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POPin Blog

Why Initiatives Fail

Or maybe a better title would be “Don’t ask if you don’t plan to act” as the #1 cause of failed initiatives is that they are done in a vacuum. All too often senior management cocoons into an offsite strategy meeting then pontificates on high to the organization on why they must do this or that new initiative which eventually fail from lack of buy-in. Another even worse “kiss of death” is asking input from the entire organization and then categorically ignoring all of it. It was 2006 and things were not going well. “The company” had stagnated, sales were down and morale was low. So executives took charge, put product development on a different path, acquired some new technology (and new salespeople along with it) and tried to change gears. Along the way, someone came up with a very hopeful idea to change and boost morale. It was called “TheEvent*.” It was internally promoted as the largest online brainstorming session ever held with two 72-hour sessions. And it was a colossal failure. So, they did it again in 2008 (because isn’t it smart to do the same thing in the same way and expect a different result). There were likely dozens of reasons why this process failed, but the most obvious was that management gathered the ideas but didn’t act on any of them. And truly, most companies have had the same experience (fyi: more than 70% of change initiatives fail). Sometimes it’s because a large percentage of executives enjoy designing “big picture” strategies, but dislike the more mundane work of designing an executable plan that can actually be implemented. Sometimes, it’s just very straightforward – asking for feedback and engagement for the sake of asking (though it seems to us that if you’re going to ask you better be prepared to answer). Or sometimes, too, when a small group embarks on a program, they strategize in a vacuum and then just don’t get around to communicating their goals and objectives to the organization as a whole. That’s a problem. We know that strategies come is many flavors: corporate, geography, product or even depart­mental, but all can have success hinged on clarity of purpose and level of buy-in. And this is where we are firm believers of crowdsourcing and crowdsolving. Rather than a handful of decision makers in a room, why not open the dialogue up to your masses and have a clear path for action? Working from the premise that the sum is often greater than the individual parts when it comes to tapping collective wisdom, experience, and cognitive power, brainstorming can result in solutions that individual members would have been unlikely to come up with on their own. Crowdsolving works on the same premise, only better. Because it is able to tap into a much larger and more diverse universe of resources, crowdsolving might be described as brainstorming on an entirely higher plane. How is it different from the failed example above? The short answer is that action was taken. More specifically initiatives are a treated like “Minimum Viable Products (MVP)” in “Lean Startup” vernacular. Focused, time-bound discussions (crowdsource) to gain insight, the equally focused, time-bound opportunities to vote and comment on the selected ideas (crowdsolve) will maximize success. And a tool like POPin can help facilitate that interaction. *name changed