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For most companies, the maneuvers leading up to the launch of new innovations are a deadly serious game. But in one Texas town, the innovation process also resonates as an arcade game. And maybe there’s a valuable lesson in that for the rest of us.
As someone whose company mission is helping customers accelerate innovation, I have a keen interested in the ways product companies manage this process. And increasingly over the last few years, more and more companies have found that automated management systems, including my company’s product, Accept360, are helping them to make better, faster, more profitable decisions about products and product features.
That innovation process has grown increasingly chaotic as more people become involved: customers, prospects, analysts, sales reps, channel partners, investors, engineers, and so on. As a result, software that helps companies sort through, analyze, and align ideas has emerged as an essential survival tool.
But Manor (pronounced MAY-nor), a town of 5,800 near Austin, Texas, is demonstrating that idea management tools also have a valuable place in public life. Manor Labs, a joint creation of Manor and Stanford University, is described as the city’s “Official home for R&D” – a function that very few units of government anywhere would even consider having. Using a creative combination of web services including Facebook, Spigit, YouTube, GovFresh and others, it applies crowd sourcing to create an innovation marketplace that taps into residents’ smarts to improve its public services.
But you don’t actually need to live there; anyone can sign up to suggest ideas and solutions for the police department, the municipal court, community development, and just about every other public service there. Each participant’s suggestion is ranked on the basis of feedback from other users. Those that score high are rewarded with “Innobucks” which can be redeemed for prizes. So, for example, a million Innobucks wins you Mayor for the Day. Half a million gets you a proclamation declaring a week in your honor, while 400,000 can be exchanged for a ride-along with Manor’s Police Chief.
But there’s more to it than just novelty prizes. Ideas that rank high on the feedback scale also get considered for implementation by the local government, and some are already in place, such as the posting of QR-Codes and RFID tags around town that can be scanned with smartphones that link the user to municipal records about that property.
Using the system, citizens can recommend suggestions to various city departments, offer new ideas, suggest ways to improve what the city already does, vote other people’s idea up or down, and otherwise participate in an ongoing conversation to improve life in Manor. Lots of them are already doing so. It’s fun, it’s constructive, and it has raised the level of civic engagement with the township to a whole new level. And perhaps some of it can be applied to product ideas as well.