End-user innovation is a tough sell in good times. In uncertain economic times its tougher.
Sell it anyway.
To do so, you must understand the three main arguments against any project that seeks to free end-users to be more innovative: risk, cost, and return. Until you consider these elements and master the ability to talk them through with upper management, you'll have no hope of creating the potential breakthroughs possible when end-users can turn their insights into business opportunities.
So let's imagine you want to make this happen, using Apple's iPad as the focal point of the program ... not a bad idea as a lot of end-users want them anyway. Here's how it plays out.
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End-user innovation: The risks
To encourage end-user innovation, you have to either give end-users the tools they'll need to innovate new solutions or let them shop the tool store for their own.
Allowing users to purchase their own tools fills your average IT professional with righteous dread. It means giving end-users unlocked devices they can use as they wish, thereby greatly increasing the possibility of security holes in your network, according to most information security professionals.
Giving end-users the tools to innovate, on the other hand, encourages the creation of the legendary renegade spreadsheet and other weapons of mass confusion -- disasters caused by end-users' supposed inability to properly design and test the solutions they create. Not to mention an inevitability: The tools you provide won't be the tools they want. It's as if you set them up with a woodworking shop complete with hammer, nails, drills, screws, and screwdrivers, only to have them insist that they need a jigsaw and lathe. Do you know the damage someone can do with a jigsaw and lathe?
All of the risks are real. Even worse, only IT cares about them -- so long as they remain risks. Should any become real, everyone else in the business will care about them deeply, and in particular, they will care to know why IT allowed an entirely preventable situation from ever occurring.
Do what you can to minimize and mitigate the risk without preventing the activity.