I am writing this article sitting at a Hackathon in the south of Munich surrounded by highly motivated, creative and tired people that are looking for innovative solutions for our modern-day problems. Except for the organisers, coaches and the jury, all participants are not related to the company organising the event nor do they expect to land an employment contract because of the event. They are here to have fun, create something together and, if they are lucky, win one of the big prices.
A Hackathon is just one of many examples of how companies can involve and engage a community outside of the core enterprise. Crowdsourcing is developing into a major trend and the number of freelancers by 2020 in the US is expected to exceed 50% of the active workforce.
Many companies recognize this trend and the importance of incorporating it into the organisation design and HR operations. The challenge for most is to identify where and how to start.
So, what does this mean for companies?
To address this new paradigm of a changing workforce, companies need to experiment with new workplace models, ways of building an external community and with expanding the enterprise beyond its traditional borders. The crowd can be comprised of many different groups in the ecosystem surrounding the company, e.g. employees, local or global start-ups, customers, students, freelancers or partner companies. Also, the models such a community could be built on and accelerated with differ significantly incl. short Hackathons, longer innovation challenges and permanently established innovation labs and open ecosystems.
As much as the actors and models differ, as much do the outcomes and impacts vary. Let’s have a closer look at some of the models:
- Hackathon – Event open to everyone. Focus is on brand building and to engage young talent into some of the key challenges a business is facing. The outcomes are often not directly linked to the organising business and do not lead into immediate business impact. Duration: 1-2 days.
- Innovation Challenge – Focused on a specific business or technology challenge this format often works with pre-screened participants / start-up companies. Therefore, the impact and outcome is much more predictable and business centric. There is a high likelihood that companies can leverage the outcome of such an event in their business context. Duration: 1 week – 1 month
- Innovation Labs – While the above are time-boxed events the innovation lab represents a continuous capability within an organizational context allowing internals and externals to innovate, experiment and collaborate. Often innovation labs are collaborating with start-ups or other external “innovation trigger” that can provide impulses for the organization to drive innovation.
- Open Ecosystem – Like the innovation labs, the open ecosystem is intended as a continuous capability that provides a platform for collaboration with a broad ecosystem of companies and individuals. The ecosystem can be physical or digital. Furthermore, it can focus on a specific problem area or be defined as wide network of companies to create “free innovation”. While focused ecosystems tend to bring more tangible results, open ecosystems provide a broader range of innovation initiatives.
- Open Workforce – While the above variations are focused on specific capabilities and events, the open workforce transforms a company’s operating and HR model completely. People are no longer employed full time but rather work on defined “gigs” for a temporary period and freely shift between activities, companies and locations.
As with many of the changes we see impacting companies of all sizes and across all sectors these days, also this one cannot be addressed with a one-size fits all approach. Therefore, a clear understanding of what a company wants to achieve and what it can “digest” is critical for choosing the right entry point and path towards a crowd enabled company.
We at Taival can help in discovering your organisations need to change and together with our partners drive the required change to secure the targeted value and impact.