3 Ways to Attract the Right Talent to a New Open Innovation Challenge
At TopCoder, we are asked a lot of questions and we understand why. Our community of more than 409,000 developers, algorithmists and digital designers combined with how we produce assets via our Open Innovation competition methodology is a brand new idea to many who are seeking a new way forward in innovation and productivity. We’ve been astutely listening to all of your questions and thought it would be valuable to the vast majority of our current and future blog readers to begin a new series dubbed “Just the FAQ’s”. A tad tongue-in-cheek it is, but this series is specifically crafted to provide you with answers to questions that we are being asked on a consistent basis. Today’s FAQ topic is:
How do you attract the right talent from your community to a brand new technology?
Whether we are in with an existing client or chatting with a potential one that is thinking of joining our community and accessing our competition platform, the question of how we position our community to work on very specific, or even brand new technologies comes up quite often. So let’s review a few ways TopCoder does exactly this.
First, it’s worthy to mention that the very absurdity of the pace of technology, just how fast things move these days, is a big driver of enterprises to explore our platform and capabilities. They recognize they can no longer “island hop” and chase the newest technological evolution that requires hyperspecialized talent to produce within it. A big advantage of joining and accessing a community like TopCoder is that the community members are continuously updating, honing and learning new skills on an individual level. As new technologies, languages and preferences emerge, those already plugged into the community can enjoy the benefits of a community that is continually educating “itself”. Back to how we attract the right talent to new technologies, there are several, structured ways we go about this task.
#1 – Shout, Shout Let It All Out
Operating a global community of more than 409,000 people has taught us that communication out to the individuals who comprise the whole is paramount in enabling a desired reaction. Luckily, at our disposal today are myriad ways to communicate with our members. When we have a new technology or challenge we are attempting to attract individuals to, we create a communication outreach campaign that often includes some combination of the following:
- News Item Post -community.topcoder.com/tc is a great visibility tool. TopCoder members not only visit this page quite often, but any news item featured on this page (pictured above) is also delivered via email to our members. This is a great asset and our first and foremost ‘weapon of choice’ to get the word out and in a hurry.
TopCoder Forums – Inside our community is a network of very popular forums. It’s a main communication channel for community members and making sure this news hits the intra-airwaves provides another touch-point to our members.
- TopCoder is Social – Our Facebook page has over 5,180 fans, Twitter is near 3,500, G+, LinkedIn, YouTube … you get the idea. Often our social members are very engaged participants who compete rather often and therefore they are a perfect group to target with the newest competitions.
- Survey Says! – Good old fashioned surveys out to the community work great! Often we’ll offer community members a chance to win a TopCoder t-shirt just by filling out the survey and we’ll get back honest answers on their abilities in that skill and their interest level in learning more about a new technology.
#2 If You Build it, They Will Come
You may or may not know that at TopCoder, our clients join our community, access our platform and then execute scores of projects on top of the platform. Our clients are bringing a very high-volume work load to our members. This work is rarely of the “one off” variety. Instead it is dozens and even hundreds of projects per quarter. There is another word for this in the business world, a pipeline.
If a client is serious about gaining an advantage in a specific new technology, we encourage them to put in a pipeline of work, not just a singular project. Why? Our members are very smart and those who compete professionally are routinely checking the pipeline of opportunity coming their way. If they are being advised to “hone up” on a particular skill or language and then can pair that advisement with a robust pipeline of work on the horizon, the individuals do the hard work and come prepared to compete.
Many competitors are here to gain skills and have fun competing, others make their living (and good ones) winning TopCoder competitions. If they can visualize and understand an opportunity, they will ramp-up and take advantage of it.
#3 Show Them the Money
Typically we will work with our clients and encourage them to offer higher than normal prize amounts for new technologies. This helps attract both members with that particular skill set and top rated TopCoder members who have shown a propensity for quickly acquiring a new skill or language. An increase of a few hundred dollars in prize money can have a very positive impact with regards to contest participation and therefore the outputs born from competition.
Predicting Success While Failing Fast & Cheap
We guide our clients and assure that they understand that as we align the community to a new technology, there will most likely be a learning curve and we may not realize a 100% success the first time “out”. We simply have to plan for this and do so by communicating openly with our clients that this may take several attempts, tweaks and iterations before the assets are consistently strong in the new technology. Being part of a community from the client’s perspective has some interesting shared benefits. Often, another client’s experimentation will directly benefit your outputs down the road.
The TopCoder platform also features a predictive analysis engine that allows clients to visualize the likelihood of success during the registration phase of any contest. If the right level of talent and reliability rating are lacking, meaning those registering to compete on a particular piece of code, algorithm challenge or design do not often produce quality outputs, the predictive engine will alert the client and recommend that the contest does not proceed past registration. In other words, something is “off” prior to “launch” and it’s best to take the rocket off the launch-pad, examine why we weren’t attracting the right level of talent, and prep the contest to launch again at a later date.
Often the reasons for a non-healthy registration are easily recognizable and therefore correctable. The point is, all of this adjustment is taking place before a contest moves forward, meaning the client is saving both time & money.
Finally, if a contest does fail – and yes it does happen – this means the outputs received did not meet a standard of acceptance, no prize monies are rewarded and the client does not pay for that contest. In today’s marketplace, the ability to experiment, try often, fail fast and cheaply and as a consequence of attempting more, succeed more often, is a key reason enterprises decide to join the TopCoder community.
Just the FAQ’s – Wrap Up
In this world of platforms and communities it is one thing to have gathered your masses. The real skill is in being able to communicate to them as individuals and to drive actions that equate to hyperspecialists from within the community, self-selecting new opportunities and choosing to compete. At TopCoder, through time, trial and error and continuous refinement, we have a defined process that most often results in great success for our clients and our community.
Do you have a question you’d like to ask or is there an aspect of our Open Innovation model you’d like explained? Let us know via the comments below.
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