like something that’s forced from the top down. Your champions should lead by example at every level, showing employees and managers alike the exciting potential of crowdsourcing.

2. Guide and incentivize without taking over.

When companies look for new ideas from their employees, they normally require some kind of final approval by executives to ultimately decide which ones should be implemented. But executives have biases that don’t always represent the best ideas for the company.

Instead, follow the 5×5 framework that MIT Sloan School of Management professor Michael Schrage outlines in “The Innovator’s Hypothesis.” Give diverse teams of five people up to five days to come up with portfolios of five business experiments costing no more than $5,000 each and taking no longer than five weeks to run. Then, crowdfund them to see which ideas stick.

Whether an idea gets implemented or not, employees feel they’ve been heard and are personally invested in the final decision.

3. Get out of the way.

The hardest, most important part of this process is clearing the path for people to work on their ideas. Google famously used to allocate 20 percent of people’s time to work on their own projects — something most leaders are uncomfortable with because, suddenly, people aren’t doing their “day jobs.” But driving innovation can’t just be talk. Carve out time in your employees’ days so they can work on their ideas.

Although this may be something new for your organization, it should ultimately be thought of as a permanent change — a method that simply becomes the way you do business. Have fun getting your whole team involved, and remember to bring a bag of Doritos for snacks.

Adam Siegel
Adam Siegel is the co-founder and CEO of Cultivate Labs, an innovative tech company that has created a unique platform to help guide businesses’ strategies and inspire innovation through internal crowdsourcing. Follow Adam and his team on Twitter @cultivatelabs.

Other Articles by Adam Siegel:

Drowning In A Saturated Market? Your Employees Hold The Life Preserver

Five Ways To Kill Your Startup's 'Office Politics' Before They Start