Monday, November 30, 2009

Real solutions from a virtual thinktank?

Sorry to interrupt your Tetris game, but there’s a new capability to this internet thing that may be sweeter than setting High Score for the 24th time. It’s aimed at business people who have a strategic quandary but lack the resources to get the usual sort of outside help. Instead of hiring one brain, they can now dangle a relatively modest reward to a whole study hall of thinkers.

There’s also a groupthink aspect to the process. If you’re the one with the problem, you “sponsor” it by offering a reward of as little of $50 for every “insight” that’s provided by a rank-and-file member of Insight Community. The sponsor posts the question, and Community members offer their suggestions or comments. Any that’s deemed an insight nets its author the bounty, which can range as high as your budget allows (most seem to range from $100 to $500).

But that’s not all the intelligence you get for your reward money. The insight is posted, and Community members offer their comments on that would-be solution. The feedback is intended to hone the suggestion into a more workable or effective remedy for the sponsor. Some note that the insights will be re-posted on internal or customer-focused sites as blog entries to spur further discussion and elicit more feedback.

Some sponsors ask for ideas as specific as what webinars they should produce to promote their businesses. One even posted a video and asked for comments. Another asked for specific examples of small businesses that have improved their service by boosting staff morale.

Others sought opinions and insights on big-picture issues, like how to protect a spirit of innovation, or what to do now to prepare for better economic times.

The “problem” posters included such big names as American Express, Dell and H-P. But mixed in were a number of what appeared to be smaller, entrepreneurial ventures, as well as a few advocacy groups.

In essence, this new community is setting up a standing thinktank/focus group to help businesses tap other perspectives and outside ideas. To become part of that commenting group, you have to register, so there is some control on who’s posting. But the endeavor seems to be self-policing; who’s going to bother to read a post and draft a comment if the topic isn’t a familiar one, if not an area of interest or expertise?

Full disclosure: I am one of those who registered. I’ve not yet posted a possible insight or solution, though I do plan to participate.

But I’m bringing the site to the restaurant industry’s attention because it appears to be a low-cost tool that few have yet discovered.

I’ll let you know my experiences as I get more involved. And if you learn of any similar groupthink sites, please drop me a line and let me know about them. We may be seeing the unfolding of a new business dynamic for the web.

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