3 Reasons an Open Innovation Platform is an Exceptional Way to Experiment
Tinkerers like Edison and the lesser known scientist & inventor Joseph Priestly – 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 Priestly’s day – 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 Priestly 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 such as Innocentive and TopCoder to take their innovative swings.
A Real World Innovation Experiment
Announced today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), together with the NASA Tournament Lab - powered by TopCoder – is launching an experimental competition to develop specialized algorithms to help bring the seven million patents presently in the patent archive into the digital age. The USPTO is seeking a way to help automate the processing of patent documents. If successful, this can lead to more powerful and flexible applications for viewing and searching existing documents, helping to re-envision how critical information is shared. View the official press release.
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 TopCoder ideation contests both help companies source a tremendous amount of ideas from all corners of the enterprise and the globe. Specifically speaking about TopCoder algorithm contests, the “idea” is really the developers unique approach to the problem. Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions.”, and such is the broad approach of many algorithmists inside the TopCoder Community. Asking questions about the problem in a transparent and shared medium – another reason an “open” platform works so well for experimentation – knowledge is shared and it helps to shape the solutions that are presented. The results of all of the above are attempts, those cherished attempts both Edison and Priestly 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.
On Point Read: 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 model such as TopCoder’s, 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.
What will be the results of the USPTO algorithm competition mentioned above? Well, that’s just it, nobody knows at this point, it is truly an experiment. But 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.
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Image Credit: measurenet-tech.com, eugeneloj.com