Open Innovation: Filling Solution Gaps

By MBO Partners | October 28, 2022


Key Points

Engaged employees overseeing everyday essential work

The contingent workforce solves consistent gaps in organizations.   

Problem solvers fill in the task gaps. 

Diverse-status workforces are the future of work.  

Corporations see challenges that fall on the human resources floor. They try to fill skills gaps with contingent workers, freelancers and contractors; however, it falls short of all the work your organization needs. Strategizing for the future of your organization will comprise at least three different types of work: full-time employees, contingent workers, and problem solvers sourced through open innovation & crowdsourcing. Balancing these types of workers is a herculean task for companies.    

Employees: Essential Solutions 

Building an organization starts with its employees. The pandemic exemplified the concept of essential workers. These are the workers that keep the lights on. Employees perform the work that needs to get done. They solve problems that arise every single day. Companies control an employee’s hours, duration and location of their work. There are many benefits to these workers for an organization, but a company with a 100% employee workforce is missing out on the advantages that a diverse-status workforce can provide.  

Full-time employees are the bones of an organization. Attracting these workers could include perks such as office space, health insurance, paid time off and a regular paycheck. Companies gutted by unfortunate circumstances run on what is known as a “skeleton crew” that consists of the employees that contribute to the company’s bottom line. Moreover, if your workforce consists of only employees, the company will fail to solve problems that could be addressed with a diverse-status workforce. Controlling a worker’s location and hours may seem appealing to organizations, but problems will slip through expertise cracks.   

Contingent Workers: Ad Hoc Solutions 

Contingent workers get the job done with fewer parameters than employees. Independent contractors solve ongoing problems, but some tasks are too infrequent to constitute full-time employment. Companies attract these workers by offering clear guidelines and expectations for tasks not fulfilled by the full-time workforce. The gaps in your full-time workforce create this need for specialized workers who can address a problem they have successfully solved for other organizations. Freelancers can see the same issue pop up in several different organizations and apply the expertise they’ve learned elsewhere.  

Your freelance workforce requires direct management. These managers will set clear boundaries with detailed contracts, goals, and delivery expectations. Contingent workers will interact with managers in solutions-focused conversations that discuss the needs of the specific project. Avoid common employer mistakes when engaging with contingent workers by outlining the specific need of your organization’s project. Employers shouldn’t be afraid to have regular conversations as the organization’s needs may need to be re-calibrated over time. As an organization evolves, it will need workers who can solve solutions outside the current workforce’s skill set.   

Problem Solvers: Evolving Solutions 

Forward-thinking companies must consider solutions beyond their current workforce. Contingent workers can only provide some solutions on an ad hoc basis, and future workforces need to be powered by evolving solutions to problems using a larger pool of thinkers. The ability of an organization to crowdsource solutions using a broad pool of problems provides a necessary capability that was once seen as impossible in the worker ecosystems of the past.  

Attracting these problem solvers is more manageable than any other employment status because open innovation platforms, AI, and smart tagging algorithms help companies find the right people to solve the relevant questions. As a company grows, these problem solvers may be interested in being contingent workers or employees in the future. Solving the problems gives them insights into the company and its goals, so leveraging crowdsourcing is a great way to obtain real solutions & ideas while further building your bench of a potential contingent or full-time candidates.   

Intelligent organizations know that the problems of today cloud the ability to see their needs in the future. Big-picture thinkers know that this need for evolving solutions is overdue. Open innovation fills a need for thinkers who don’t fall into the employee or contracted buckets of the past. These talented problem solvers don’t fall into a niche category and can provide out-of-the-box solutions for growing institutions.  

In the case of the MindSumo platform, primarily students and pre-workforce professionals make up the community of problem solvers. These cohorts are young and full of fresh ideas and knowledge ready to be harvested. Younger generations are increasingly less enamored by the idea of going to school and finding a stable full-time job, especially as economic security becomes more volatile and uncertain. As their faith in educational institutions wanes, future generations will turn to solutions to hone their interests to explore what they would like to pursue. Even the most forward-thinking companies and educational institutions won’t be able to engage younger generations the way these problems do.    

Companies utilizing open innovation are ready to embrace breakthrough ideas once left unanswered. Organizations utilizing crowdsourced solutions grow and thrive with ease. They are ready for the future. A workforce that implements crowdsourced ideas will be ahead of its competition and attract educated and skilled workers. The friction created dissipates as the problem solver builds an innovative solution.   

Evolving solutions are problems on the horizon. These problems are almost out-of-sight when an employee or contractor projects the needs of a company. Problem solvers are typically young and eager to open their minds toward evolving solutions due to their proximity to new ideas. There are universities, boot camps, and coffee shops full of independent professionals waiting for the chance to solve future problems. Even the most comprehensive career services center cannot fully prepare these eager professionals for the real-world challenges that companies face today. What better way to get that experience than through participation in real-world open innovation projects? 

Diverse-Status Workforce   

A diverse-status workforce consists of the right balance of problem solvers, freelancers, contractors, and employees. Companies that tout diversity in their workforce must shift to a new way of thinking. Using more than one entry point to capture a workforce fosters diversity. Different segments of the population require a specialized relationship with their organizations. Whether on a 1099 or a W2, a diverse workforce helps foster a new and changing landscape. Adding problem solvers supports the company’s future.     

Employees have the assurance of paycheck, location, and expectation consistency. Contingent workers perform specific tasks outlined in detailed contracts for an agreed-upon price. Problem solvers provide insights into the friction-wrought area of evolving solutions. Employees, contingent workers, and problem solvers make up a healthy and vibrant diverse-status workforce. This diverse workforce is what fuels growth and prosperity. Finding the right balance between these workers separates failing and thriving workplaces.      

Small businesses that use open innovation initiatives early in their formation grow their companies seamlessly using a diverse-status workforce. Prominent Fortune 500 companies are using crowdsourcing to complement their growing workforces. It prepares them for an uncertain future. Diverse-status workforces are easier to achieve with a comprehensive platform where employers come to grow their organizations into the future of work. 

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