Before we talk, are YOU ready?
By Adam Siegel
In the last month we’ve had two potential clients, after receiving proposals from us for projects, say they needed to step back and start the projects very differently than what we had originally discussed.
Was it the price? Some issue with the deliverables?
These senior leaders didn’t believe their culture would accept an internal crowdsourcing program and that after a few weeks of excitement, the program would shrivel and die. Instead, we needed to slow down, alter our approach, and take steps to change the aspect of their culture that would rebel against such a program.
While this means less revenue in the short term from these clients, I’m thankful they recognized there was going to be an issue and sounded the alarm before we had spent a single minute working with them.
When I look back on all the clients we’ve had over the years, when our projects fail, the root cause is more often than not, a cultural one. Getting people to a) try something new, b) feel safe doing that new thing, and c) commit to doing the new thing, even for a few weeks, is very challenging.
On the flip side, when I look at our successful projects, there has always been a lot of heavy lifting done before we set foot in the door to cultivate a culture of trust, of taking risks and accepting failure, of creating a willingness to learn, and even fostering an appetite for opposing viewpoints.
For example, we recently worked with a client to run an Ignite crowdfunding campaign. With 2 conversations and a one page proposal, our client got agreement from his CEO to commit $1M to an annual internal crowdfunding campaign in their 4,000 person company. They then went on to register 40+ ideas and have a 70%+ participation rate, where ultimately 8 ideas were funded.
Would your CEO or executive team be willing to take that risk? Would they have the humility to begin changing the way dollars are allocated from a decision-making structure that is highly centralized to one that is democratized through internal crowdfunding?
Another example: we’re working with a pharmaceutical company who has recently introduced crowdsourced forecasting to over 1,500 employees in their early stage drug development teams. The forecast questions being posed about every project in their portfolio are as raw and strategic as you could possibly get: “Will project A make it to Milestone X?” “Will project B identify a relevant formulation for First-in-Human dosing?”
The implications are obvious. Careers are made by drugs that make it through the pipeline. Bonuses are at stake. Stock prices are dependent on these milestones. Yet the company still felt comfortable enough (with itself) to open these forecasting questions up to the most junior scientists and technicians alongside management, and the information is being discussed at executive meetings every month. What a long road they must have travelled to even get to the point where they have leaders in place willing to make commitments to a project like ours!
That’s not to say these companies are perfect. Debilitating politics exist in any large organization no matter the culture, and infighting and power centers are real. But there’s a big difference between the company whose culture is straight up toxic and one where an effort is being made to change and people feel it. Not just through some bullshit table tents in the cafeteria, but in the actions being taken, in the support they get, and in the attitudes of their leadership.
Companies get excited by shiny new things, especially technology, and prediction markets / crowd forecasting have been that for years - a seemingly simple solution to the vexing problem of bad forecasting.
But before anyone can enjoy the fruits of accurate forecasts from their employees or any other benefit a new technology may bring, companies must first lay the foundation for a culture that is open to change and feedback, especially when that technology is reliant on your humans as the lifeblood of its success!