NEW YORK: Brand owners could benefit from "crowdsourcing" elements of their strategy, an approach already tested by firms like 3M and AEGON, McKinsey has argued.

In a new study, the consultancy name-checked some pioneering corporations from around the world which have attempted to leverage the "social side of strategy".

3M, the conglomerate, enhanced its planning tool, called Markets of the Future, by inviting sales, marketing and R&D staff to participate in a web-based forum to identify potential growth categories.

In two weeks, 1,200 employees yielded over 700 ideas, and nine untapped sectors, together worth tens of billions of dollars, were chosen. "Since then, 3M has held several additional InnovationLive events, and more are on the way," McKinsey said.

Another example was HCL Technologies, an Indian IT services provider and software developer, which launched My Blueprint three years ago. This online platform allowed its 8,000 members of staff to give feedback on proposals made by senior executives.

"Because the managers knew that the plans would be reviewed by a large number of people, including their own teams, the depth of their business analysis and the quality of their planned strategy improved," said Vineet Nayar, HCL's chief executive.

AEGON, the Dutch insurance group, also created a digital network, Square, based around its various functions, and which aimed to fuel conversations and empower middle managers. Some 85% of its 3,000 staff ended up contributing in just 12 months.

"People gathered in communities of practice and started sharing ideas on how to make the new strategy work. Dialogue really helped in fostering organisation-wide alignment," said Marco Keim, CEO of AEGON in the Netherlands.

Rite-Solutions, a software specialist, has built an in-house "stock exchange", Mutual Fun, enabling team members to give their ideas a mock "IPO", with other staff able to "invest" if they believe it is viable.

Suggestions in its top 20 receive seed money, and anyone working on projects that generate profits or savings get rewarded with a bonus or stock options. The 15 products Rite-Solutions developed in this way now supply 20% of revenues.

McKinsey also analysed data from 765,000 staff at 600 companies spanning more than a decade, and found even at the best-performing firms 25% of staff are "unclear about their company's direction". This total hit 60% at the least effective enterprises.

Elsewhere, it discovered that corporations which make their vision "meaningful" at the personal level and involve employees in setting this overall direction tend to be the most successful at boosting engagement.

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff