Faux Market Secrets: How CIOs Capture Innovation

by drjim on July 13, 2009

CIOs Can Use Faux Markets To Identify Innovative Ideas

CIOs Can Use Faux Markets To Identify Innovative Ideas

So picture this: you’re a CIO and you desperately want to be seen by the rest of the C-level executives as something more than a simple cost center. What to do? If only there was some way that you could tap into all of that incredible creative energy that we all know lives in the IT department.

If you could harness that energy and apply it to innovative projects, you’d be a company hero. Guess what? The power of Faux Markets is exactly what you need to do this…

What Is A Faux Market?

You know that things are getting fancy when we start using French words! A Faux Market is simply a term that refers to using simulated market forces to make a decision. Perhaps an example would show what I mean. A good case study would be GE Research.

Back in 2005 GE Research had a problem. They had too many product ideas that had been submitted and only $50,000 to spend on investigating them. Clearly they need to make some hard decisions as to which ones they would persure.

The way they picked which projects to work on was by using a faux market. They had their 85 employees spend three weeks buying and selling any one of 62 proposed projects. At the end of the three weeks, GE ended up with a  prioritized list of the top projects that its employees thought had the most value. The project that won was an machine intelligence algorithm that a researcher had proposed but which had not yet traveled through the normal management bureaucracy.

Why Use Faux Markets?

All too often IT departments have a bewildering array of possible projects, technologies, or directions that the department can choose. Sometimes senior management will huddle and make a decision, sometimes no decision gets made. Faux markets offer an alternative.

A faux market tool allows a firm to quickly sort though large numbers of projects or proposals in order to attempt find those that will provide the most bang for the buck. Firms believe that this approach offers them the best chance of finding the next blockbuster product or solution.

Not A Silver Bullet

Faux markets can be a big help; however, as with everything else they do have their drawbacks. One such drawback is the that the voting process does not provide much insight – there may be no penalty for backing a bad idea. Just because a proposal is popular does not necessarily guarantee commercial success.

Final Thoughts

Using faux market tools to quickly sort though a large stack of ideas can provide IT departments with a way to identify innovative ideas no matter where they come from. However, a group vote alone isn’t enough in most cases.

A two step process where voting is initially used to narrow a large list down into a more manageable list of less than 100 candidates is a good first step. The next step can be to use a prediction market allow employees to buy and sell the candidates in order to see which ones go up in value. This will reveal the true winning ideas and you will have found a way to apply IT to enable the rest of the company to grow quicker, move faster, and do more.

Questions For You

How do you process new idea suggestions today? Do you have employees vote on things in order to sort them out? Are these just popularity contests or do they take market factors into consideration? Do you think that faux markets could help you capture more innovative ideas? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a CIO, you’ve got some challenges facing you. You’re managing a diverse and potentially distributed work force of highly skilled and talented IT professionals. You need to find a way to keep them challenged, and yet at the same time enable them to find ways to work together. Have you considered Alternate Reality Games?

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