The Art and Science of Open Innovation – Part II – Do Not Do it Alone!
This post is part 2 of a 4-part series canvassing the event; Crowdsourcing: the Art and Science of Open Innovation. We encourage you to subscribe to the blog (top right) and join this important conversation.
In part 1 of our series – The Opportunity - we listed the four big take-aways from the aforementioned event, as they serve as the backbone of this 4-part series. Agencies are fully ready to experiment and adopt Crowdsourcing & outcome based models as part of their innovation and solutions efforts. But the challenge remains that many in the agency world are unaware how to get going and how to apply these new tools and platforms for their agency’s success.
A panel, moderated by Abdul Shaikh, PH.D., National Cancer Institute and Barbara Mittleman, M.D., Office of the Director, NIH, focused keenly on the resources available for conducting prize-based challenges with internal and external partners. The theme was a simple one; “Do Not Do it Alone!”.
The impact of this panel provided luminance for the attendees helping them understand that even though Gov2.0 is still a newer philosophy, as it relates to getting work done in government, it is no longer in its infancy stage. The very best place for an agency to start, might well be to examine what partnerships and challenges already exist. We encourage you to watch the video of this panel and direct you to approximately 273:30 on the running time-line you will see at the bottom of the video. UPDATE – NIH added a chapter selector – follow the link above, scroll down and select chapter 7 to locate the aforementioned section.
Within the above linked video, Robynn Sturm of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) shared her thoughts on how government has effectively lowered barriers in three distinct ways. They are:
- Policy Support – From the highest levels, including the office of the President, a clear mandate has been established that enables and encourages agencies to use the newest tools and platforms, including prize-based initiatives, to drive innovation and productivity. A key point to reiterate is that those in charge of budget understand this is a newer approach, and with novelty comes risk, but the risk will be supported.
- The Legal Piece – Understanding the legal landscape of setting up competitions and challenges can be complex. With the passing of the America COMPETES bill, the Federal Government has created a simple, clear path for agencies to do prize competitions. Since many agency competitions are going to run into the same legal hurdles, part of this “path” is to highlight common roadblocks and offer standard and accepted solutions to questions an agency is sure to face.
- The Technological Piece – Challenge.gov is the user-hub for many agency competitions. The site provides all agencies with a free and simple source to post challenges that get pushed to all solvers and offers the administrator of the challenge the basic functionality needed to manage the competition. Robynn also stated that this is not the right tool for all issues and proposed challenges. For example, when NASA and TopCoder created the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), an entirely separate NTL dedicated website was created that is run on the TopCoder Platform.
How to Get Going
Three tips were illuminated for the crowd at NIH regarding how to get going after a pilot or initiative had been identified.
- Scientific Inquiry – Experimentation is encouraged, especially early on in an agency’s prize-based innovation attempts. Remember the mandate is in place and the risk is understood that not every competition is going to produce amazing results. So the first tip on getting going was actual encouragement to get going, to start experimenting.
- Static vs. Dynamic – Understand that per challenge, on a project to project basis, certain key things are going to change. What are you trying to achieve?, Who can help?, What is the proper incentive for this crowd?. In contrast, many things will repeat contest after contest. How does the Paperwork Reduction Act affect my challenge? Are my judges subject to FACA regulations? Seek out answers for the static aspects, they usually pre-exist and are already gathered for you. Seek out help for the dynamic aspects, there are agency managers who have been through it and are willing to share their experience.
- Grab a Partner – In true collaborative fashion, many projects, such as the Automotive X Prize Competition, involve a cadre of contributors. In this instance a corporation, Progressive Automotive Insurance, put up the cash prizes while the Department of Energy donated access and usage of the Argonne National Laboratories lending a certain rigor to the competition. Recently Google announced a partnership with NASA to sponsor a green-flight challenge. In our world, TopCoder recently partnered with MIT, Zero Robotics, NASA, DARPA and Aurora Flight Sciences for the 2011 SPHERES Student Challenge. Partnerships can take time to iron out, but can offer your challenge a much greater liklihood of success.
Open Innovation strategies and implementing Crowdsourcing techniques to get work done for government agencies is still a newer notion, but it is certainly no longer brand new. The mandate to experiment is in place and when you decide on your project remember the advice of this expert panel… Do not do it alone!
Part III – the Gaming of Innovation – will be released soon.
Subscribe to the TopCoder Blog (top right) and be on the lookout for part III of this series, the Gaming of Innovation.
If you work in government or with a corporation seeking solutions in Open Innovation, Crowdsourcing and community development, please connect with us via the button below.
Image Credit: bleacherreport.com, basemedia.net