At Citigroup, creativity is a global game

In late 2011, Susan Andrews came up with a bold campaign to spur innovation across Citigroup, a global financial firm. As head of innovation for the company’s Citi Ventures unit, Andrews decided to use social media to turn 263,000 em­­ployees in 97 countries into innovators.

She challenged everyone to submit ideas. Many em­­ployees collaborated with colleagues to develop their proposals, which they shared on a crowdsourcing platform called Spigit.

Using Spigit’s software, employees voted on the best ideas and played a game in which they could earn virtual currency for their contributions to the campaign. Armed with this currency, they could wager it on the ideas that they deemed most valuable.

Through this process, Andrews and her team collected more than 2,300 raw ideas. They pruned the submissions and wrote business cases for each of the 10 finalists (accompanied by video pitches for each idea they posted on Citi’s intranet).

From this list of 10, they selected the top four concepts. Representatives of these four proposals made their pitch in front of five senior executives at Citi. The top brass chose to combine two ideas into one and implement it.

The campaign proved successful in encouraging innovation throughout the ranks.

Employees teamed up to flesh out their ideas and pool their know-how. The cross-pollination from people in multiple business units helped the far-flung banking conglomerate break down silos and bring diverse employees together with a common goal.

— Adapted from “Drawing the Best Ideas Out of 263,000 People,”