What does it take to spark creativity and innovation in the workforce, Hollywood style?
An article in Fortune Magazine this month (October 2011) presents how a top global Assurance, Tax, and Consultancy firm like Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) is reaching out to its people to harness creativity through a new program called PowerPitch.
“PwC wants to cultivate a particular atmosphere. “We have an average age of 27, but we have roots in tax and assurance,” says U.S. chairman Bob Moritz, using the industry jargon for auditing and related functions. “Sohow do you make this place feel like a Google or a Facebook? A place that feels leading-edge?”
PwC is spurring innovation using an firm-wide contest format and social media to drive innovation for their $29 billion organization.
“An admitted fan of American Idol and The Apprentice, [Mitra] Best was drawn to the idea thatcontests and games could yield serious business results. Employees love the opportunity.”
The PwC program galvanizes a workforce into idea-generating teams, with proposals that are voted on and selected through an internal social media platform by all employees and others picked by a senior panel of leaders. Then the best ideas get leadership “advisors” who work with the teams to present to a top leadership committee. The best idea(s) win some nominal cash for the individuals on the winning team(s), and the proposals move forward with a “champion” to work with the team to actual launch.
PowerPitch is as PwC U.S. Chairman, Bob Mortiz, puts it “a [worthwhile] investment in time and money, but we needed to balance short-term costs against long-term sustainability.”
Nearly 800 ideas were submitted from round 1 and these were narrowed down to the top 25 for round 2 and then ultimately to 5 teams of semifinalists and a winning best proposal–however all five ended up deemed “worthy of investing in.”
And if even one of the proposals becomes the next $100 million line of business for the company, it will be more than worth the investment.
PowerPitch may not have Simon Cowell from American Idol to keep the competitors on their toes or Donald Trump from The Apprentice to say “You’re fired!”, but it has enough of excitement, morale-boosting, idea generation and widespread collaboration to keep an organization out front and advance their mission and workforce.
(Source Photo: here)
In the government, just getting an “app winner” doesn’t necessarily mean you have a “winning app.” But that’s not stopping us “govies” from making progress!
As we all know, the Apple iStore has become hugely successful, with over 225,000 apps and the Android Market with almost 90,000 apps.
These marketplaces have grown fast and furiously because there is a simple and direct road from building the app to commercializing it. In the case of Apple, for example, I understand that the developer walks away with 70% of the revenue, Apple gets 30%, and the consumer can simply download the apps and start using it. Presto!
The government has attempted to capitalize on this apps development strategy by putting government data out there (i.e. data.gov) and letting the developers do their thing (i.e. create apps that are supposed to be useful to citizens).
In distinction to the private sector, the government doesn’t have a marketplace where developers simply make their apps “available” for use. While in the Apple store, any developer can post an app for use, in the government there is no open store like that.
To spur apps development, a number of government agencies have been hosting contests for best applications, but despite the fanfare, many do not get past the initial stage.
Government Technology Magazine (July 2010) in an article titled “Life After Apps” quotes Chris Vein, the CIO of San Francisco, who states that “just because it [an app] wins doesn’t mean the jurisdiction actually gets to use it.”
Jay Nath, the innovation manager of San Francisco explains that “because applications submitted in the competitions don’t go through normal procurement channels, cities cannot use them as ‘official’ apps.”
Whether this changes at some point down the road, I do not know, but it seems like something for government procurement specialists to look at, because there may be an opportunity here to save money and serve taxpayers more effectively.
Even Washington, D.C., which became famous for its 2008 apps contest, is rethinking the “apps craze.” The city has discontinued its annual Apps for Democracy competition due to concerns over “sustainability and value of apps produced.” The District wants to look again at how to engage entrepreneurs to “solve core government problems.”
Nevertheless, there are signs that government interest in developing apps through contests remains strong. For example, “Apps for Army,” a contest for Army personnel, launched on March 1.
In a similar vein, the General Services Administration recently announced that they are using “ChallengePost” to announce contests and have the public suggest, discuss, and rate ideas. This is now being used for AppsForHealthyKids.com, a competition sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her important campaign to end childhood obesity.
Overall, there is a lot of innovation out there in government, and a strong desire to collaborate with the public. DC and San Francisco and other major cities as well as the federal government are taking the conversation about apps development to the next level in terms of governance best practices for getting value from them and ultimately bringing the apps to the users who need them.