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August 19, 2014

Taking Online Ideas Offline

By Karen J. Bannan

One of the benefits of social business is its ability to facilitate collaboration and discussion. Employees can bounce ideas and innovation off each other. However, that information can’t live in a vacuum. A great idea means nothing if you don’t have a way to vet and disseminate it, taking it from idea to action.

Jon Bidwell, chief innovation officer at the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos, unit of Chubb Corp. discovered a way to do just that. Bidwell, who was recently named one of the top 25 Social Business Leaders by The Economist Intelligence Unit, created a digital space for his global team that employs knowledge management. The best part: It’s searchable, so it has replaced many of the emails and instant messages that were used in the past.

The digital space has spawned many successful ideas including a product called WorldCert, an “automated, web-based system that provides life-sciences companies with instant, compliant insurance documentation for global clinical trials,” according to a recent interview. Today, that idea that was generated on the social business platform generates more than $10 million in revenue each year.

You can implement a similar level of collaboration by keeping a few things in mind. First, employees and community leaders should understand how to tag discussions so that they show up in searches. This may mean creating standard keywords for different types of content. Make it unique enough that it won’t show up in every discussion but easy enough to spell and remember that people will use it.

You can also encourage discussion and collaboration by letting employees know that there are no stupid ideas – and making sure managers and discussion leaders know that, too. Employees will be less likely to comment on a brainstorming discussion or offer up ideas if they fear embarrassment or humiliation.

Finally, create some type of reward system to benefit those ideas that end up being homeruns. Chubb runs dozens of internal innovation events – called Motivate + Drive + Deliver – that bring employees as well as independent agents and brokers together. Some of the ideas are funded by an internal venture capital group, a real benefit for those looking to embody the entrepreneurial spirit.

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