Editor’s note: WRAL Local Tech Wire has added another feature with the "Innovation Exchange." Noah Garrett, former director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association, is a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, who owns and operates NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a Web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

Participate in the Exchange. Send ideas and feedback to: noah@thinkngc.com

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Just as many of us need upgrades on software, corporate business structures also need to look at upgrading their cultures to find the holy grail of innovation.

The amazing technology growth we have seen in recent years has been fantastic and given us all the ability to seamlessly connect with others anywhere and everywhere. Technology also has changed our economic thinking as well as the way we measure productivity and return on investment.

As a society, we have changed. We still have cultures the way we always have, but now we have a new platform to share them with the world. Unfortunately, organizations have not caught up with the real world, in this sense, and are lagging in finding better ways to cut costs and spark new ideas.

In a nutshell, technology has been the crowbar for changing our lives. This also means that in the business world, companies can’t keep doing the same old thing to turn a profit and survive.

A recent “Innovation Exchange” post focused on the topic of "crowdsourcing" and how experts really should be pushing innovation forward instead of the masses doing it, which prompted some interesting responses and conversations from you.

One in particular led me to researcher Chris Townsend with Forester Research in Cambridge, Mass.

Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) is an independent technology and market research company that provides pragmatic and forward-thinking advice to global leaders in business and technology.

Townsend has been working on various projects for the firm on this specific topic and shared some of his research and expertise to dive deeper into this area of discussion.

In his latest report “Tapping the Wisdom of Experts,” Townsend explains that corporate use of innovation networks is rapidly expanding as many fast followers adopt them. As a result, organizations are now managing diversified portfolios of innovation sources that include not only in-house engineers and product managers but also external customers, suppliers, partners and investors.

Townsend also notes in his report that firms who practice crowdsourcing use the Internet to engage more deeply and directly with their customers. They can then leverage that increased customer engagement to collect innovative ideas about their new and existing products.

Unfortunately, many observers thus far have considered crowdsourcing to be the only external source of innovation. This is a mistake, he writes, as crowdsourcing is not designed to tap into highly specialized innovation sources such as talented investors, partners, suppliers and competitors

Just as we advocated in the previous post on this topic, Townsend also agrees that now it’s time to add expert sourcing to the portfolio of innovation sources. Expert sourcing, he explains, taps specialized talent as a brokered service and will better organize innovation.

"I don’t think of it as hiring experts instead of the masses. I think of it as complementary," he says. "The ‘crowd’ does have a use, but it needs to be sophisticated and structured in how you use it. Since this is a new practice, there’s a tendency for companies to overextend into areas where it is not applicable – this is where I think experts come in."

OK, the big question is, which approach is better – crowdsourcing or expert sourcing?

"Each approach has great value, if the tools and resources are used correctly," Townsend concludes. "

I agree.

Without a doubt, "change" is the biggest buzzword of the year. But, with change comes growing pains. That much-desired culture upgrade businesses are looking for right now sounds great in theory, but won’t return the immediate value you need unless it’s organized and managed the right way.

Believe it or not, innovation does require organization.

Please participate in the exchange. We would love to hear your thoughts on this for future posts.