Post hoc ergo propter hoc. As we live in an interconnected world that moves ever faster and desires instantaneous results, we can become quick to judge the apparent causes for any outcome. We frequently assume the obvious and straightforward – seeing the gratification of an immediate answer and concluding a project with a seemingly happy ending. However, as the post hoc fallacy insinuates, correlation does not always equate to causation. Open Innovation and crowdsourcing are not immune to this misconception and we can be so eager to innovate faster and call upon the crowd, that we instantly grab for the lowest hanging fruit. Instead of assuming outcomes based upon on potentially faulty foundations, we should try to think slower, to then innovate faster.
The first stage of this slowing down, is within the issue identification. Clients can be enthusiastic to jump straight into a crowdsourcing project with us; potentially having even identified their innovation problem, thought of solution requirements and finalised assessment criteria before ever signing a contract. As previously noted though, Open Innovation is not a panacea that will be applicable for all problems. Furthermore, even when the innovation problem is identified, the structure, framing and root cause may be misconceived or suboptimal. Challenge Owners may initially believe they will need a certain outcome to overcome the identified problem, but when our trained PhD Principals provide an external perspective and remove any institutionalised thinking towards the problem space, it can become apparent that an alternative solution would be more beneficial. This is of course not true with all Challenges, but we spend considerable time during the development phase and at our on-site Workshops helping clients potentially re-configure their understanding of the causational problem. Realising during the evaluation phase that you asked the wrong question will leave a sour taste in the mouth. Instead we stress a slowing down during the design phase – taking a step back and truly examining what the causational factors are that you need to overcome.
The second and equally important stage of slowing down, is to then undertake a thorough review when the Challenge has closed. This process can help understand why a Challenge was successful, or not. Easily accessible figures such as project rooms or the award amount offered may give an immediate answer – but it may not be the right one. Instead, this review can help understand the contribution of: additional marketing activities that attracted high quality Solvers and solutions, the parameters and requirements that set the solution space, the information given that broadened the problem space and allowed multiple perspective to approach the Challenge, or a multitude of other factors that could drive the success or failure. Likewise what drove Solver engagement? Was it the monetary award, brand association, a public good element? Only by stepping back and scrutinizing the Challenge process, data, outcomes, and comparing these to previous Challenges, can we truly understand what the best practices were, or where improvements could be found.
Too often we dive straight into projects, when instead what’s required is to step back, analyse and think slower. Correlations may give obvious answers, but only through a thorough examination will the true causes become apparent. The time spent in these analytical stages can deliver five-fold benefits for current and future projects – helping you innovate faster, by thinking slower.
If you’re interested in understanding more about our training, methodology or would like to crowdsource solutions yourself, please get in contact here.