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Chicken & Waffles + Potato Chips = Innovation

Chicken and Waffle Chips2Ever heard of Chicken & Waffles potato chips? What about Dulce Almond ice cream? Frito-Lay and Ben & Jerry’s came up with these unique flavor ideas by soliciting opinions and contributions from large groups of individuals, a process known as idea crowdsourcing. Idea crowdsourcing is an excellent method to gather collective knowledge and gauge market interest.

Future-focused companies are increasingly turning to idea crowdsourcing to gain insights, gauge market interest and ignite innovation. They see organizational enhancements as well as external benefits like improved customer satisfaction. Here are a few more:

1.  Foster knowledge and solutions

Two heads are better than one, right? What about 20 heads? Or 200? Idea crowdsourcing taps into collective knowledge -- the wisdom of many individuals, teams, and communities -- to create a deeper understanding of issues while gathering tremendous insights. It diversifies cognitive and creative talent, providing better ways to solve problems.

Through the “Do Us A Flavor" contest, Frito-Lay garnered various flavor ideas from nearly 8 million customers all over the world. The crowd also voted on their favorite flavors. As a result, the company tapped into the creativity of its customers and stumbled upon new flavor combinations it might never have imagined. Case in point: The aforementioned chicken and waffle potato chips. And because they got the idea from the crowd, Lay’s organically built a market interested in purchasing the product.

2. Developing a culture of innovation.

Idea crowdsourcing within an organization can increase engagement and reveal ideas. IBM and Dell are two companies that successfully leveraged internal idea crowdsourcing. IBM’s ValueJam allowed its workforce to redefine IBM’s core values, resulting in a shared and inventive culture. ValueJam opened the gate for IdeaJam, which drew solutions from 150,000 staff and generated 10 new businesses with seed funding of $100 million. Dell engaged its stakeholders via IdeaStorm to better meet customer needs. The company implemented more than 500 ideas, creating Dell’s first backlit laptop keyboard and rack-mountable blade workstations, among many other product enhancements.

But tech and consumer companies aren’t the only ones benefiting from idea crowdsourcing.  The U.S. Army also recognizes the power of the crowd, by implementing an idea collaboration platform to find better solutions to some of their greatest challenges. The collaboration tool boosted morale by increasing positive interactions between military personnel and helped save lives.

3. Expanding personal networks.

The way businesspeople communicate and form relationships is evolving rapidly. We grow our networks with both digital platforms and in-person interactions. One of the ways we can expand our network is to be active in idea crowdsourcing. You can participate in an existing idea crowdsourcing activity to connect with peers, clients, and even future employers. This opportunity exposes you to like-minded individuals who face similar challenges and share the same passions as you. Who knows, your future employers or clients may be so impressed by the way you think and solve problems, you may get a new offer.

Increasingly, the CPA profession is enlisting crowdsourcing to solve some of the most challenging issues. The Horizons 2025 project, where CPAs from across the country met in live and virtual focus groups to envision the future of the profession, is a prime example of idea crowdsourcing at a grassroots level. The AICPA’s Future of Learning initiative is another example. Through a Flipboard magazine app and interactive website, the AICPA collected revolutionary strategies from practitioners, state CPA societies and educators to ensure the profession’s vitality and delivery of competent learning models.

The AICPA also uses the Member Idea Exchange (MIX) to engage members and staff to find new ideas. MIX is an online platform that lets you collaborate with AICPA members and a dedicated staff to create superior solutions for the profession. You can participate in the MIX community and benefit from crowdsourced solutions by responding to challenges and commenting and voting on your peers’ ideas.

Examples of the challenges include: best ways to use big data analysis, tools needed for more effective learning, and how to measure non-traditional learning. Our creative crowd has already come up with great ideas like these: a video-knowledge portal where learning toolkits are shared and an online log book where members can record client interactions and get credit based on results. And this is just the start! The MIX portals will continue addressing common challenges of the CPA profession and crowdsourcing creative solutions. The best ideas will be selected and used to launch new projects to take the accounting profession to the next level.

Why not try to leverage idea crowdsourcing for innovation at your organization? Then, watch how it may lead to extraordinary results.


Gizem Cetgin, MBA, Analyst - Innovation, American Institute of CPAs. Gizem is a member of the AICPA’s Innovation team, which drives member value and growth by collaboratively converting ideas into new products and services and fostering a culture of innovation for the profession.

(Photo credit: Fast Company)


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