Tinkerers like Edison and the lesser known scientist & inventor Joseph Priestley – the first man to isolate oxygen – understood the value of attempts. One of Edison’s more famous quotes, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” sums up his conviction that experimentation and perseverance are paramount to innovative success.
In Priestley’s day (illustrated here) – around the time of the American Revolution – coffee houses supplied the patrons with both the chemical (caffeine) & intellectual (collaborative minds) enhancements allowing for ideas to be spread, repurposed and brought to market, thus creating real world value. Today, caffeine is still rampant and obviously more accessible than ever, but it’s the other, the access to challenges, the ability to collaborate and iterate with thousands of participants via virtual communities that has of course been the phenomenal game-changer. Edison and Priestley understood that experimentation, and therefore the acceptance of failure in order to succeed, was part of the creative process. Today, global corporations and government agencies also understand this need to experiment, the need to attempt the “never been tried” and they are turning to Open Innovation platforms to take their innovative swings.
There are more than a handful of reasons why an Open Innovation platform is a superior way to experiment and below are 3 that certainly stand out:
Reason #1: Pump Up the Volume
In innovation, you just can’t have enough ideas. Popular ideation management platforms such as Spigit and BrightIdea help companies source a tremendous amount of ideas from all corners of the enterprise and the globe. It’s important to note, on other types of innovation platforms, ideas also come in the form of complex mathematical solutions such as algorithms or a scientific theory, so the complexity & specificity of your output clearly depends on the platform you are engaging. The results of all of the above are attempts, those cherished attempts both Edison and Priestley held with such regard. The sheer volume of quality attempts that can be produced from a properly run competition accessing the right community is revolutionary when compared to traditional ways in which humans have attempted innovation.
Reason #2: Join the Culture Club
Another clear advantage is the access to a wide variety of cultures, norms and social teachings. Math may be universal, but how it is applied, for what reasons and who thought about the way to apply a certain rule or law at a specific moment within an algorithmic solution is not. People from around the globe see challenges very differently. In fact, so do diffferent age groups and genders as well. Personal experiences and broad and deep knowledge in near-fields all add to an individual’s ability to problem solve. The right global communities, as part of an open innovation platform, innately provide this kind of cultural access that you just simply can not assemble within your own four walls. For instance, TopCoder has competitors from over 200 countries. That’s a whole lot of experiences and lessons learned within the collective and those experiences have direct impacts on the outputs being presented.
Related Post: Invent or Repurpose? – Making the Right Call
Reason #3: Don’t Fear the Reaper (Failure!)
By this not so veiled attempt to pay homage to Blue Oyster Cult, we of course mean the ability to not fear failure. This notion plays off of the fact that through an Open Innovation platform you are going to receive an extraordinary amount of attempts. Though the goal is of course receiving an extreme value outcome through the competition, the truth is most attempts won’t work or will fall short in some fashion. But in a competitive community model – some would call this Crowdsourcing – you as the host of the competition, pay for successes, not attempts. You receive the benefit of the volume of attempts, but don’t have to spend all that time “failing” or paying for attempts that just didn’t breed value. When you pay for successes, you can afford to not fear failure. Because that is the result of a platform such as TopCoder, you might find yourself experimenting a whole lot more.
Instead of one inventor laboriously changing minute details in an exceedingly linear fashion in order to make that next attempt, today hundreds and thousands of participants, in a massively parallel fashion can define the problem and submit highly unique solutions.
image credit: measurenet-tech.com, eugeneloj.com
Clinton Bonner (@clintonbon) is a Marketing Manager at TopCoder – the world’s largest competitive community of software developers, algorithmists and digital creatives. Fun Job!!!