Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

Shaping up to be an innovative and collaborative organisation with crowdsourcing.

Shaping up to be an innovative and collaborative organisation with crowdsourcing.

ThinkShake: crowdsourcing ideas to shape up from within

Shaking up from within

When a Victorian State Government department crowdsourced ideas from its own staff, it was inundated by a broad range of diverse and innovative suggestions all designed to improve the performance and culture of their organisation.

An ‘Airbnb-style’ site for internal job swapping, a ‘smart fire’ app, and a solution for groundwater issues in Bendigo were just some of the diverse ideas that resulted from a State Government department’s crowdsourcing initiative.

Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) was established in early 2015 with the goal of fostering liveable, inclusive and sustainable communities. Its diverse portfolio covers everything from bushfires to water bodies, restoring our beaches and protecting our coasts, renewable energy, local government and planning.

DELWP Senior Innovation Manager Claire Tomlinson says the vast portfolio presents endless challenges that require innovative solutions.

“From the start we wanted to generate a high performing organisation that puts the customers at the heart of everything” she says.

"Led by Secretary Adam Fennessy, DELWP implemented a crowdsourcing initiative called ‘ThinkShake’. ThinkShake enabled department staff to suggest improvements to workplace practices or exciting new inventions that could benefit the wider community."

“Innovation really puts the power to the people – they’ve got the insight and the knowledge of the customer viewpoint – so why wouldn’t we want their ideas?” says Tomlinson.

Pre-launch processes

Tomlinson worked with KPMG to develop ThinkShake, customising the interactive platform to reflect the look, tone and messaging of the department. Online content was created to encourage participation, and security and access checks were conducted.

In the lead up to launch, Tomlinson says DELWP staff were enthusiastic, suggesting the name and anticipating their involvement. However, Tomlinson was concerned that once it went live she would hear “crickets”.

“I was trying to think of who I could tap on the shoulder to submit ideas!” she says.

Tomlinson was thrilled to see that ThinkShake was in fact a fast success, generating about 230 ideas in 6 weeks, which were supported by 2,000 ‘enrichment’ suggestions from colleagues. DELWP staff lodged 4,000 votes for the ideas that they thought should receive seed funding.

“Gone are the days where innovation happens behind closed doors” she says.

A panel from across DELWP judged the top 30 ideas to implement. However, thanks to the strength of the suggestions and great support from the top, another 101 will be rolled out in 2016.

See it through

Implementing such a successful internal crowdsourcing program requires backing from key management, advises Tomlinson.

“You need strong support from the top to make this happen. People need the authorising environment and to know that it is OK to suggest their ideas.”

It is also vital to commit to making changes as a result.

“If you suggest that people contribute their ideas, you need to have a genuine interest in implementing those ideas, otherwise the appetite for participation will go and people won’t contribute in the future,” she says.

A collaborative approach

KPMG worked with DELWP every step of the way, initially to identify the department’s purpose for crowdsourcing, then defining the core ‘challenge question’ to be solved by participants. KPMG then worked with DELWP to establish a pre-defined set of evaluation criteria and key communication messages to drive ThinkShake participation.

“KPMG helped with the change management framework and with the methodology for making it all happen. It was great to get their expertise, having delivered these challenges before, to apply to our own organisation and to tweak it so it was our own,” she says.

Advice was offered throughout, from strategic crowdsourcing to implementation of the program. Tomlinson says KPMG’s Power Ideas Together online platform was intuitive and easy to use.

“We gave some feedback to KPMG to further shape it for future programs” says Tomlinson. “The entire project was collaborative from start to finish and our partnership with KPMG continues in the innovation space.”

Just the start

Together with KPMG, ThinkShake was the first step in helping shape DELWP as an innovative and collaborative organisation. Tomlinson is confident it won’t be a one-off experience for DELWP.

“It has generated an absolute mandate for the department to continue to embed an innovation agenda,” she says.

General innovation campaigns could be ongoing, injected with more specific, problem solving agendas such as a climate change, productivity or technology challenge.

“You don’t know who could provide you with the idea or tip that could send your idea over the edge and help it succeed – so it makes sense to make innovation open to the crowd,” Tomlinson says.